Thai military government cracking down on expats

Published:  4 Aug at 6 PM
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For decades, expats have flocked to Thailand for its laid-back atmosphere, great weather and low cost of living.

Bangkok, the northern city of Chiang Mai and southern Thailand’s sun, sea and sand beach resorts have long been favourites for expats searching for a place to retire, work or just have fun.
Until recently, immigration laws were loosely interpreted, giving freedom to many to stay without the exact visa requirements.

However, since the military government took over some two months ago, an increasingly tough crackdown on technically illegal long-stayers on visa runs or visa waivers has resulted in many being refused re-entry to the country. According to Thai embassies in Western countries, the aim of the crackdown is to reduce the number of expat foreigners staying and working in the country without the correct visas.

With Cambodian and Myanmar workers also feeling the force of the military, many expats are now feeling insecure about their prospects of remaining in the country, even with the correct visas. Groups likely to be affected are English language teachers, most of whose schools are not prepared to give them the legally required work permits, and those genuinely studying the Thai language or other subjects on education visas.

Concern is also being felt by the large number of expat workers in the offshore oil and gas industries, most of whom have month-on, month-off schedules. Often married to Thais and with children, their schedules are difficult to fit with existing visa types as they are not regarded by immigration officials as long-stay residents or tourists.

Estimates of the numbers of expats living in Thailand range between half a million and a million or more, with one of the largest groups, retirees, now fearing that even their lives may become impossible to sustain if present rules change. The confusion at present is also affecting the plans of tourists who regularly use Thailand as a base for visiting Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and other neighbouring countries as part of their holidays.
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