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New PM says he will extend tourist visas for “targeted countries”

PM Srettha Thavisin visits Phuket
PHOTO: PM Srettha Thavisin visits Phuket - Instagram

Thailand’s new prime minister Srettha Thavisin says his new government will extend tourist visas for up to 90 days.

During a visit to Phuket and Phang Nga on Friday and Saturday, the newly installed PM spoke to tourism stakeholders in the region and commented that the government will extend the length of tourist visas to up to 90 days for “targeted countries”. His comments were quoted in the Bangkok Post.

Currently arrivals from many western countries get a visa waiver which means they can arrive without any visa or paperwork and proceed straight to immigration where they get an entry stamp, usually for 30 days, extendable for another 30 days. Other countries, including China for example, only receive 15 days with either a pre-approved visa or a visa-on-arrival.

PM Srettha told reporters before leaving that he would extend the tourist visas for arrivals to 90 days “including for China, Russia and India”. Any final decision on extending visa arrival times will need to be considered by the incoming cabinet, tourism and sports minister and be gazetted, which can take up to 90 days.

Changing to arrival status for some nationalities, from a visa-on-arrival to visa-exemption, would also involve the ministry of foreign affairs and would have “security implications”.

Thai PBS World quoted his comments a little less enthusiastically…. “The new government will consider extending tourist visa validities from 30 days to 90 days and the easing of immigration procedures, to make them more convenient for foreign tourists.”

His discussions in Phuket and Phang Nga focussed on airport arrival capacities and the potential of a new airport in Phang Nga, just north of Phuket.

Phuket’s current Airport is already at capacity and it’s difficult to see how it could be extended, except out into the Andaman Sea, due to the constraints of the neighbourhood that borders the current facility. The runway is already able to receive planes as large as the Boeing 747-400 (Thai Airways used to run a regular shuttle between Phuket and Bangkok using one of the jumbos). But increasing the size of the terminal buildings and car parking would be an enormous town planning challenge.

An airport around the Kok Kloi area of Phang Nga, just 15 minutes drive north of Phuket, has been discussed for the past decade but has been shelved… until this weekend.

But Thai PBS World reports, as a stop-gap, to relieve the congestion at Phuket Airport, an old airport in Phang Nga could accommodate “small commercial planes”, presumably domestic flights that mostly fly single-aisle Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 aircraft.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Thai PBS World

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