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Kota Bahru visa run “still safe’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Kota Bahru visa run “still safe’ | Thaiger

PHUKET: Despite continuing violence in the south of Thailand, the visa officer at the Thai Consulate in Kota Bahru, Malaysia, insists that the security situation along the border is still calm and that many foreigners continue to arrive each day to renew visas. Kota Bahru is the Thai consulate closest to Phuket, and one of a few in the region that has consistently issued six-month double-entry non-immigrant B visas, required by people who wish to work in Thaland. Tour companies offer “visa trips” that involve being away from Thailand for just a few hours. The three southern Thai provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala have undergone sporadic violence this week, mostly in attacks on local authorities. An estimated 20 attackers poured gunfire into a police station in Betong, Yala, last night. No one was reported hurt in the 15-minute battle. Pavinee Yuwaphan, Visa Officer at the Thai Consulate in Kota Bahru, told the Gazette today that security in Narathiwat and on the border was very tight now and tourists could feel safe. “We still have a lot of people coming to see us every day,” she said. “I am not worried. We have soldiers on guard around the border area and in each of the problem provinces. Security checks at the Thai border are very strict.” However, she added that anyone still concerned about security “can go to renew visas [at the Thai consulate] in Penang which is also issuing six-month Non-immigrant visas,” K. Pavinee added. In Penang, however, an official at the Thai consulate said that six-month non-immigrant visas were not automatic. “It depends on the documents the applicant provides,” the official said, adding, on the bright side, that one-year Non-immigrant B visas were available provided the paperwork is in order A Penang-based Gazette source with connections in the consulate said that, to his knowledge, one-year multiple-entry B visas could be obbtained by anyone holding a current Thai work permit. Pol Capt Krissarat Nuesen of the Phuket Immigration Office said, “You can go to any country you wish [in order to get a non-immigrant visa] but the validity of the visa depends on the discretionary authority of each consulate, which in turn depends on how much authority the consulate is given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” Meanwhile, the tourism industry in Phuket is naturally worried about the effect the violence in the South will have on business. Phuket Tourist Association President Pattanapong Aikwanich, told the Gazette that he felt the role of the press was “most important” when it came to covering this sensitive topic. “I think we should act strongly to provide the information to the public about what is happening in the three provinces [in the South]. “The Thai government and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, as reliable sources, should clarify the actual situation [to make sure people understand] that [the violence] is not related to international terrorists – this is well known and can be proven,” he said. “The Thai government should work with the foreign media, such as CNN, to let them know the real situation. The government should take [the press] to the area and let them to see what is really happening.” He added, “Early next month, there will be a ministerial conference of seven countries in this region focusing mainly on economic and tourism topics. The current situation means that we will also have to discuss security.” Lt Cdr Boonchart Prompoon, Director of the Airports Authority of Thailand, Phuket, said today that there are no flights to Phuket from Narathiwat, Yala or Pattani, so there has been no effect on the number of arrivals. “Anyway,” he added, “we continue to be very strict about the security of every flight. We also check runways, and we work closely with local authorities to exchange information.” A source at South Siam Travel Services, who asked not to be named, confirmed that in-bound reservations are holding up and that there have not been any cancelations nor, indeed, any worried queries. “The tour groups are coming here without asking about the circumstance in the three southern provinces,” the source said.

 

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