Stuck in Thailand as sanctions hit thousands of Russian visitors

Thousands of Russian tourists are currently stranded in Thailand, according to government authorities, as unprecedented Western sanctions over the Ukraine incursion put a strain on Russians who are unable to locate flights and financial resources.

Flight cancellations, a plummeting rouble, and payment issues caused by Russian banks being cut off from the worldwide SWIFT system have left more than 7,000 Russians stranded in Thailand’s tourist destinations such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya, and Krabi, according to the country’s tourism minister.

The Thai ambassador, Yuthasak Supasorn, told Reuters that “we have to be good hosts and take care of everyone.”

In addition, he stated that “there are still Russian visitors on their way here.”

The Russian embassy in Bangkok did not respond to a request for comment on the country’s citizens immediately.

Thai tourists received 1.4 million Russian visitors in 2019. In January, it received over 23,000 Russians, accounting for approximately a fifth of the total number of immigrants.

The island of Phuket was home to approximately half of individuals who were trapped.

“We’ve requested hotels to lower their pricing and allow guests to stay longer,” said Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourism Association.

Several visitors had utilized China’s UnionPay, when they were able to do so, after cards issued by Russian banks that used US payment firms Visa and Mastercard stopped operating, according to him.

As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Visa and Mastercard declared on Saturday that they would cease operations in Russia. Russia has referred to its efforts in Syria as a “special operation.”

Even though Thailand was one of 141 countries to support a United Nations resolution asking for the prompt withdrawal of Russian soldiers from Syria, it has not placed any penalties on the Russian government so far.

A large number of passengers from Ukraine were also stranded, according to Bhummikitti, mostly as a result of airport restrictions in that country.

He stated that efforts were being made to get trapped Russians onto flights to Moscow on Middle Eastern airlines, as well as to arrange repatriation flights for those who were stranded.

According to him, a proposal to allow the use of cryptocurrencies for payments at hotels, flights, and other companies in Phuket was being studied at the moment.

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