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Misery as arrival ban keeps families apart

Jack Burton



PHOTO: Facebook

Thailand’s ban on foreign arrivals is causing misery among families across the nation as foreigners married to Thai nationals plead with the government to let them return to be with their families.

James Jacobs, a Briton stranded in France, told Nation Thailand he wants to return to his 29 year old wife Sopa, who lives in Chiang Mai. Speaking by phone, Sopa said her husband has been stranded in France since Thailand stopped all incoming flights in April for fear of imported Covid-19 infections. She says she can only keep in touch with him online.

Alan Cheetham, another Briton who is stranded in the UK, says he wants to get back to his family in the northeastern Udon Thani province. He created a Facebook page called “Thai Expats Stranded Overseas due to Covid-19 Travel Restrictions” last week. More than 450 people who are in the same situation have already joined. Together with a second page, “Farangs Stranded Abroad due to Lockdown in Thailand,” with 397 members as of today, they share information as part of their efforts to reunite families.

Trapped in Ireland, Michael O’Halloran says he wants to be with his 3 daughters, aged 13, nine and 20 months, now living with his wife in Chon Buri.

Alan Edwards, another expat who is in a similar predicament, says it’s unfair that families are being kept apart during the crisis just because one of the spouses is not Thai.

“I understand that in these difficult times, many difficult decisions have to be made by the Thai government, but does the prejudice against Thai/foreigner families have to go on for so long? How is it fair that Thai people and children must be without a loved one or a parent because they are not Thai?”

Rob Kennedy, who belongs to “Farangs Stranded Abroad due to Lockdown in Thailand,” is trapped in Brunei, and says the Thai embassy there is helpful, but officials in Bangkok are showing little interest in his case. He says he’s willing to pay for quarantine if he’s allowed to return.

Another expat who has a family in the southern resort city of Phuket, speaking on condition of anonymity, says he left Phuket in March and now cannot return. He has a four year old son who has a medical condition.

“Mam,” a Chiang Mai woman who didn’t wish to give her real name, told Nation Thailand that her husband has been stranded in Canada for months.

“My two year old girl often asks, ‘where is Daddy’?”

The Thaiger has received a number of emails along the same lines, pleading for access back to the country to reunite with family and relatives in the Kingdom. The Thaiger has referred them to the Thai embassies in the countries they’re currently living in.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand banned all incoming passenger flights on April 4 and has extended the ban several times. The latest extension is until June 30.

The government says it is worried about importing new Covid-19 cases as the rate of infections is still pretty high in many countries, while here it has dropped to single digit increases for more than a week.

Authorities are letting Thai nationals stranded abroad return home in limited numbers, based on the capacity of state quarantine facilities and hospitals.

Recently, the government decided to have hotels and hospitals work together on quarantine facilities that can accommodate people who want to be comfortable and are willing to pay for it. This model may also apply to foreign tourists.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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