Expats in Thailand living with uncertainty after military takeover

Published:  7 Jul at 6 PM
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Western long-term retirees and expats legally married to Thais are fearing repercussions to their visa statuses following the recent military takeover.

The recent panicky departure of over 200,000 Cambodian workers back across the border has increased expat fears that immigration crackdowns may be expanded to include those on marriage and retirement visas. One English language newspaper recently published a plea on its postbag page from a concerned expat with a Thai wife and family.

The writer asked why contributions to the Thai economy by married expats supporting their wives, children and other Thai family members shouldn’t be considered as important as the contributions made by overseas labourers working on construction sites and in agricultural areas. His concerns also included the 90-day report compulsory for all immigrants as well as the financial security requirement of 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account.

Ongoing financial input from pensions and investment income, the cost of a home and education costs for children of the marriage, he added, were all proof of expat contributions to the Thai economy. Retirees, he said, also purchase condos or property on legally-leased land and bring in regular foreign currency transfers for their upkeep, but are only considered to have temporary residential status.

A recent poll undertaken by the same newspaper showed that 97 per cent of respondents agreed that expats with legally established Thai spouses should not need to reapply at immigration for permission to stay another 90 days. Legally employed expats with work permits and retirees are also contributing to the local economy and supporting local Thai businesses with their purchases.

Long-term foreign residents in Thailand comply with the law which states that no foreigner may own land in the Kingdom. However, as one Thai immigration officer was heard to remark, no doubt with his tongue firmly in his cheek, ‘The next time you see a foreigner boarding a plane along with a large parcel of Thai land, call me and I’ll be there immediately’.
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