Thais may lose visa-free entries to Taiwan
EARLIER this year, Taiwan announced it was extending its 14-day visa-free entry trial programme for tourists from Brunei, the Philippines, and Thailand.
The visa-free treatment was expected to continue for another year from Aug 1, 2018, through July 31, 2019, pending further extension in the future after a review of the results.
But tourists from Thailand may potentially lose the visa-freedom soon due to the discovery of Thai women working in the sex trade in the territory.
According to Taiwan News, while there was a collective increase of 410,000 visitors from Thailand, Brunei, and the Philippines over the past two years.
This is all thanks to the visa waiver program, more visitors from the three countries have also been engaging in prostitution during their stay in Taiwan.
In April, a Thai national working in southern Taiwan tested positive for HIV, possibly infecting hundreds of clients.
The Thai woman had traveled to Taiwan five times since October last year on the pretense of “sightseeing”.
She confessed to police that she had sex with seven to eight clients a day during her visits to Taiwan, with each trip lasting around 15 days.
This amounts to a maximum of 120 customers per visit and a total of 600 over five trips.
Meanwhile, Radio Taiwan International, citing immigration authority figures, reported that a staggering number of 309 Thai women were found to have provided sex services in Taiwan last year, a jump in leaps and bounds compared to 18 the year before.
And that is not all.
Bangkok Post quoted a Thai source who has been living in Taiwan for more than a decade as saying that in addition to the problem of prostitution, she has also seen many Thai workers fall into illegal drug habits.
These habits have spread to local communities and are reasons why foreign workers in Taiwan are very closely monitored by the state.
To address the upturn in these offenses committed by Asean travelers, Taiwanese authorities are in the process of considering reducing the number of visa-free entries.
Minister without Portfolio Chang Jing Sen said the government is considering reducing the number of visa-free visits for individuals from those nations.
If approved by the Taiwanese parliament, the measures will be enforced from Aug 1, 2019.
However, how this will impact the number of Thais traveling to Taiwan remains to be seen, considering the fact that Taiwan is now the fourth most visited destination in Asia by Thai tourists, after Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong.
If Taiwan was to completely stop offering visa-free entry to tourists from Thailand, the number of Thais traveling to Taiwan “could drop by 50 percent if Taiwan follows through with its plan to end the programme”, according to Mira Travel Agency sale executive Chotika Chotsirimethakorn.