Free Chinese Tourist Visa Raises Transnational Crime Concerns

A free-visa travel opportunity for Chinese tourists suggested by the newly appointed Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin might potentially escalate cross-border criminal activities, as per the statements of the Immigration Bureau (IB).

The policy advocated by Mr Srettha is scheduled to commence on October 1 with the goal of attracting a greater number of Chinese tourists, who were previously the majority of the tourist influx in Thailand.

Although the Covid-19 restrictions have eased, the resurgence in the count of Chinese tourists has not been substantial.

Adith Chairattananon, the respected secretary-general of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), noted earlier that many Chinese individuals are currently reluctant to embark on overseas travels due to the economic downturn and the depreciated yuan.

However, this might not emerge as a significant issue, as the baht has also seen a decrease in value.

Negative image of Thailand are circulating on Chinese social platforms, especially concerning safety issues, causing a hesitation to visit the country, Mr Adith conveyed.

The Atta has remarked that numerous Chinese travel agencies are still struggling to bounce back due to workforce shortages and elevated operational expenses, a contrast to larger corporations that have the capacity to quickly adapt their business models.

The initiative to grant free visas has sparked divided opinions, with Mr Srettha presently engaging with security forces and corresponding entities on the matter.

Several enterprises linked to the tourism sector are concern that facilitating smoother entry procedures might unleash a surge of criminal individuals from China.

IB leader Pol Lt Gen Pakphumpipat Sajjapan stated on Monday that introducing a free-visa could potentially allow individuals involved in call center gangs, unlawful ventures, and other forms of transnational criminal activities to infiltrate the nation.

He emphasized that the IB would be burdened with a heightened amount of tasks to apprehend such individuals once they gain entry into the country.

The planned policy is generating concerns about potential exacerbation of delays at immigration desks. However, Pol Lt Gen Pakphumpipat affirmed the agency’s readiness to adhere to a free-visa policy.

The IB is in the process of developing strategies to reduce congestion at airports, anticipating a surge in visitors from China. This includes ensuring that all immigration check-in counters are operational during periods of high incoming traffic.

Efforts are underway at the IB to establish specialized immigration channels for individuals possessing Chinese passports.

Furthermore, Pol Lt Gen Pakphumpipat noted the IB’s failed attempt to persuade the Airports of Thailand to allocate additional areas for immigration processing centers at international terminals.