The Thai Embassy in Vientiane, Laos, would no longer issue any 60-day tourist visa, single or double entry, to any applicant whose passport alreadybears three such visa stickers from the embassy.
Tourists who have just come from Vientiane said the embassy was clamping down on foreigners who have been using tourist visas to stay in Thailand indefinitely.
An embassy employee said the 60-day tourist visas are meant for genuine tourists and not for people who are living more or less permanently in Thailand.
The employee said there are also suspicions that many of these people seeking tourist visas to Thailand on a regular basis are working illegally in the country.
The 60-day visas are free, at least until the end of March this year, although the 30-day extensions at Thai immigration offices cost Bt1,900.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs sources confirmed that Thai embassies abroad could refuse issuance of 60-day visas if they feel such visas are being misused.
They pointed out that instead of securing tourist visas repeatedly, any foreigner who wish to stay in Thailand on a long-term basis could apply for other visas, such as the one-year retirement visa for those above 50 years old, the one-year marriage visa for foreigners with Thai spouse, business visa and education visa.
There is no sign, however, that other Thai embassies in the region have been taking a hard line as Vientiane.
Visitors have not reported any problem in Phnom Penh, for instance, although visa processing
there takes about three full working days.
In Vietnam, issuance of Thai visas is reported to be business as usual.
There have been reports from Singapore though that a gap of six weeks is required before
a second tourist visa is issued.
Tour agents say that the Thai embassy in Vientiane is by far the biggest issuer of Thai visas in the region.
The current crackdown there, they said, could be an attempt to limit their workload or encourage the use of other Thai embassies in Asia.
The Vientiane embassy’s biggest attraction is its proximity to the Thai border via the Friendship Bridge. The policy, however, could become easier in April if the government allows embassies to start charging again for 60-day tourist visas.