This study explores the creation of the National Screening Mechanism (NSM) to classify forcibly displaced persons in Thailand, a non-signatory state to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. It argues that the drafting of the NSM as Thailand’s first refugee law resulted from policy entrepreneurship by officials in the Department of International Organizations (DIO), who promoted innovations in urban refugee management. The global refugee events of 2016 provided windows of opportunity for DIO officials to structure the need for creating the NSM and convince ruling generals to commit to new policy directions. However, bureaucrats in other agencies, who endorsed the status quo, leveraged their power to amend the initial conceptualization of the NSM and made it less progressive. Policy entrepreneurship offers another perspective for exploring changes in non-signatory states’ refugee policies that can also be applied more broadly to the context of signatory countries.