Written by Rania El Gamal, CNN
Thailand’s military government, which seized power in 2014, has announced that the country is open for tourists once again. But, this time, visitors will only need to go through a less extensive background check process.
The policy change has come with a huge backlash, as some say it is a form of discrimination against tourists and that they are being treated like terrorists.
Why? Because Thai hospitals can only screen for hepatitis and HIV, which are present in a small proportion of the Thai population. Tourists in Thailand, however, are not screened for these diseases because Thai law states that only Thailand’s ministry of health is allowed to do so.
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The new screening procedures, announced Wednesday by Thailand’s interior minister Gen. Chalermchai Sittisak, mean that all travelers entering the country will have to undergo a risk assessment, where they will be asked about their health status before they are allowed into the country.
“We want our country to be safe for visitors, tourists and locals, and for tourists to feel comfortable,” Chalermchai said.
Until now, Thailand has been largely exempt from the stricter health screening policies currently enforced at airports, border crossings and attractions worldwide.
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This means that visitors who have been vaccinated against hepatitis and HIV are exempt from the screening, which is applied to anyone entering the country.
Earlier this month, Chalermchai said that he has written a letter to the Ministry of Health to amend the law and allow for health screening to be done by Thailand’s foreign affairs ministry
The controversial decision by the government to allow a much more thorough screening of visitors was announced just two weeks after a military coup in neighboring Myanmar last year, which went against the recommendations of international humanitarian groups and Thai human rights activists.
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Thailand’s political instability, as well as its health care laws, has been well documented. Many argue that the country is a thorn in the side of international tourism, with Thailand losing more than $400 million to travel related disasters in 2017.