27 March 2020
A stressful five-day stay at klia2 is finally over for Russian national Val Azure and her son after she was given permission to enter the country today despite the movement control order (MCO).
The hostel manager was among a group of travellers on an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok on Monday who were refused entry into Thailand for reasons the 31-year-old says are still unclear.
Travel restrictions and cancelled flights due to Covid-19 have stranded tourists across the region.
Despite having a medical certificate and health insurance, as required by the Thai authorities, Azure was turned away at Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport.
Forced to return to Malaysia, she had spent the past five days at the klia2 transit area due to entry restrictions on foreigners during the MCO — which has been extended to April 14.
Numerous calls to the Russian embassy finally paid off today when she was allowed to enter the country after a “special request” from Malaysia’s foreign ministry.
Azure was sad that a dozen tourists from Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Morocco, Myanmar, Vietnam and Yemen were among those stranded at klia2, where they remain.
“We just ordered some pizza and I am sitting next to the happiest child in the entire universe!” she told FMT after checking into a local hostel in Kuala Lumpur with her son, aged nine.
Describing her ordeal, Azure — who works in Thailand — said her sleeping arrangements for the past few days had been less than ideal.
“I got all our clothes, made a little pile and covered it with a little towel to make my son a bed. I then made a pillow with my sneakers wrapped in a T-shirt,” she said.
“It was extremely cold and he was shivering even with the blankets they gave us. So I had to cover him with my own body… I don’t know how the others slept.
“If I was hoping AirAsia would solve our problem, I’d be there for three more weeks.”
Azure had spent the past two months volunteering at a refugee centre in Ampang before it was forced to close due to fears about Covid-19.
Deciding to return to Thailand, she then got a health certificate declaring her free from Covid-19. She bought an insurance policy showing minimum coverage for Covid-19 of not less than US$100,000 (RM440,000) as per Thai regulations announced on Sunday.
Azure said AirAsia staff at klia2 spent so much time checking if her documents were in order that she missed her original flight to Bangkok on Sunday and had to leave the next day instead.
“They said they had checked with Thai immigration and my paperwork was fine. But when we reached Bangkok, all foreigners were denied entry,” said Azure.
“We were put in a room with medical staff and soldiers and told to fill out some paperwork. Our documents were taken, and after a couple of hours, we were told to get back on the same plane to fly back to Kuala Lumpur,” she said.
She said a representative from AirAsia told the group the Thai authorities were not satisfied with their paperwork and convinced them to return to klia2, saying that a colleague at the airport would help them “cross the border”.
Once at klia2, however, the group was told they could not enter Malaysia because of the MCO and had to contact their respective embassies for further assistance.
Frustratingly, she was unable to get AirAsia’s staff at klia2 to help her retrieve her documents which were taken by the Thai authorities.
“They said AirAsia Thailand is a different company and it was impossible to contact them about the documents,” said Azure.
In a statement sent to the media yesterday, AirAsia said it was doing “everything possible” to assist guests affected by a disruption due to Covid-19.
Stating that the safety and well-being of their guests and staff is their number one priority, the company said it was fully compliant with all travel bans and restrictions in place, resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak.
FMT has contacted immigration department director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud and the foreign ministry for comment.
Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) chose not to comment.