VISA WAIVER FOR THAIS GOING TO THE UK | One of the goals of the UK-Thai Strategic Partnership agreement signed with UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron on Wednesday is to allow Thai passport holders visa-free access to the United Kingdom on short-term visits for tourism or business.

On Wednesday, Thailand signed a roadmap agreement with the United Kingdom elevating the Western country as a strategic partner. The deal was inked on a flying visit to Bangkok by newly appointed UK Foreign Secretary and former Prime Minister, David Cameron. A key upshot of this agreement is that active talks will now focus on granting visa-free access to Thai passport holders in the United Kingdom. It comes with a mounting number of Thais living in the United Kingdom and Brits in Thailand. At the same time, the agreement is coming with rising geopolitical tension in the Indo-Pacific. Part of this week’s agreement was enhanced security cooperation between the two kingdoms.

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (left), the UK Foreign Secretary exchanged signed agreements at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok with Deputy Prime Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nu-Kara (right) on his visit this Wednesday.

In a significant diplomatic move, Thailand and the United Kingdom have elevated their bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership. This has been described as a roadmap for closer ties between the countries.

In Bangkok, on Wednesday, top Foreign Ministry officials were certainly upbeat.

In short, they heralded it as a significant milestone in 170 years of diplomatic ties.

Visit by Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton to Thailand. New strategic partnership deal brings Thailand closer to a visa-free waiver and a full trade pact

The announcement came during the official visit of Mr David Cameron, Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton. The UK’s Foreign Secretary was in Thailand on March 20, 2024.

The 57-year-old Foreign Minister recently made a surprise return to the UK’s political arena. He was appointed Foreign Secretary out of the blue by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in November 2023. In turn, he was elevated as Lord Cameron in order to be seated in the House of Lords. Markedly, he is no longer a sitting MP.

Cameron was responsible the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom in 2016. It was part of his government’s 2015 election-winning manifesto.

Afterwards, he resigned when the shock decision for Britain to exit the European Union was made clear. 

Previously, he was the UK Prime Minister from 2020 until 2016 and won two General Elections. His visit to Thailand, on Wednesday, came while on his way to an annual meeting with top Australian officials in Canberra.

Free trade pact talks began in late 2020. In 2022 the kingdom entered into an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) with regular meetings on bilateral trade

It is coming with red-hot geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Mr Parnpree Bahiddha-Nu-Kara, warmly welcomed Mr Cameron. The new agreement, he promised, will strengthen the bonds between the two nations.

A key focus of the talks was the enhancement of economic ties, with discussions revolving around preparations for a free trade agreement (FTA).

Thailand began talks on a free trade pact with the United Kingdom in late 2020. It came as the United Kingdom finalised its future European Union relationship.

Thailand urged to get on the ball as the full Brexit gets the green light with Christmas Eve trade pact 

Subsequently, in 2022, it entered into an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP). This entails regular meetings to review and expand bilateral trade. 

Thailand seeks full trade access to the United Kingdom. Foreign Ministry must also negotiate the choppy waters of geopolitical tensions in Asia over China

On Wednesday, Mr Parnpree emphasised the potential of the new agreement in raising cooperation between the two kingdoms. In short, Thailand is anxious to expand market access across the world and attract inward investment.

Moreover, both sides are embarking on a programme of enhanced security cooperation.

The agreement foresees future development in areas such as science, technology, tourism and education. Thailand needs to upgrade its standard of education at all levels including achieving greater proficiency in English.

Undoubtedly, a key goal for Thailand in future is a visa waiver agreement for Thai ordinary passport holders.

Thailand is pursuing a similar concession with European Union countries or the Schengen zone. It comes after its agreement with China which went into effect on March 1st.

PM and Macron discuss visa-free access for Thai nationals in the European Union’s Schengen zone
Srettha plans a visa-free hub by asking the European Union for a mutual visa waiver similar to China

Thailand’s current foreign affairs policy is to raise the kingdom’s position as a world player. This includes strengthening the power of the Thai passport abroad.

Visa exemption for Thai passport holders travelling to Britain is bolstered by increasing numbers of Anglo-Thai relationships, expats and foreign tourism

The visa exemption for Thai travellers, additionally, would mark a significant step towards easier travel between both countries. In turn, this will assist in promoting people-to-people exchanges. 

Indeed there are already strong community bonds between Thailand and the United Kingdom.

Large numbers of nationals from both countries have formed relationships and familial bonds since the internet era began.

Subsequently, fears about immigration and stronger safeguards have inadvertently penalised genuine UK and Thai citizens. It is hoped that closer ties between the two countries will be advantageous to this growing and positive community.

In foreign policy terms, Thailand is seen as a pivotal and important player in Asia by Western powers.

Of course, the United Kingdom is a staunch US ally as indeed is Thailand on paper. But in the last two decades, Thailand is seen as having moved dangerously close to China.

The discussions between Mr Cameron and Mr Parnpree took place in this context. 

Discussions touched on the critical situations in Gaza and Myanmar. Both countries have roles to play and vested interests in furthering the cause of peace

At length, they additionally extended to regional and global issues. Particular attention was given to the increasingly critical situation in Myanmar.

At the same time, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and no doubt, Middle Eastern concerns over Gaza.

Democratic forces on the cusp of victory in Burma over the despised military junta, call for support
Israeli ambassador launches campaign to remind Thais about the hostages still being held in Gaza

The latter comes with Thai hostages still being held by the terror group Hamas in the war ravaged enclave.

The United Kingdom, like Thailand, is a close friend of Israel and the United States. At the same time, both kingdoms now have significant Muslim minorities.

Simultaneously, attacks by Houthis on shipping in the Red Sea are a rising worry. In short, this has also created problems for Thailand’s already challenged export industry.

Thailand expressed gratitude to the UK for supporting its application to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

Unquestionably, this highlights the close cooperation and mutual support between the two countries. Similarly, both countries benefit from a stable international order and peace, something increasingly under threat.

The UK sees Thailand as an important player in the Indo-Pacific. Both countries are anxious to underline their status as powers in their own right

A pivotal moment in the visit was the signing of the Thailand-UK Strategic Partnership Roadmap by Mr Parnpree and Mr Cameron.

This roadmap formalises the elevation of bilateral relations to a strategic partnership. At length, it makes the UK the first country in the European region to be recognised as such by Thailand.

Additionally, an Air Services Agreement was signed. In short, this paves the way for enhanced connectivity through direct flights between Thailand and the UK.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Cameron accentuated the importance of the strategic partnership. He highlighted Thailand’s role as a significant player in the Indo-Pacific region.

Both countries are anxious to stress their world role in their own right.

Thailand wants to be seen as independent of the United States and China.

At the same time, the United Kingdom is forging a singular course apart from the European Union and America. 

Cameron underlined the economic benefits to the UK of closer trade and business with Thailand. He highlighted this on a visit to a Thai Air Force base

Mr Cameron emphasised the potential for economic growth and job creation in the UK through collaboration with countries like Thailand.

Especially in the face of global challenges such as climate change and the dawn of a new technological era.

The new partnership, in particular, will promote health and energy research.

In addition, it supports green growth initiatives in Thailand. The launch of a fund worth up to £6 million to boost green growth was noted.

This demonstrates the UK’s commitment to supporting sustainable development in Thailand.

‘South East Asia is a commercial powerhouse and Thailand is one of the biggest economies of the lot. Working with countries in this region means jobs and growth back here in the UK,’ Lord Cameron announced before departing the United Kingdom. ‘Thailand is a founding member of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and an influential player across the Indo-Pacific region. We will continue to work with them to address shared global challenges that affect us all – including the impacts of climate change, rapid technological development, and threats to global health.’

Furthermore, Mr Cameron’s visit included engagements aimed at strengthening defence cooperation. One aspect of his visit was a trip to a Royal Thai Air Force base.

There, he inspected jet fighters using British-made components.

Consequently, he told reporters that this category of exports to Thailand generated £300 million for the British economy annually.

New strategic partnership and roadmap initiative will lead to Thai passport holders eventually having visa-free access to Britain for short-term visits

Significantly, this aspect of the bilateral relations is becoming increasingly more important. Certainly, it is linked to a growing belligerence in the region from Beijing. In short, a heightened threat of war, something which is now a very real possibility.

An issue of key concern for Thai officials is a reciprocal visa arrangement.

Indeed, this is highlighted in the extended roadmap of Anglo-Thai relations. This would, in effect, eventually offer visa-free facilities for Thai passport holders travelling to Britain. This waiver would only apply to short-term visits for such purposes as tourism or business trips.

Subsequently, it is hoped that Thai tourists and related family members living in Thailand will be able to fly to the United Kingdom without prior visa approval.

The moves would be of considerable convenience to the growing number of Anglo-Thai families. In view of the fact that these now number in the hundreds of thousands.

Approximately eighty six thousand UK nationals currently live in Thailand. This is according to the 2023 Thai census figures. 70% of these are male, many with Thai relationship partners.

Currently, the United Kingdom is one of approximately 40 countries that already enjoy visa-free entry into Thailand.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

PM and Macron discuss visa-free access for Thai nationals in the European Union’s Schengen zone

Economy faces export clogs with rules in China and ‘green imperialism’ from European Union

Vital European Union free trade deal with Thailand with stiff demands from Brussels to take time

Thailand in direct trade talks with 12 Indian states which could also boost the tourism industry here in 2021

World’s biggest free trade deal just signed will be a huge boost for the Thai economy and exports

US move against Thailand on trade is a warning as Thai exports to America boomed in September by over 19%

Thailand’s trade agenda may be complicated and thwarted by raised tensions in the Indo Pacific region

RCEP deal agreed as India opts out – busy Bangkok ASEAN summit concludes on a low key

Industry boss urges Thailand to join alternative Pacific trade pact and plan for a long recovery from virus debacle

Chinese FM to visit Thailand in a Covid battered world of raised tensions and potential conflict

Lowering of US flag in Chengdu is a wake-up call for foreigners living in Thailand and with close ties here

US is a better friend for Thailand than China says US ambassador as tensions grow between the 2 powers

Prime Minister indicates that the cabinet reshuffle will be complete very shortly with no problem

Thailand’s economy has become dependent on government expenditure to stay above water