Thailand and Myanmar signal visa free travel

Thailand’s Cabinet approved, last Tuesday, a reciprocal agreement with Myanmar to allow visa-free visits by passport holding citizens of both countries for up to 14 days.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Thanasak Patimakorn, is tasked with signing the agreement later this week in Chiang Mai.

An agreement for mutual visa-free visits was agreed upon by the Yingluck Shinawatra government in October 2013, but not ratified. After a military coup in May 2014 it was placed on the back burner. The new agreement is slightly different, according to a Cabinet document released after its approval.

“Citizens of the two countries holding ordinary passports will receive a visa waive for visits up to 14 days if arriving by commercial aircraft,” it read.

The agreement also allows either side to cancel the agreement in writing via diplomatic channels. The cancellation would become effective after 90 days, the same timeframe stated in the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Visa Exemption. The previous agreement provided for only 60 days cancellation deadline.
However, it could be suspended temporarily for security or health reasons 15 days after written notification is given via diplomatic channels.

The agreement will apply to Myanmar travellers arriving in Thailand at 23 airports across the country in principle. However in practice Myanmar citizens are limited to flights operating to Thailand and that means then can obtain the visa-free stay at first points of entry; Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang airports in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

The airport that technically could have a visa-free facility are: Suvarnabhumi; Don Mueang; Chiang Mai; Chiang Rai; Hat Yai; Phuket; Nan; Phitsanulok; Mae Sot; Mae Hong Son; Khon Kaen; Nakhon Ratchasima; Udon Thani; Ubon Ratchathani; Krabi; Trang; Narathiwat; Ranong; Surat Thani; Hua Hin; Samui; Sukhothai; and U-tapao.

The foreign ministries of Thailand and Myanmar will sign the visa exemption agreement in Chiang Mai during a joint country seminar. The agreement once signed will become effective 27 August at airports of both countries. For Thai travellers then can obtain visa free entry at Myanmar’s three international airports in Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon and Mandalay. There are currently seven airlines serving the two countries. The agreement will be extended to overland crossings at Myawaddy, Tachileik, Htee Khee and Kawthaung, the four most busy checkpoints along the border with Thailand.
In the 2013 talks, overland visitors visa-free stays were opposed by some government departments on the grounds of security and labour issues.

Following last year’s ASEAN Summit hosted in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar pledged to finalise agreements with ASEAN member countries. It already allows citizens of Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Brunei and the Philippines visa-free entry. Once Thailand signs off on visa-free travel, Myanmar will still need to negotiate bilateral agreements with Singapore and Malaysia to complete its commitment to ASEAN’s charter on freedom to travel.




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