Penalties for tourists who break rules
Fines, withdrawal of privileges likely
There will be penalties for people who break their 14-day mandatory stay in Phuket as the provincial government has been given full authority to impose a fine or withdraw quarantine-free privilege from tourists.
The regulations, published in the Royal Gazette, not only grants permission to Phuket to reopen without quarantine to inoculated tourists but also authorised nine other pilot areas to reopen in the next stage but with different rules and restrictions based on the situation of each province, said Yuthasak Supasorn, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor.
The standard operating procedures (SOP) will include penalties for travellers who breach health safety regulations imposed by local disease control departments.
It is up to each provincial governor or provincial command centre to determine which health safety measures are suitable for their geography and consider charges against people who fail to follow the rules.
For Phuket, the province mandates a 14-day stay on the island in July.
The province issued an order on June 25 stating that both Thais and foreigners who do not comply with control measures may face punishment as stated in Section 51 and 52 of disease control laws which includes a fine of up to 20,000 baht and 100,000 baht, respectively.
However, Mr Yuthasak said punishments might be made less severe when the Phuket sandbox comes into effect on Thursday. The authorities might consider lighter punishments such as revoking quarantine exemptions and requiring tourists to lodge in alternative local quarantine if found guilty.
"There shouldn't be any problem as tourists have already expressed their intention to stay longer on the island. As noted on the SHA Plus Booking Authentication System [SHABA], the average length of stay for the first 15 days of this project was at 11.9 nights per guest," he said.
SHABA is the back-end system that ensures that tourists complete mandatory stays in Phuket. It can track bookings and the payments tourists have already made to hotels certified under the Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA Plus) prior to arrival.
Mr Yuthasak said Koh Samui, Krabi, Phangnga should be the next destinations to reopen to vaccinated tourists using a similar approach as Phuket.
However, the timeline of each area depends on flight operations as the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has to grant permission and provide specific regulations to airports and airlines that want to fly direct to Samui and Krabi.
Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said there are at least 217 guests who have already booked and paid for hotel rooms for July 1.
During the first two weeks of reopening, 1,101 bookings totalling about 13,000 room nights have been made with SHA Plus hotels.
He said Bangkok Airways and Qatar Airways have confirmed their interest to serve international flights to Samui, however, due to a short runway, the airport can accommodate just narrow-bodied jets which cannot fly long-haul routes.
"We still need CAAT to decide to allow inbound tourists to transit at Suvarnabhumi Airport which will be more practical," Mr Yuthasak said.