Not Smiling in the Land of Smiles
I write this note after spending a day at Immigration to file a third TM30 in the past 6 weeks, and receiving the umpteenthth business visa I still marvel at the paperwork, lack of transparency, and inconsistent information that is needed to reside in this Kingdom. I also wonder if this will be my last time to file such paperwork as I contemplate a move to another country in South-East Asia. I am here as a professional and utilize Thailand as a hub to access other Asian countries. I am married to a Thai national with a young daughter and the whole TM30 is becoming a large inefficiency, and quite frankly an invasion of privacy (i.e. police state) to some extent. I hope it will improve so that my daughter does not face this in her future.
As I travel internationally over 20 times per year, I scratch my head as to why each time I return home I need to report my residence? My address is logged multiple times through Immigration (Business Visa), Labour Department (Work Permit) Revenue Department (Tax), and TM6 (Arrival Card). I pay taxes to the tune of 1 million baht per year and am not considered a national security threat. Just to note, if you forget to pay your taxes – the Royal Thai Police quickly know where you are located! Maybe as part of the visa process it should include an interview to weed out those who are true security threats. Why would any foreigner live here as a professional, pay hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to the Thai government, contribute most of their salary to the Thai economy, have a Thai family and want to harm Thailand? Having to report to my landlord over 20+ times a year on the return to my own home is just not a well thought approach and does not target the security threat they seek to control? In all respects, they should continue to target the visa runners and those here with ill intentions – but at same time create a system where long-stay foreigners are not left to take on the hassle and inefficiencies in reporting and made to feel unwelcome. There are over 38 million tourists arriving annually – we know not all the hotels are reporting correctly – so well over 30 million people are literally unaccounted for. This is the risk – not long-stay residents!
However, I don’t think this is about security as they all go on to say so we are scared in to filing out these silly forms. In my mind it is legal tea money or another tax grab at foreigners wanting to be here legally and it is now another method to generate revenue from those not complying. The smugness and arrogance of the officials is also not helping as they say the process is easy when there is total lack of transparency and consistency in information required which is then tied to a computerized system that is mostly non-functional. They also go on to state that “it is the law” and we know how many laws are broken nightly on good old Sukhumvit, don’t we?
At the end of the day, I hope it all goes away but I just read that Immigration is now providing training to hotels in regards to TM30 – maybe they are digging an even deeper hole? I am more upset than regular Freddie Farang that lives in Isaan or Sukhumvit and does little travel. As I travel so often it is a tad invasive and inconvenient having to report my home address 20+ times a year. Would reporting your address once at the visa renewal process suffice? Why is it assumed my address is different just because I leave home for a work trip? It’s starting to get a bit embarassing for myself so I imagine maybe that is how the authorities are also feeling? It’s getting harder to respect and look various people in the eye with this type of law. As I say, I know it’s another money grab on long-stay foreigners and have feeling that Chinese tourists are more desired – for they are here a short time and they “don’t think too much” on what is really happening in this Kingdom called Thailand: Land of Smiles – Country of Unhappiness.
So many foreigners resident in Thailand feel the same frustration. The requirement to report to Immigration within 24 hours after returning home from a trip outside the country OR a trip within the country is hugely burdensome, especially with reports from people who have waited hours at Immigration to make the report. And it’s not only the waiting at Immigration, just getting to Immigration can be quite a hike too, depending on where you live and where the nearest immigration office is.
It seems to me the solution to this is straight-forward. Immigration needs to invest in a robust self-reporting system whereby those required to report can do so via mobile phone or using a web browser. Here’s hoping that the current system is improved so self-reporting becomes a breeze.