With two weeks left until Thailand’s visa amnesty expires, tensions are rising with authorities sending mixed signals and foreigners jumping on any hint of an extension.
A Bangkok Herald Facebook post today about this story exemplifies how high the anxiety level is, with the post being shared more than 200 times to more than 35,000 people in less than two hours.
Hopes for continued amnesty plunged after the Immigration Bureau reopened its Muang Thong Thani extension office on July 13, a facility set up to handle the massive crowds that assembled following Thailand’s lockdown. If amnesty was going to be extended, why would Immigration need an overflow facility?
The gloom deepened after the bureau’s spokesman controversially speculated that the automatic extension until July 31 “likely” would not be extended again, claiming it was time to “clean out” the foreigners still here. Considering expats and tourists trapped here are the only foreigners supporting the economy these days, netizens were less than pleased with the spokesman’s coarse language.
On July 9, the American embassy in Bangkok warned its citizens to begin preparing for the end of amnesty and later published – and then deleted – a post saying the embassy no longer would issue any extension letters, adding that there were plenty of flights back to the planet’s worst coronavirus epidemic.
And earlier this week Chiang Mai resident Richard Cox posted a message from the Canadian embassy purporting there will be no extension and that Immigration will only be offering seven-day extensions.
Then Rayong happened.
The government’s bungling of the visits of an Egyptian Air Force delegation and the improper self-quarantine of a Sudanese diplomatic family has set off widespread (and unwarranted) panic in Thailand, possibly giving immigration officials pause about inviting hundreds of thousands of foreigners back to immigration offices and airports.
An experienced legal agent in Bangkok that handles a large volume of visas for hospitality and entertainment venues in the capital said today that Immigration now is preparing to extend amnesty for another two months, until Sept. 30.
That first-hand report echoed a Wednesday post by Phuket resident Alexandre Boutemy to a local Facebook group that he was told directly by an officer at the Phuket Immigration Office that “tourists should be able to stay until the end of September”.
Of course, at this point, both reports are unconfirmed hearsay. Rank-and-file immigration officers have been left in the dark as much as anxious foreigners. But, with the Bangkok visa agent at least, the rumors are credible in that the legal firm had spoken with a senior officer at the Chaeng Wattana headquarters.
Three sources have said that an official confirmation of what Immigration is planning will be issued on or before July 24.