The news also follows the Russian Embassy last week strongly advising Russian nationals to carry their passports on their persons at all times while in Thailand.
Phuket Immigration Chief Col Kathathorn Kumthieng this week confirmed to The Phuket News that although the archaic law remains unchanged, requiring foreigners to have their passports at the ready to show officials at any time of day, enforcement of the law in Phuket will be not so strict.
“We are not enforcing this so hard because we know that foreigners and tourists need to relax in our country, so we see no need to annoy them with rules like this,” he said.
However, Col Kathathorn did advise that foreigners carry a copy of their passports with them just in case.
“This could be a photocopy or just a photo of their passport on their phone, which will be useful if something happens and they need to show their ID or if the foreigner is worried about losing their passport.
“With just a copy, any officer can call in the foreigner’s name and passport number and check their current legal status on our database. But if we do require them to show us their actual passport, they can go back to their hotel or their home and get it,” he explained.
Col Kathathorn did point out that any foreigner who is unable to present his or her passport, given reasonable time and opportunity, will be in trouble. At worst case scenario, the foreigner may be arrested and even face deportation.
Phuket Immigration Deputy Chief Lt Col Archeep Jaroensuntisuk explained that 300 foreigners had been processed under the ‘Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner’ campaign in Phuket in October.
“Of those, 211 had overstayed their visas, with 21 actually arrested and the remaining 190 surrendering themselves,” Col Archeep said.
Col Archeep declined to identify which nationality was the most common for overstays.
However, he added, “In October we also caught 54 people caught for illegally entering the country and 35 others caught for other crimes, including working illegally.”
The ‘Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner’ campaign, now 12 months old nationwide, will continue until further notice, Col Archeep confirmed.
“We will continue working on this as (Immigration Chief) Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn has ordered us to pay serious attention in tourist destinations where foreigners are likely to overstay,” he said.
Col Archeep urged foreigners not to be caught out by overstaying their visas.
“Our system has been updated to make it quicker and easier to extend visas. It won’t take a long time to have it done,” he said.
Col Archeep also urged foreigners to not pay any extra unofficial fees – or bribes.
“If any official asks you to pay an extra charge or asks for a tip, I can confirm that we uphold the ‘No Tips’ policy here,” he said.
“If you find any officer doing this, please call 1178 or my personal number 086-7886359,” Col Archeep added.