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Patients from five Asian countries now eligible for 90-day stay

The new visa-free medical regulation will allow patients from four Asean neighbours and China will get automatic 90-day passport stamps

The government has extended the stay for patients from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), as well as those from China, who come to Thailand for medical treatment from 30 to 90 days, in accordance with its ambitious plan to turn the country into a medical hub.

The extended stay will also be applicable for up to four companions per patient, officials announced Wednesday at Government House.

Deputy Prime Minister Adm Narong Pipatanasai said patients from these countries are the second group to be granted permission to stay in Thailand for 90 days. The government had previously granted the longer visas to people from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

The visa extension for patients from CLMV and China took effect immediately. Previously, people from those countries could stay in Thailand for only a month.

The government also approves to extend long-stay visas for citizens of 14 countries to 10 years. Eligible foreigners will at first receive a permit to stay in the kingdom for five years, which can later be extended for another five years, he said.

The permit would also be applicable for their spouses and children up to 20 years old.

People from 14 countries -- Australia, Japan, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States -- are eligible for the visa.

Adm Narong said the number of foreigners who come to Thailand for medical treatment has been steadily on the rise as Thai medical services meet international standards with modern equipment and personnel with specialist skills.

However, foreign patients would often face issues due to the limited duration of stay granted in their visas, so the government has decided to give them more time to receive treatment in private hospitals, the deputy premier noted.

Gen Tanasak Patimapragorn, another deputy prime minister, said the government is promoting health tourism with a goal of turning the country into a world-class centre of medicine.

Efforts will be made to develop capacity at all levels to improve medical facilities and ensure quality, he said.

The extension of stay in these two categories would encourage foreigners to travel to Thailand for medical treatment, he added.

According to the deputy premier, the Public Health Ministry and the Tourism and Sports Ministry have been assigned to work together to proceed with the country's 10-year strategic plan to become a medical hub (from 2017-2026), which has been approved by the cabinet.

He said the goal is to further improve the standard of medical services and to facilitate travel to Thailand for health care.

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