Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Phuket Sandbox’

1st September 2021

The lockdowns in Bangkok and other highly populated areas of Thailand appear to be abating as it has recently been decreed that certain retail businesses may reopen while restaurants and other eateries may again serve dine-in customers from today onward. There seems to be an implication that further easing will be forthcoming, but we have seen that attitude before only to see things suddenly reverse. Hopefully, the business community in Bangkok and Greater Thailand has finally come through the worst of these rather stringent measures and things can move on.

Meanwhile, various destinations in Thailand are attempting to “Move On“. Notably, Phuket has implemented initiatives in the “Phuket Sandbox” program to allow travelers in that location to travel to other destinations after an initial 7 days on the island in the “7+7” program. Although this is definitely good news tourism numbers remain far below normal and therefore it remains to be seen how many people will actually avail themselves of this opportunity. The sandbox initiative has not garnered the tourism interest that many had hoped, but with high season coming this could change. It is worth noting that a number of non-immigrant Thai visa holders have availed themselves of the sandbox scheme as it is viewed as less cumbersome compared to dealing with 14 days of quarantine when traveling to other parts of Thailand.

It is notable that Thailand is one of the only jurisdictions in Southeast Asia which is permitting tourists to enter the country. Not to mention non-immigrant visa holders (most of whom were completely barred from reentry last summer). That stated, issues still arise for foreign nationals in Thailand as there are those who have problems either maintaining their status due to unforeseen work issues or no longer meet the requirements of their lawful status. Under such circumstances it is optimal to avoid falling into overstay and attempt to obtain a Thai visa conversion in order to remain in the Kingdom.

American immigration is not moving as quickly as was the case prior to 2020. That stated, things are moving more quickly compared to the situation in 2020. Although appointments for non-immigrant visas to the USA such as tourist visas are difficult to come by and even obtaining an appointment for a K-1 visa interview can be difficult. There are those who hope that a change in administration in the USA will result in concrete changes to the American immigration apparatus, but any improvements remain to be seen.

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15th July 2021

As the first two weeks of the “Phuket Sandbox” scheme have elapsed, it appears that program is gaining increasing momentum in terms of tourist interest. Although the program has not been without issues as recent arrivals testing positive for COVID-19 have created situations where Alternative State Local Quarantine measures have been undertaken. That stated, the overall program seems to be proceeding smoothly and offers a glimmer of hope for the Thai tourism industry. It should be noted that the Phuket Sandbox is not reserved for tourists, it is possible for those with a non-immigrant visa to use the Phuket Sandbox as well.

Meanwhile, the island resort of Samui is reopening in a limited capacity to foreign tourists. The Samui Sandbox, or what some have dubbed the Samui corridor (due to the sealed pipeline of travelers transitioning through Bangkok), has commenced in recent days although there seems to be less than optimal demand for this program compared to its Phuket counterpart. To quote directly from a recent article titled “No foreign tourists on first day of Samui reopening” in The Nation:

Only 11 foreigners – all members of the media – will take the Bangkok Airways flight from Bangkok to Samui on Thursday, according to the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association. “We do not expect a lot of travellers to visit Thailand in the third quarter this year as the rise in the country’s daily Covid-19 cases would affect their confidence,” association chairman Ratchaporn Poolsawas said on Wednesday. “However, what we can do is start tourist operations in line with standard procedure in a bid to stimulate the country’s tourism.”

Clearly, demand for the Samui project is not as robust as some might hope. However, as the weeks go by the Samui program may prove to be a desired destination for future tourists. Also, it may prove to be an alternative to the Phuket Sandbox in a hypothetical situation where the Phuket program must be rolled back even though this does not appear to be a likely possibility as of the time of this writing.

While positive news abounds for Phuket and Samui, Bangkok remains under severe lockdown conditions presumably throughout the remainder of July. Restaurants cannot provide dine-in services, alcohol service of all kinds are banned, shopping malls are closed, and the city remains in a de facto state of severe lockdown. When exactly this will end remains to be seen as calls from within Thailand and in other jurisdictions are being made for a paradigm shift in the way pandemic response is undertaken with some arguing that the containment strategy is no longer viable especially in light of the devastating economic impact these measures have had and which will presumably continue should these policies continue to be enforced.

While the American Embassy in Thailand continues to provide US visa interviews and other routine services (albeit in a rather truncated manner) some have argued that the Embassy should provide vaccinations for expats Americans. As of the time of this writing, the Embassy has stated this service will not be provided and it seems unlikely this will change any time soon.

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