Overstay Your Visa In Thailand, And Your Holiday Could Turn Into Your Worst Nightmare
Thailand is one of the easiest countries in Southeast Asia to travel to, with a 30 day visa on arrival issued free of charge to tourists from most countries. It is also relatively easy to extend your stay by traveling to a neighboring country to apply for another visa. For the most part the whole visa process is pretty straight forward, designed to promote Thailand's booming tourism industry. It is not uncommon for tourists to overstay their visa, sometimes by mistake, or extraordinary circumstances, and this rarely a problem.
The official policy regarding outgoing tourists at airport immigration is to issue a fine of 500THB (approx. 20USD) per day, for each day overstayed. The same policy is exercised at land crossings at the borders of neighboring countries, in most cases. However according to Thai law, it is illegal to overstay your visa, and you can be jailed and extradited. Normally immigration officials choose to issue a fine, rather than jailing tourists and upsetting the tourist industry. However they do have the right to use their own discretion, and if they notice a history of overstays, or if you have blatantly overstayed for a long period of time, they might decide to arrest you.
Another danger of overstaying your visa is that if you are involved in any incident such as a traffic accident, a fight, or any sort of crime, it is almost a given that you will be arrested for overstaying your visa and imprisoned. Many of the foreigners that have been jailed for overstaying their visas, have been involved in motorbike accidents or fights, and when the police notice that their visa has expired they are arrested. The consequences can be horrific, spending weeks or even months in Thai prison, awaiting extradition. The conditions are so severe that most prisoners become very ill, and experience extreme weight loss.
In this article we will give you a few examples of well documented cases of tourists being locked up for overstaying their visa. We hope that after reading these stories, tourists will think twice about lazily overstaying their visas, and thinking that it is "normal", and not a problem. The chances are, overstaying your visa will not land you in jail, but by choosing to take that risk, you might as well be playing Russian Roulette.
The Ranong 12
Feb -2006, A minivan loaded with tourists en route to Ranong was stopped by Thai Tourist Police. The police boarded the bus and demanded to see each passenger's passport. According to witnesses, when the police discovered that 12 of the tourists had overstayed their visas (most by only 1 day), they demanded 5000THB per person, in order to let the passengers continue on to the border to renew their visa. When they refused to pay the bribes demanded by the Tourist Police, the 12 foreign tourists were jailed in Ranong, and held pending extradition.
Some of these tourists had already been to the immigration office in Phuket, where officers there instructed them to take the trip to Ranong to extend their stay.The normal procedure would have been that they would pay a 500THB fine for each day overstayed. It was rumored that this episode was orchestrated by a rival visa run company, that was trying to cause problems for their competition. Unfortunately 12 tourists would be caught up in this dispute and spending 5 days in jail until the Thai authorities released them after facing international pressure.
Overall this could have been a lot worse, many people have suffered a much worse fate for overstaying their visas. Just a short time after this incident, a Dutch national was involved in an incident involving a drive by shooting, that resulted in the shooter being killed, when the Dutchmen ran him off the road with his truck. The Dutchmen was a part owner of another rival visa run company.
Swede With Heart Troubles Jailed For Overstay
July -2011, Swedish National, Kent Melmblom was arrested for overstaying his visa in Pattaya. Mr Melmblom claimed that he had recently checked out of the hospital after being treated for a heart condition, and he then realized his visa had expired. He claims that he went to the Pattaya police station to ask what the next step in dealing with his visa should be? He was apparently arrested for overstaying his visa and held for 16 days before being extradited back to Sweden.
Mr Melmblom claims that during his stay in jail he lost 16KG, and was not provided with the necessary medication for his heart condition. He also tells a story of another prisoner being put in his cell, and dying from an illness. He says the guards left the dead man's body in the cell for 2 days until the smell became unbearable. This is the story as it has been reported in the Swedish newspaper : "Aftonbladet". The English translation for "Aftonbladet" is : the evening post , however due to a reputation for printing sensationalist stories lacking in accuracy, Swedes tend to refer to the paper as 'the evening hooker".
Since this story was printed, many people have questioned why Mr Melmblom, a Pattaya resident for more than a decade, would go to the police station rather than to Thai immigration? It is also suspected that his visa might have been long since expired, well before his stay in the hospital. Most people assume that there is more to this story than has been reported, however the gruesome conditions described by Mr. Melmblom, are not disputed.