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Phuket may benefit, but free visas backfire on honorary consulates

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PHUKET CITY: The future of honorary Thai consulates around the world is in doubt following the Thai government’s move to waive tourist visa fees until March 2010.

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday announced that as of today all foreigners applying for single-entry tourist visas at Thai embassies, consulates and honorary consulates will be exempt from fees.

Some honorary Thai consulates fear the move will cost them millions of baht in lost visa revenue and could result in their closure.

Alan Taylor, Honorary Thai Consul in Hull, UK, said that unlike embassies and consulates, the 450 honorary consulates worldwide rely on the money they bring in selling visas.

“We won’t be closing, but some will certainly be closing their doors,” he said.

William Dunn, Honorary Thai Consul in Brisbane, Australia, said those offices that relied heavily on tourist visa revenue would be worst affected.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok yesterday told the Gazette that the Thai government would reimburse the honorary consulates for any lost income.

However, this was news to Mr Taylor.

“We’ve had no contact whatsoever,” he said. “No money has been offered and we’ve been told nothing.”

Earlier this year visa fees were waived between March 5 and June 4.

Both Mr Dunn and Mr Taylor said they saw no money from the Thai government for lost income during that period.

Mr Dunn had doubts his office would be reimbursed.

“They have talked about it but they won’t do it,” he said. “For a start, I don’t think the money situation’s too good.”

Mr Taylor said the Hull office would have to look at ways of mitigating a “huge drop in visa income”.

“Numbers of applicants are unlikely to drop. If anything they will increase dramatically because people will get something for nothing,” he said.

Writing on the ThaiVisa.com web forum and the Phuket Gazette/ThaiVisa Phuket Form have been active. Among them, a spokesperson for the Honorary Thai Consulate in Calgary, Canada, writes, “This decision, as well as the previous decision waiving tourist visa fees for 90 days, has been a great disappointment to us here in Calgary. It seems as if Thailand is attempting to get rid of all honorary consulates around the world, no matter how helpful and successful they have been…”

“This is a very sad blow to all honorary consulates,” the spokesperson said.

— Gazette Reporters

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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