BANGKOK — Imagine you’re an expat in a country where you must report to the police within 48 hours each time you travel to another province for longer than 24 hours.
Amazingly restrictive and burdensome, isn’t it? Welcome to Thailand 2019!
Whether it makes sense or not, Thai immigration police are requiring expats living in Thailand to do just that through an online “TM30” form.
The commander of Bangkok’s immigration police, Pol. Maj. Gen. Patipat Suban na Ayudhaya, insists it’s for the safety of both foreigners and Thais.
“We will try our best to distinguish between the good and bad guys. I promise all of you: we try,” Patipat told the jam-packed, mostly frustrated western audience at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on Thursday evening.
The law requiring foreigners to report themselves has been around since 1979, during the height of the Cold War. But immigration police have only just begun enforcing it (though tourists are largely spared when hotels fill out the form for travelers).
Expats have the option to fill out the form online, but many say the application is slow and that it takes as long as five weeks just to get a login password.
Patipat’s main immigration superintendent, Pol. Col. Thatchapong Sarawanangkul, insisted that is nothing wrong with the online app, however.
Nevertheless, even Thatchapong admitted he has to work until 10pm every night with no holidays, even though his wife will give birth to their baby by the end of this month, in order to clear the forms.
Patipat added that only 10 officers have been assigned to handle the online app, in further admittance that immigration police are ill-equipped to manage the controversial online form. Officers have to check reports one by one in the hopes of spotting potential ‘alien criminals’ bent on committing crimes in Thailand.
This may be a noble goal but let us pause for a second. Would a real alien criminal be foolish enough to submit genuine details of their latest whereabouts in order to wait for the Thai immigration police to arrest or deport them? The chances of catching bad guys from the TM30 immigration form are very slim.
It’s the majority of expats in Thailand – the so-called good aliens – who bear the brunt of the inconvenience and feel stifled. It’s as if Thailand is turning into a police state for largely law-abiding expats.
Instead of making them feel welcomed and at home so Thailand can boost its economy and enrich its culture and society, the pedantic TM30 immigration form has alienated hundreds of thousands of law-abiding expats. Mounting damage is growing on a daily basis in the form of increase numbers considering whether living in Thailand is worth the trouble.
When something makes no sense, it should be done away with. For decades the regulation wasn’t even imposed. It’s not too late to make the law defunct again before it ends up causing more problems than it solves.
TM30 is an unnecessary waste of time and resources in the name of national security. Such pedantic and restrictive rules don’t belong in a country wanting to attract more foreign expats and investments.