Pattaya Personality - Ram Ramachandran
By Kevin Cain
The week leading up to Songkran a very special visitor came to the Trader offices in Soi Chaiyapruk, Mr Ram Ramachandran who is the Honorary Consul for India in Pattaya.
Discovering all about Ram, why he came to Pattaya and the role he fulfills for the Indian Embassy was certainly a real eye opener and something unexpected. But his opening gambit certainly caught the attention as Ram cited the Pattaya Trader as the reason why he came to live in Thailand ! As seventeen years ago Ram was sitting in the foyer of a well known hotel in Pattaya Klang on the last day of his first holiday to Thailand. He had visited the Land of Smiles to indulge in his interest of Buddhism, to visit the temples and to live with the masters. The trip had captured his heart and he was musing over his feelings of leaving somewhere he had fallen in love with when a magazine on the table caught his eye.
He picked up a copy of the Pattaya Trader and an article grasped his attention, it seemed to have been written specifically for him. It was about a language school in Pattaya that was offering long stay visas to Thailand for students that enrolled. Ram says it was a sort of serendipity, or as the masters had told him karma. At the temple the masters had told him to look for unusual signals in life that would direct his journey, and here was one in the Pattaya Trader. He looked around the large foyer and saw roughly another twenty tables and not one had the same magazine.
Two years later Ram had completed his language course and had been living in Thailand for all that time. In 2007 he then decided to pursue his interest in scuba diving and wanted to take his instructor’s course to enable him to teach diving and support himself. - Interestingly he still has that copy of the Pattaya Trader back in India as it will always remind him of the spark that changed his life.
After dwelling on such an interesting turn of events Ram then described his current position that of Honorary Consul of the Embassy of India. As back in 2013 he took an interview to be a Consul for Pattaya and has been working as such for the Embassy of India,Bangkok ever since. In fact if you go to their website www.indianembassy.in.th you will see him listed under Consular services, Emergency contact as “Indian Community Welfare Representative in Pattaya” . A position he is proud to have served as for the past four and a half years,. Not only attending the many meetings at the Indian Embassy and lavish diplomatic parties but diligently helping his fellow citizens when they encounter problems.
The Indian government has seen an increasing influx of Indian tourists coming to Thailand now topping over one million per year of which roughly 40% come to our seaside destination. Of these Ram has encountered many “who leave their brains at the airport” and over eighty percent of all the problems he has to deal with are he says are avoidable. For example the most common by far is that of lost passports. There are so many of these cases that it is impossible for him to personally intervene. Although there have been happy outcomes where an honest taxi driver has returned the passport to a police station Ram advises that in his experience this only accounts for around 2-3% . Generally his role is to give advice and point people in the right direction which involves getting the tourist to go to the local police to file an FIR which they will need when contacting the embassy for a one way travel document back to India.
More serious cases involve sickness and in some cases actual deaths.
“Health insurance is a must for every visitor”, Ram was at great pains to emphasise, and “people should not travel to Thailand without proper medical cover”. Two examples of serious health problems then ensued.
Firstly Ram was called in to help an Indian gentleman who had a brain hemorrhage but no medical insurance. The hospital operated but he had no money to pay and his business insurance only covered him for work trips. Ram as well as visiting the hospital contacted his relatives in India and informed the embassy in Bangkok. His employers in Mumbai contacted the head office of the insurance company in the USA and because of the Indian government’s concern the insurance company agreed a special dispensation and paid full medical bills even arranging for an air ambulance to take him back to India (the total cost being four million baht).
A second incident was the death of a forty seven year old man who died as a result of a high speed motorbike hitting him while he was merely crossing the road . Again the gentleman was uninsured and Ram stepped in, informed the family and the embassy in Bangkok, which resulted in the wife being able to arrange to take her husband back to India.
People can even get into trouble because of fraudulent activity by gangs originating in India. These unscrupulous people promise rural villagers job opportunities and guaranteed visas if they travel to Thailand . A member of the gang escorts the hapless victims to a hotel or boarding house asking for money with which to secure all the necessary work permits and is never seen again. The hapless victims, who in many cases have had to borrow money from their families for the flights and costs are then left stranded with no job or visa. When the hotel where they are boarding informs the immigration authorities they cannot afford to pay and are on overstay they are then sent to the Immigration Detention Center.
The first Ram usually hears of their fate occurs when distraught families contact him panic stricken as they have not heard from their relatives. He has a very good relationship with Pattaya Immigration who are very forthcoming and helpful in being able to tell him if they have the people in question and at which detention centre at which point he will go to the centre contact the missing relatives and enable them to phone their families After which he will then start proceedings with the Indian Embassy to get a one way travel document for their return back to India.
Ram was at pains to explain that the illustrations above are not to scare potential visitors to Pattaya. Rather he emphasised the need to think seriously when you come to Thailand and obey the law. Always have medical insurance, take copies of identification with you whenever you leave your hotel, and use your common sense.
Today Ram continues in his role of Honorary Consul of India alongside a new venture, Anchored Altitude which is a luxury lease and charter company of business jets and yachts.
The Indian community certainly have a good ally when they come on holiday to Pattaya and because of Ram’s freely donated services somebody who can take care of them in an emergency. How lucky they are that he inadvertently stumbled on the Pattaya Trader magazine all those years ago.