The tough stance is expected to follow if an amnesty for short-term visa holders is not extended beyond July 31st as indicated. The move coincides with a continued crackdown on foreigners working illegally in the kingdom and those engaged in criminal activity. This has intensified given current high levels of unemployment in the Thai economy due to the virus crisis.
A spokesman for Thailand’s Immigration Bureau has warned foreigners stranded in Thailand who cannot manage to leave the country before their visa expires on July 31st next, to urgently seek a letter from their embassies as the kingdom begins a ‘clear out’ which could make them the subject of overstay fines as well as arrest and detention by Thai authorities.
Thailand’s Immigration Bureau has signaled that it is highly likely that the current visa amnesty for travelers or tourists stranded in Thailand since before the state of emergency was announced at the end of March, will end when it expires on July 31st.
It comes as immigration authorities have reopened their ancillary office in Muang Thong Thani, on the outskirts of Bangkok, to cope with increased demand as foreigners prepare to flock to process their visa extensions. The offices were first opened just weeks before the current visa amnesty to allow for social distancing as visa holders are processed through the system.
Immigration Bureau needs to ‘clear out’ people to reset the system and resume normal enforcement
On Friday last, Colonel Phakkhaphong Saiubon, a spokesman for the bureau, spoke of a need to ‘clear out people’ in the system as Thailand fitfully moves towards normalizing travel in the future in and out of the country.
The immigration police officer was responding to questions on the status of the visa amnesty which has already been extended once and was first introduced on April 7th.
It effectively meant that any visa expiring after the state of emergency was announced on March 26th would be automatically extended.
The initial expiry date was April 30th but this was subsequently extended to July 31st.
Colonel Phakkhaphong was forthright in his assessment.
‘There most likely will not be an extension. It’s all quiet on that front. It’s been a long time and we need to clear out people,’ he said.
‘Thailand and the Thai government are already generous. No other country has this long of a visa amnesty.’
There are currently no figures available suggesting how many foreigners may still be left stranded within Thailand’s borders.
It is estimated that, at the outset of the emergency, as many as 500,000 foreigners were accommodated. This number has been steadily reduced as foreigners availed of scheduled flights which are still flying out of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok as well as repatriation flights organized by foreign governments.
The situation after July 31st will mean visa overstay fines will apply to those foreigners overstaying their visas from that date. They will also be required to comply with the 90 days reporting requirement.
This visa amnesty did not apply to foreigners who already had visas other than a tourist visa or who had entered Thailand before January of this year.
Stepped-up activities against illegal foreigners in play
There is already evidence that immigration bureau officers and other police forces have already stepped up enforcement activities against foreigners living and working illegally in Thailand over the last few weeks.
This has been part of an ongoing security crackdown introduced by the junta government in 2015 and carried over with the aim of tightening Thailand’s borders and improving security.