Thailand expat crackdown gathers momentum

Published:  3 Oct at 6 PM
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Expats living in Thailand are becoming concerned about escalating attempts by the country’s authorities to garner personal information outside the existing immigration requirements.

The latest in several new requirements by Thai authorities involves yet another form giving information about expats’ private lives, this time distributed by Thai plain-clothes police in Chiang Mai. Police are visiting expat homes without notice, and handing out the forms with a 24 hour deadline for filling them in.

Requirements by Thailand’s immigration office already involve making reports to immigration offices every 90 days to confirm foreigners’ addresses and visa status, with another new form introduced earlier this year requesting details such as bank account numbers, names of parents, phone numbers, details of private transportation, regularly visited venues and details of social media accounts. However, these immigration forms do not, as yet, need to be entirely completed.

The new forms involve local police, and contain similar questions to immigration’s version, with additional details of foreigners’ appearance, including height, hair and skin colour, monthly income, and details of wives and children as well as marriage dates and the nationality of expats’ parents. The documents are being issued by the Transnational Crime Coordination Unit Region 5 and seem at present to be limited to foreigners living in Chiang Mai province in the north of the country.

When asked by local media representatives, a spokesperson for the police confirmed they were checking on all foreign residents in the area. One expat who’d received a visit from a plain-clothes policeman posted online that the name on the form was not his, and the address was different. When he refused to fill in the form and asked for more information, the local village head man told him he’d been instructed by the government to get details of all foreigners living in the district.

Foreign residents in Thailand believe the forms are intended to make the government’s ‘Good Guys in, Bad Guys out’ policy easier to implement, although the initiative was originally aimed at visa overstayers rather than those on legitimate marriage or retirement visas. Whatever the reason, it seems that many foreign residents are concerned enough about the escalation in privacy infringements to consider relocating elsewhere in Southeast Asia or even returning to their home countries.
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