China has reiterated its request for Thailand to allow its nationals to visit without a visa, the same privilege as its diplomats and government officials, Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Sihasak Phuangketkeow said while on an official visit in Beijing.
China is the number one source of tourists who come to Thailand. Last year, the Tourism and Sports Ministry reported that more than four million Chinese visited Thailand in the first 10 months of the year.
Beijing’s top officials made the no-visa request during Sihasak’s official visit to Beijing last week. He met Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin as part of the second China-Thailand Strategic Dialogue as well as Foreign Minister Wang Yi and State Councillor Yang Jiechi.
It was the acting Foreign Minister’s first visit to China since the military seized power in late May. China’s repeated no-visa request comes at a time when Thailand needs “friends” to lean on after a number of Western countries issued low-level sanctions against the country and downgraded diplomatic relations.
They have insisted that Thailand return to democratic rule and have election.
Chinese officials told Sihasak that it regarded Thailand as a good friend, a strong partner and a close relative – the two countries were like brothers and their relations would always move forward even in the face of internal or external woes.
He was also told China would not interfere in Thailand’s internal problems.
Sihasak said Beijing’s no-visa request would be forwarded to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) for consideration. “The Foreign Ministry will gather pros and cons of the free-visa privilege and submit them to the NCPO to substantiate this for consideration,” he said.
If approved, the visa-free privilege would means Thai people could travel to China without a visa.
Sihasak’s visit to China was also used to brief Chinese officials on the junta’s efforts to undertake reforms via a three-phase roadmap and restore political stability and create an environment conducive to long-term economic development.
The briefing was part of the junta’s campaign to explain the Thai political situation to other countries.
China hoped Thailand achieves that as soon as possible so as to promote investment confidence, Sihasak said.
Thailand and China will celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year.
Sihasak said many changes and developments had taken place throughout the 40 years and both countries should treat each other as equal partners. They should help each other move forward and if a problem occurs, deal with it together.
He also revealed – without elaborating – that Thailand wanted China to open its market to Thai agriculture products and not use its hygiene standards as a measure to limit Thai products.
He said China had expressed an interest in investing in many projects in Thailand, particularly projects to enhance connectivity in the region under the Master Plan of Connectivity. It seemed especially interested in dual-track trains.
China also expressed an interest in infrastructure projects that would link neighbouring countries with it. Beijing would like Thailand to finalise details of the projects as soon as possible, but that could happen, he said, when an interim government and a Legislative Assembly are in place.