Not long ago Thai immigration invented a new requirement – proof of address – for tourists applying for a visa extension at their local immigration bureau. We mean, not just fill “Whatever Beach Resort, Pattaya City” in the application form but provide proof an actual street address. Fair enough.
But that was then. Now that Thai immigration know where you’re hiding they’re taking it one step further.
UPDATE (May 19): We can confirm that Chonburi immigration in Pattaya/Jomtien Soi 5 does NOT yet require foreigners to reveal their bank account numbers, social media account details etc. For video interviews with “aliens” in Bangkok regarding the newly required provision of detailed personal information please scroll down to the very bottom of this post.
Granted, we must admit that our headline is slightly over the top. Thai immigration do not really want to know everything about you. They don’t care what your penis and condom size, or what your sexual orientation is. They don’t even seem to care whether or not you agree with the government’s agenda to “clean up” the country from tip to toe, including blacklisting “bad” Farangs. For years they’ve now been asking for your mobile number and email address and never sent you any spam, have they, so what’s the deal if you tell them just a bit more?
All they want to know after all is what bars and clubs you like best, what Thai friends you hang out with, what motorcycle you’re riding. And oh, they’d also like to know your bank account number (no, not your PIN code) and what social media you’re using. That’s it. Just some trivia.
But wait – bank account number, Facebook profile? Kidding? No kidding it seems.
Based on “internal documents obtained earlier this month” and a number of posts on Twitter and online forums, Khaosod English report now that immigration most recently want to know just that. Since the beginning of this month it seems, a number of foreigners reportedly had to fill an all-new form when they extended their visa or completed a 90-day report at the Immigration Division 1 office in Bangkok and the One-Stop Service Center, also in the Thai capital:
Apart from the basic information, the form requires details about what social media they use, details of vehicles they use including license plate numbers, and “places or premises visited often by the foreigner … such as club, restaurant, shop, hospital and other places.” The form also asks for their bank account numbers.
A first report regarding this new form was posted about a week ago on the Thai Visa expat forum and referred to the case of a foreigner who applied for a re-entry permit. But it were all just rumours and isolated reports. In fact, people reported the existence of the shady new forms only at the Immigration Division 1 office and the One-Stop Service Center in Bangkok. No other immigration office across the kingdom had asked foreigners to reveal their bank account number, social media accounts etc. So were these reports to be taken seriously at all?
The report by Khaosod English now sheds some light on the situation.
The new form (pictures at the bottom of this post) was reportedly penned by Chatchawan Wachirapaneekhun, deputy commissioner of the Immigration Bureau’s crime suppression unit, who “personally urged immigration offices nationwide to collect the information on March 22.” According to another report by Khaosod English, the controversial new form actually “went into effect April 4.” Yet other sources suggest however that the new form will be used by immigration offices nationwide only starting from May 1.
So while the new forms have not emerged yet anywhere outside Bangkok it’s most likely just a question of time until foreigners applying to the local immigration office will be asked to complete a similar form and reveal their bank account numbers, Facebook profile etc.
Of course, it’s all in the name of national security and in response to the “increasing terrorism problem.” In the past, Chatchawan said, “immigration lacked sufficient information about foreign nationals living in Thailand,” so the detailed new information was necessary to “help track down foreigners” in case any problems should arise with them. How considerate. And of course, filling all fields in the new form isn’t mandatory either:
We won’t force [foreigners] to fill it out [completely]. We won’t bother with their social media – if they aren’t doing anything wrong.
An immigration officer at the One-Stop Service Center seems to confirm this in an interview:
We definitely need them [foreigners] to fill in as much information as they can. But if they don’t want to fill in a space, then [they can] put a dash in the blank space.
Having said that answering every question in the form isn’t mandatory, it’s certainly just as little mandatory for immigration to extend your visa as requested or accept your 90-day report, ain’t it? Besides, what’s the definition of “wrong” anyway in the context of social media usage?
Of course, one may argue that if a foreigner has nothing to hide and is a “good guy” of the type they like, what’s wrong with revealing your bank account number and social media accounts? Nothing obviously. Rest assured that your data is safe with them (never mind this recent data leak.)
And hey, don’t they say they wouldn’t “force” you either to reveal all those personal details? No torture. It’s up to you. They’re just asking for your friendly cooperation in matters of “national security.” How thoughtful, how nice. Why would you spoil the fun? And perhaps they have a second thought anyway before any of these forms make their way out of Bangkok? After all, the inquisition may never reach Pattaya and the provinces.
Then again, isn’t the real issue with those new immigration forms perhaps that simply asking politely is already slightly going over the top? We mean, is it OK to ask your paying foreign guests for their bank account numbers and social media profiles? Is it necessary? Is it justified?
National security. Terror threat. Transnational crime. We got that. But are all foreigners living in Thailand, be it full-time or part-time, really all crime and terror suspects now? On a side note, we can’t help but wonder whether refugees in Europe have to reveal similarly personal information to German or Swedish authorities?
Here are photos of the new form handed out at the One-Stop Service Center in Bangkok and posted last week on the Thai Visa expat forum:
UPDATE (May 6) – So what do concerned foreigners think about the new requirements?