At first there was concern amongst TEFL teachers in Thailand after recent crackdowns aimed at preventing teachers without the correct residence permit from working in the country.
It was reported in early August that border guards were pulling aside English teachers making their regular visa runs and some feared they would not be allowed back into the country to continue teaching, having instead to leave there and then.
But then it all changed. The Thai leader General Prayuth Chan-och rescued the expat English teachers in Thailand.
Thai Visa Runs
In the past many expat TEFL teachers would come to Thailand on a tourist visa but then start work at one of the many English schools. When the temporary tourist visa was close to expiry they would make a “visa run” to a neighboring country such as Singapore and Cambodia. They would cross out of Thailand then come back immediately, getting their passport stamped with a new entry date and clutching a new tourist visa which would allow them to stay in Thailand until the visa ran out again a short while later when they would make another run.
This is necessary in part because many schools do not want to go through the long and sometimes tedious process of sponsoring their English teacher to get them the correct residence and work permit which would allow them to stay in the country for a full academic year or more. They say they don’t want to do this because of the high turnover of teachers and the work involved.
But then things changed. In early August the immigration agents at the border began stopping teachers and there was a risk those teachers would be denied entry into Thailand and forced to leave there and then. For a month there was consternation amongst English teachers in Thailand and talk of the education system collapsing when the teachers were denied entry.
But then in stepped Thailand’s leader, General Prayuth Chan-och. At the end of August in his regular weekly TV address he acknowledged that the system was broken but said simply stopping English teachers from re-entering the country was not the answer. Instead changes should be made to make it easier for those teachers to get official permits more easily.
Although many of the teachers are working illegally, the majority are fully qualified and would, if the system were easier, be able to get a more permanent visa.
What happens next remains to be seen but for the moment many are thanking General Prayuth Chan-och!
Teaching English in Thailand – a guide to TEFL in Thailand
Coming to the End of the Run – visa crackdown from the Bangkok Post
Junta eases restrictions on visa runners – visa backflip from Asian Correspondent