Friday, March 6, 2009

Thailand exempts tourist visa fee for 42 countries

Thailand, which has been reeling under internal political turmoil since last year, decided to exempt the fee for tourist visa applications for 42 countries, including military-ruled Burma, as part of its promotion of tourism.

“It is about promoting tourism in Thailand, while it is facing the global economic crisis,” the immigration official told Mizzima on Wednesday.

An official at the Thai Immigration Bureau Head Office said, the exemption was part of Thailand’s plan to boost its tourism industry, which was severely affected by political unrest, particularly by the seizure of its international airport by demonstrators in November last year.

Currently, Thailand gives Visa on Arrival for citizens of 20 countries for a stay not exceeding 15 days and citizens of another 42 countries are given a visa-free stay in Thailand, for 30 days.

However, those who wish to stay longer than those periods are required to apply for visas, which give a standard 60 days, at the Thai embassies or diplomatic missions abroad before their arrival in Thailand, the official said.

The Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry, in its press release on Wednesday, said the decision to exempt fees for tourist visas was passed by the Cabinet in January. And the exemption would be effective from March 5 to June 4.

Meanwhile, a Burmese tourist appreciated Thailand’s new plans but said it would not attract Burmese travellers, as the military-ruled country was also reeling under the global financial crisis.

"We appreciate it [exemption on tourist visa] but we have to wait and see how it goes,” the tourist said.

He added that only a few Burmese people visit Thailand officially with a Visa, while the larger majority cross over the borders and smuggle themselves into Thailand to seek better employment.Inputs Mizzima

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