What emerges is not a “crackdown” as such, but a more stringent application of existing rules being applied at all border posts in the country.
The Superintendent of Ranong Immigration, Pol Col Ekkor Butsababodin explained to The Phuket News that the tightening of the rules comes in response to the growing number of crimes committed by foreigners in Thailand, and the number of tourists who are thought to be working illegally,
Tourists on visa runs are now being required to provide checkable details of where they are staying, with address and contact numbers. They will also be asked what they will be doing while in Thailand.
Col Ekkor explained, “Immigration officers have found that a lot of tourists staying in Phuket, Krabi, Samui and other tourism places don’t tell the truth. Their information cannot be confirmed by our sources.
“There have been crimes committed by tourists. We also have to accept that some look for ways to work illegally in Thailand. We are fully computerised now with internet connections, so we can check very fast.
“Tourists may renew 30-day or 15-day visas three times. We will check their details every time they come to Immigration.”
One crucial detail Immigration is looking for is evidence that tourists are staying in the places they claim to be staying in.
If Immigration cannot confirm, for three visa runs in a row, where a tourist is staying, then the tourist will get just seven days’ stay and will be told they have to leave Thailand at the end of that time and come back only when they have a new visa from a Thai consulate in another country, stamped in their passport.
In cases where tourists’ accommodation can be confirmed every time they do a visa run, Immigration officials will allow them back in, but after three extensions may not be keen to give them further extension without good cause.
Immigration officers may also ask for proof that tourists have enough money to support themselves for the proposed stay in Thailand before stamping them back in for 15 or 30 days.
It is important to understand that Immigration officials have wide discretionary powers. If, for example, a visa-run tourist can show that he or she is staying in a certain place and has enough money, then a fourth or fifth extension may well be granted.
But if a tourist’s “record” is deficient, or the tourist gives any other sign that he or she is not a genuine, happy-go-lucky tourist, then an attempt at a fourth visa extension is unlikely to be successful.
“To be honest, if they want to work or do business in Thailand [or stay long-term], then they should do it properly [with a non-immigrant visa].
One major aim of tightening the rules is to limit the number of people who arrive as tourists but are in fact planning to commit crimes – skimmers and ATM robbers are recent examples.
The Superintendent of Phuket Immigration, Pol Col Sanchai Chokkayaikij, commented, “Phuket is a tourist destination. So it is a good thing for us to be more careful about who we allow to stay on the island.”