In a recent announcement, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has disclosed his ambitious plan to fortify the Thai passport by expanding the list of nations permitting entry without a prior visa or visa on arrival. This strategic move, revealed on [Insert Date], aims to elevate Thailand’s global standing and facilitate smoother international travel for its citizens.
At present, only 34 countries extend the courtesy of visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry for Thai passport holders. However, Thailand has recently revamped its visa regulations, providing visa-free access to citizens from significant nations, including China, Russia, and India. Notably, the perpetual tourist visa exemption agreement with China stands as a notable achievement and source of satisfaction for Prime Minister Srettha.
Phumiphiphat Meesamran, Vice-president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, has actively advocated for the Thai government to engage in negotiations for visa exemptions with European countries, the UK, the USA, and Australia. Despite these nations allowing their citizens visa-free entry into Thailand for 30 days with an option for a straightforward extension, Thai citizens face visa requirements.
The reluctance of Western countries to grant visa-free entry stems from concerns about potential overstays or illegal settlements by Thai nationals. To secure a visa, Thai citizens must demonstrate strong ties to their homeland, such as property ownership, significant employment, or other financial assets. This stringent criterion poses a significant challenge to Thailand’s goal of expanding visa-free travel.
However, not everyone within the Cabinet supports this policy. Sumate Sudasna, president of the Thailand and Convention Association, highlights that visa-free access is typically geared towards tourists, while business travelers may still need special visas. Sudasna also underscores the potential security risks associated with completely eliminating visa requirements, urging caution in the pursuit of such policies.
Instances of security concerns have surfaced, such as Thais posing as tourists in South Korea to engage in unauthorized work, colloquially referred to as ‘phi noi’ or ‘little ghosts.’ Similarly, several Chinese nationals have faced arrests in Thailand for involvement in illegal work.
The Thai Chamber of Commerce emphasizes the importance of collaborative efforts between the government and private sector in fostering relationships with other countries. This, they suggest, could lead to an improvement in the global ranking of the Thai passport. Among Asian nations, Singapore currently leads in visa-free travel, with its citizens enjoying access to 164 countries without the need for a visa.