Thailand is the most active proponent of visa-free travel in the ASEAN consortium.

Thailand is heading up discussions with Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia to seek agreement that a tourist visa or pass for one country means travellers can visit all five without further bureaucracy. The Thai premier’s adviser Prommin Lertsuridej said, “Thailand will lead negotiations for tourists to require one entry visa to travel amongst us.”

The idea is not entirely new, but plans have collapsed in the past as the various countries have their own specific requirements and prices. For example, Thailand now offers some countries, for example South Korea and Russia, 90 days visa exempt on arrival and without any payment. Cambodia, on the other hand, charges virtually all foreigners for the compulsory e-visa or visa on arrival and offers just 30 days. Laos meanwhile still requires evidence of covid vaccinations (or risk compulsory testing at Vientiane airport) and has different regulations from Thailand about bringing foreign currency into the country.

Srettha Thavisin, the Thai prime minister, intends to use visa conformity amongst neighbors as a lever to encourage European Union countries to allow visa-free travel for the five Asean nations throughout the 27+ nations operating the Schengen visa system. Agreement on such a bold move is unlikely for the foreseeable future as security and immigration controls are dominant concerns amongst all EU members. In any significant discussions, most Asean nations are keen to be under the leadership of Thailand which welcomes the most foreign tourists and has recently dismantled its own remaining visa regulations for the vast majority of its visiting vacationers.

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Author: Barry Kenyon