Foreigners in Thailand should look carefully at their position in the coming week as flights close and make sure their lifestyle is viable for the course of the emergency with increasing restrictions and shutdown of services. It follows a range of developments this week beyond the national curfew and related to local government orders at provincial and town hall level. This week, the government agreed to automatically extend visas for foreigners who arrived after March 1st but the new dispensation is, for the moment, in the ‘pipeline’ while foreigners before March 1st must still deal with crowded immigration offices and short term visitors, for now, are handed onerous and expanded requirements.
The UK ambassador has again pleaded with UK nationals in Thailand to consider their position or plans to remain in the country. He warns that there are quite likely to be even tighter restrictions introduced by Thai authorities and that the ‘disruption’ to normal life could last for some time. It comes as local measures in once tourist hotspots are beginning to impinge on short-stay tourists from the closure of all hotels in Phuket and Pattaya to beaches as well as a new order in Hua Hin for newly arrived foreigners in the resort to register before April 10th next for quarantine purposes.
On Friday, in another video broadcast, the British Ambassador to Thailand issued another warning to UK nationals in Thailand to consider their position in the Kingdom as the virus emergency bites harder and with talk of even stiffer measures such as an extended curfew or even a 24 hour one. These reports are based on credible sources and comments by leading members of the government.
Ambassador Brian Davidson has warned Brits in Thailand right now that he believes that the restrictions in the kingdom will become ‘tighter over time’ and that what the community in Thailand is facing is a disruption which will last for ‘quite some time’ to come.
UK envoy has worked hard during this crisis and highlighted the issues facing those wishing to stay
The envoy, whose work during this crisis has been stellar, has called on all Brits in the kingdom whether they are staying put to those returning home, to consider their position.
He points out that there are still options and flights to return home but they are being taken up fast by market demand. He highlighted several leading airlines such as KLM, Lufthansa, Eva, Korean Air and Qatar who will still be flying out of Bangkok next week.
The ambassador also issued a subdued invitation to some British people in exceptional circumstances, who may have budget issues concerning the cost of flights to contact the embassy for advice on their position at this time.
He advised those deciding to catch a flight home to book directly with the airline to ensure that the flight was genuine and that a refund can easily be received afterwards if required.
‘Great’ plan for some to stay in Thailand once it is ‘viable’ and people have access to healthcare
For those staying in Thailand, Mr Davidson acknowledged that for some, it represents a ‘great’ plan but urged everyone to look at their access to healthcare and to make certain that they have enough funding to make their stay in the kingdom ‘viable’ during this emergency.
He asked them to consider what their position will be if restrictions are tightened further.
There are growing concerns not just about Thai national government orders in recent weeks and with more to come, as to how they will impact both the expat community in Thailand but also those here on a short term basis or tourism visas. There are real fears that some people may end up on the wrong side of the law because of this emergency.
Hotels and accommodation shutting up around the kingdom especially in tourist hotspots
One is the issue with hotels and hostelries, many of which may be ordered to close.
In Koh Samui this week, the population of the island voted to close it off even though there were only two infections, both of them foreigners.
Similar movements have been seen on other islands popular with tourists and in recent days, Trat province has closed itself off also to tourists from anywhere in Thailand.
There are fears that we are witnessing the widespread closure of hotels and accommodation facilities normally used by foreigners in the kingdom as tourists or visitors.
Hotels close in Phuket and Pattaya
Phuket’s Governor, Phakkhaphong Thawiphat, this week, announced the closure of all hotels on the island from Saturday 4th April.
Similar orders have been issued in other tourist hotspots such as Pattaya which ordered its hotels to close but for employees to stay at the hotel premises and not leave the area. The orders were issued province-wide for Chonburi.
Beaches closed by local governors, foreigners seen breaching the order on Friday in Phuket
Pattaya itself is to be sealed off with all beaches closed to the public.
On Friday, police in Phuket moved in to enforce a similar order in that tourist hotspot.
Many of those on the beach were foreigners to Thailand in particular westerners. They were seen scrambling and running from police officers.
This highlights the potential tension which a tightening of the current lockdown regime and strict enforcement will cause for foreigners in Thailand staying on a short term basis.
All newly arrived foreigners in Hua Hin must register locally by April 10th for quarantine purposes
In Hua Hin this week, the Governor issued an order that all foreign visitors who have arrived in the popular upmarket resort after March 15th, must register with the authorities by April 10th.
It must be understood that provincial and local authorities are responding to an urgent need to address the spread of the virus under Thailand’s Communicable Disease Act of 2015 which places special emphasis on the knowledge of local governors and their contacts with the public to devise and issue appropriate orders for their localities to fight this unprecedented threat.
The reason for this new regulation in Hua Hin is to ensure that new arrivals quarantine themselves properly if they do not have the appropriate medical certification.
This is an increasingly prevalent requirement now for interprovincial travel in Thailand.
These new orders do not apply to migrant workers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Police, immigration and local officials going door to door this week briefing foreign residents
In a follow up to the new order in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, teams were busy this week visiting housing areas popular with foreigners and enquiring about their status.
Police, immigration officers and local provincial officials staged a walkabout in the Khao Tao housing estate near Khao Tao Beach in Prachuap Khiri Khan to send out the message to foreigners.
All foreigners who arrived in Hua Hin after March 15th must report to one of four designated locations in Hua Hin by April 10th.
These are Ban Bor Fai School, Khao Phitak School, Hua Hin 3 Hospital and the Hua Hin district offices.
There also has been intense activity at beaches in the province which are now being seen as potential virus transmission areas.
An order has been signed banning people congregating on the beaches and a range of activities relating to water sports including jet skis and kite surfing are prohibited.
Face masks now essential for foreigners outdoors in Thailand – expert western medics were wrong
Also, it is increasingly difficult and inadvisable not to wear a face mask with many provinces now making them mandatory for entry into areas and public spaces.
This may be well advised as this week, the US government reversed its guidance on this issue and accepted that the coronavirus is very likely to be subject to airborne transmission via aerosols which also applies to speech and indeed on a wider basis.
This according to some in-depth research from US universities such as a striking one from the University of Nebraska which is being studied by peer groups. This showed coronavirus matter in the air within hospital rooms vacated by patients and outside doors and corridors.
The World Health Organisation has not yet changed its status and is still studying the research.
The new information supports skyrocketing infection rates in western countries where masks were not widely used in comparison to Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and, of course, Thailand. In Asian countries the infection rate has been noticeable more level.
One piece of good news- automatic visa extensions for tourists after March 1st but it is ‘in the pipeline’
There has also been a flurry of reports in recent days from foreigners attempting to have visas extended and who are facing difficulties.
This is despite a decision by the government this week to grant automatic extensions to foreigners who arrived in the kingdom after March 1st. It is now understood that although this has been agreed, it will take time to implement through the bureaucratic system.
Deputy ministry spokesman Natapanu Nopakun told Thai PBS in the last 24 hours that the measure was ‘in the pipeline’.
This cannot come too soon for foreigners who are labouring under incredibly demanding requirements which vary from immigration office to office depending on the province.
Printed photos of hotels and property owners as well as confirmation of residency among the requirements
These include photos of the hotels or accommodation that the foreigner is staying at, photos of the foreigners inside the properties are also asked for as well as maps and a range of identification and title documents from the owners of the properties or management of the hotels.
Foreigners are also being asked for photos of the people who own or manage the properties they are staying at and in the case of Trat province, which is now closed to tourists entering, there is a requirement that the owner or holder of the property must attend the immigration office in person for an interview with immigration officials.
The closure of many hotels is certain to complicate this further unless the automatic extension of visas comes into force relatively quickly.