BANGKOK — A spokesman for the immigration police on Tuesday walked back on his announcement that a negative COVID-19 test result will be mandatory for every foreigner who wishes to extend their stay in the kingdom.
Immigration bureau spokesman Archayon Kraithong previously said on Monday the new measure will be applied to “every type of visa,” regardless of how long the foreigner has stayed in the country.
But less than an hour after his remark was reported on Khaosod English – sparking an uproar among expats on social media – the spokesman reached back to say he was misinformed about the new policy, and offered an apology.
“I apologize for the misunderstanding,” Maj. Gen. Archayon said. “It will only apply to certain types of visa, most likely the permanent resident visa.”
He went on to say that the Immigration Bureau will have to wait for the Council of State – an agency tasked with settling legislative disputes – to interpret the latest regulation concerning coronavirus and arrivals from overseas published on Dec. 25.
“We’re waiting for the Council of State to interpret the new regulation,” Maj. Gen. Archayon said.
The order added COVID-19 to the list of prohibited diseases for foreigners who wish to enter or take residency in Thailand. Other diseases include leprosy, “dangerous stage” of tuberculosis, elephantiasis, drug addiction, and tertiary stage of syphilis.
The announcement did not mention any restriction that must be taken on foreigners already residing in Thailand.
“This is such a pointless exercise,” Twitter user Siobhán Robbins wrote. “If long-term expats have COVID-19 when the borders are basically closed and a 14-day mandatory quarantine imposed, they certainly got it via local transmission in Thailand. COVID-19 doesn’t pick people by race, yet foreigners are once again singled out.”
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Local immigration offices appeared to be unaware of any new measure that would require foreign residents to present a negative coronavirus test upon renewing their visas.
“I haven’t heard about it,” Chonburi immigration chief Narain Kheungsanook said by phone.
Phuket Immigration Deputy Chief Col. Nareuwat Putthawiro also told The Phuket News that his office has not received any such order.
“We do not require any medical documents for an application to renew a visa, because there are few foreigners’ movements outside Phuket. Most of them live and work in Phuket, and have done so before the new wave of COVID-19,” Col. Nareuwat was quoted as saying.
It was far from the first time that the immigration contradicted itself on its own enforcement of visa policy.
A spokesman said in July that an amnesty would not be granted to foreigners stranded in Thailand due to the pandemic, though they later did. In 2018, Chinese nationals flying from Hong Kong were also barred from using a premium lane reserved for Chinese nationals at an airport in Bangkok.