Last month I was headed to Laos to get a new visa. I decided to do that instead of crossing a land border since Thailand has been in a tizzy lately about foreign visitors. They have it in their heads that foreigners are destroying the nation and that we should all just go home. Never mind that they contribute significantly to the economy. If things in Thailand are not great, it MUST be foreigners who are at fault.
Thailand is mostly concerned with people working in the country when they should not be. That is completely fair and they should crack down on such offenders. This time around they also seem to be really upset about people “living” in the country on short term visas. This has me confused. If you follow the laws and are not doing anything wrong, this should not be an issue.
Alas, this is expected to remain a big issue for some time. In the past there have been similar rumblings, but this time it seems to have legs. The Thai military junta has been taking this seriously and has been turning people away who appear to be living in Thailand but claiming they are tourists. Thailand is expected to ratchet this up even more this month.
Since I do live in Thailand on a tourist visa, this is of concern to me. Of course, I believe I really am a tourist. I do not work in Thailand and I go around the country visiting a lot of places. I am constantly being a tourist here—usually visiting national parks or various sights regularly. Just a few days ago I paid 200 baht to visit the national park in Koh Samed. Last month I visited no fewer than three national parks and four cultural sights.
It is difficult to know what this will mean for me or people like me. I have already experienced one problem at the border with Burma. I did a quick visa run because I was going to overstay my visa by a few days and wanted to avoid that. The Thai border agent was worried about me doing a visa run until she realized that a visa run like that was unusual for me. She explained only four land border crossings were now allowed.
I have more than that already, but they are mixed in with regular visas waivers issued from flying into the country along with two-month visas that I go to Laos to get. The problem is that I have a lot of Thai visas filling up my passport. My visa stamp from New Zealand has seemed to be my saving grace lately (the Australian one is hidden among the others, but the New Zealand one is sitting by itself on a page they are currently using to stamp my passport). They linger on that before stamping me into the country.
What is clear is that Thailand is going to start making things a lot more difficult. I have the proper visas and follow all the laws, but they are still not going to be happy with people that are spending a lot of time in the kingdom. I fall into that category and have a passport full of Thai visas to prove it. Since I plan on going to South Korea in September, I guess I will find out what happens when I return. Maybe nothing since I will be coming back into Suvarnabhumi. I will just have to wait and see.