In a landmark development that promises to bolster tourism and cultural exchanges, Thailand and China have agreed to mutually waive visa requirements for their nationals. This decision, effective from March 1, 2024, is expected to have a significant impact on the scenic coastal city of Hua Hin, renowned for its inviting beaches and vibrant cultural scene.
The visa waiver agreement stems from months of diplomatic negotiations, initiated during Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's official visit to Beijing last October. The talks, aimed at enhancing travel convenience, saw the Prime Minister and Chinese President Xi Jinping lay the groundwork for this historic move.
Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, in a detailed briefing, highlighted that the decision aligns with the government's policy of strengthening Thai passports for international travel. Parnpree, who also serves as Deputy Prime Minister, played a pivotal role in the negotiations.
The final agreement was reached after a series of meetings between Thai and Chinese officials. Notably, on December 6-7, Parnpree attended a foreign ministerial meeting under the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation in Beijing, discussing the visa waiver with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. This led to the formation of a bilateral task force to oversee the implementation.
On December 21-22, the Thai task force, led by the Department of East Asian Affairs' deputy director-general, concluded the agreement with China’s Department of Consular Affairs in Beijing.
Under the new policy, holders of ordinary and semi-official passports can enjoy up to 30 days of stay per visit in the other country, with a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period. However, this waiver does not extend to activities requiring prior permits, such as permanent residency, employment, study, media work, or other regulated activities.
For Hua Hin, a popular destination for both Thai and international tourists, this agreement opens new opportunities. The city, known for its historical significance, bustling night markets, and exquisite cuisine, stands to attract a surge of Chinese visitors, invigorating local businesses and cultural exchanges.
The agreement marks a significant milestone in Thai-China relations and heralds a new era of increased connectivity and mutual understanding between the two countries. As Hua Hin prepares to welcome more visitors from China, the city's unique charm and hospitality are set to be showcased on an even larger international stage.