Arthit Suriyawongkul, a Thai PhD student at Trinity College Dublin, has filed a complaint with the Thai Administrative Court on Wednesday (25 March) calling for the repeal of the new travel restrictions announced by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), which require Thai nationals returning from overseas to present a fit to fly certificate and a certifying letter from their local Thai Embassy before being allowed to board a flight home.
People waiting in front of the Thai Embassy in London to get their required documents (Photo from Mookdapa)
Arthit’s complaint states that the requirements infringe upon the rights and liberties as enshrined in the Constitution, cause a burden in terms of finance and time, lead to additional health risk, and do not benefit the public. The complaint also states that the requirements are unlawful as the CAAT has no legal authority to issue them, and that they violate Sections 25, 38, and 39 of the Constitution.
Section 25 concerns the protection of the rights and liberties of Thai citizens. Section 38 states that “a person shall enjoy the liberty of travelling and the liberty of making the choice of his or her residence,” while Section 39 states that “no person of Thai nationality shall be deported or prohibited from entering the Kingdom.”
The complaint requests the Administrative Court to rule on repealing the CAAT requirements and for the repeal to be effective from 22 March onwards. Arthit also says that, since it is possible for government agencies to find other ways of screening incoming passengers for COVID-19 risk, suspending the requirements will not affect the government or other public services.
Arthit also started the campaign “Bring Thai Home” on Change.org, which now has 561 signatures toward a 1000 signature goal. The campaign states that, while the importance of screening travellers is recognized, there should be other ways that do not prevent overseas Thai nationals from returning home.
The CAAT announcement was released last Thursday (19 March) and came into effect from Sunday (22 March) onwards. It states that before being allowed to board their flight, Thai nationals returning to Thailand are required to present a fit to fly health certificate, which is merely a general health check to certify that the person is healthy enough to travel by plane, and a letter from their local Thai Embassy, Consulate, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs certifying that they are a Thai national returning to Thailand.
The new requirements have caused a lot of issues for overseas Thai communities living in countries where it is difficult to obtain a medical certificate, and embassies have had to scramble to facilitate the issuing of documents. Many questioned why the government had allowed the CAAT to issue new requirements that are little short of barring Thai nationals from returning home and that are a possible violation of the Constitution, which prohibits preventing Thai nationals from entering the country.
Chula Sukmanop, Director General of the CAAT, insisted in a BBC Thai article that the announcement is not to prohibit Thai nationals from returning home but is a measure to ensure that other passengers will not be affected. He also alleged that requiring the fit to fly certificate is the lightest measure possible to confirm that travellers are healthy.