An official working at the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, a research and policy advisory division that operates under the Prime Minister’s Office and reports directly to the Prime Minister, confirmed on Tuesday (Sept 1) that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha had read the open letter, penned by German man Bernhard Stoever.
In his open letter, published online by The Phuket News on Aug 22, Mr Stoever urged the Thai government to consider the circumstances he and many other long-stay tourists already staying in Thailand were facing.
“I am one of the many long-term tourists who have been lucky enough to be able to extend their stay in Thailand since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. I firmly believe that this saved many people’s lives!
“Thanks to the prudent Thai policies, the first wave of global contagion was combated in an exemplary manner. For that, too, I and all “stranded” would like to thank you very much. And, of course, we would like to especially thank the Thai people who have received us with such indescribable hospitality. Thank you so much Thailand!” he wrote.
“However, the expulsion on September 26th hits us particularly hard. I would like to use my example to show you what this change does in individual cases. The same applies to many ‘stranded’ people,” he added.
“I am a writer, 68 years old, live in Hamburg and am currently in Phuket. Everything is fine with me in terms of health. Nevertheless, I am extremely endangered in Germany. Every year in autumn and winter, Germany and Europe are attacked by a dangerous flu virus that makes millions of people seriously ill and kills tens of thousands, mainly among the elderly. And the course of the disease becomes more severe from year to year. Unfortunately, I am very susceptible and get the flu every year. It was particularly bad three years ago and I almost died from it,” he explained.
“So I decided to spend the winter in Thailand, which I learned to love a long time ago. Here I don’t get any flu and live healthy. But the COVID-19 virus changed a lot.
“The second virus wave is now looming in Europe and Germany and will be probably even worse than the first. Together with the flu virus and the high age of most returnees, this means a huge risk for many people. And I too admit with discomfort that if I have to return to Germany in September, I may never see Thailand again. For me, as for many others, it is really a matter of life or death,” he added.
Mr Stoever asked the Thai authorities whether it was possible to issue a provisional residence permit for the ‘stranded’, so that they can determine the return flight themselves. “Or is it possible to make repatriations dependent on the danger that exists in the home country. Nobody wants to die in a corona hotspot,” he said.
Speaking to The Phuket News on Tuesday, Mr Stoever said that allowing long-stay tourists such as himself to be able to stay in Thailand was a win-win for both parties.
“With long-stay tourists like myself, all my money goes directly to the local community. I stay at a place with no kitchen, so I eat out all the time, and even my laundry is done outside. Everything I do contributes to all the small business around where I am staying. This is the same with any long-stay tourist,” he said.
He added that he knew he was not alone with his predicament. A German lady and an American both did not want to return home due to the state of COVID-19 infections in their home countries.
The officer at the PDMU that The Phuket News spoke with on Tuesday said that Mr Stoever’s plea had been heard at the highest level. PM Prayut had asked the PDMU to interview Mr Stoever and investigate how many other long-stay foreign tourists already in Thailand were facing the same predicament.
“We want to know more about the case of the German man in Phuket, and similar cases in other provinces,” the officer said.
“We are seeking a way to help the German man, and similar cases, to stay in Thailand and extend their visas. We want them to stay,” he added.
Mr Stoever welcomed the news. “I want to stay. I want to live,” he said on Tuesday.
To gain clear feedback directly from other long-stay tourists wanting to stay in Thailand, the officer at the PDMU invited such tourists to email a clear description of their situation. By arrangement, such tourists can send their emails to email@example.com. The Phuket News will forward all relevant emails directly to the PDMU. Emails must include contact details and the Subject line must say, “Please let me stay”.
People were urged to send their emails as soon as practically possible.
“We have no deadline for receiving these emails, but the PDMU will report its findings directly to the Prime Minister, and this will need to be done soon,” the officer said.