Thailand’s attempt to stop ‘begpackers’ and illegal workers: Visitors asked to show THB20,000 before entering the country

Photo: Thai Embassy
Photo: Thai Embassy

Recently, several tourists attempting to enter Thailand have been stopped and asked to show THB20,000 (about USD594) at airport immigration checkpoints.

As an attempt to prevent the entrance of illegal workers, “begpackers” (backpackers who beg for money to continue traveling), and general ne’er-do-wells, immigration officials are asking some visitors to show that they are carrying THB20,000 — though the rule is not being enforced across the board.

According to the Thai Embassy website, these items are needed by those hoping to obtain a tourist visa and wishing to enter the country: passport or travel document with a validity not less than 6 months, visa application form (filled out), One (1) recent 4x6cm photograph of the applicant, round-trip air ticket or e-ticket (paid in full), and proof of financial means (THB20,000 per person/THB40,000 per family).

These have long been the law, but the cash part was rarely enforced.

According to The Nation, those with passports sporting several tourist visas for Thailand, as well as those with Educational (ED) visas, are being inspected most often.

One issue with these searches, however, is that officials want to see cash in Thai baht and most people don’t carry such large amounts of cash, much less in the currency of the country they are just arriving at. Additionally, there are no cash machines on the airside at either Bangkok airport. All ATMS are in the area after people go through customs, so that is an issue to those who think they can quickly make a withdrawal.

On Friday, at the land border between Padang Besar, Malaysia, and Songkla, Thailand, immigration officials pulled tourists aside and asked them to prove that they had the correct sum of money. Those who did not were taken for further questioning.

While entering Don Mueang Airport from Hua Hin last Wednesday, a Brit tourist was asked to show THB20,000 in cash as well. Officials questioned how he supported himself financially in Thailand, because his passport contained three previous tourist visa entries.

Another tourist holding an ED visa was also questioned at Suvarnabhumi Airport last week, after he was asked to show the same amount of money, but only had THB8,000. Previously the man had four tourist visas and a 30-day visa exemption stamp in his passport.

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