Thailand pushes for visa-free deals with UK, USA, etc.

The government is keen to extend travel without visas to and from Thailand.

Thailand pushes for visa-free deals with UK, USA, etc.

Thai premier Srettha Thavisin has told the Cabinet that he is seeking a much more powerful Thai passport which will be enable holders to enter far more than the 34 countries which currently do not require a prior visa or a visa on arrival. Thailand has recently expanded its visa-free policy to several nations including China, Russia and India. Mr Srettha is particularly pleased with the Thai-Chinese agreement which permanently allows tourists visa exemption in both directions.

Vice-president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, Phumiphiphat Meesamran, told the Bangkok Post that the Thai government should now push for visa exemptions for Thai nationals with European nations, the UK, the US and Australia – none of which allow Thais visa-free entry even though their nationals are visa exempt to Thailand for 30 days with an easy option to extend for a further month at local Thai immigration for another month. Mr Phumiphiphat noted that visa-free access in both directions would encourage tourism and further economic growth.

The main barrier to visa-free access to western nations is their belief that Thais may be tempted to overstay, or even settle, without the approved paperwork. The UK, mainland European nations, Australia and US currently insist that Thais applicants have good reasons to return home, such as property ownership, proof of significant employment or other forms of wealth. There are also some Thai critics of the Cabinet policy. Sumate Sudasna, president of the Thailand and Convention Association, said visa-free access normally applied only to tourists and businessmen would still need to apply for special visas. He added that security issues could be compromised by wholesale abandonment of visas.

There is some evidence to support security concerns overall. Some Thais pretend to be tourists visiting South Korea, but they act as “phi noi”, or little ghosts describing their status as illegal workers. Conversely, several Chinese citizens have recently been arrested for illegal working in Thailand. The Thai Chamber of Commerce observed, “If the government and the private sector together advance efforts to build relationships with other countries, the Thai passport can improve its global ranking.” The Asian country whose nationals can visit the most countries without needing a visa is Singapore with 164 choices.