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Letter to the editor – Inappropriate data and other requests @ Immigration offices throughout the Kingdom since Easter/Songkran 2016

Earlier this year a catastrophic failure within the Thai Government lead to the addresses etc of a thousand or more foreigners living in Southern Thailand being compromised. At around the same time reports started to surface from people living within the catchment areas of immigration offices throughout the Kingdom that ad-hoc requests were being made for just about everything, save perhaps for a DNA sample before their annual extensions of stay can be renewed; examples of which include:

–          Disclosure of full bank account details including account numbers: Any attempt to redact has resulted in what can best be described as ‘veiled threats’ which, with no appeals process or data protection legislation leaves applicants with little choice but to comply.

–          Being sent for obtrusive and unnecessary medical examinations regardless of age or time already spent in the Kingdom: The reason behind this isn’t entirely clear. Retirees are unlikely to have taken up drug taking and are no more susceptible to communicable diseases than the indigenous population therefore this appears somewhat Xenophobic, particularly when asked of those that have resided in the Kingdom and contributed to the economy lawfully/peacefully/healthily for more than a decade.

–          Repetition of info already on file or held by other Govt Depts: Having submitted TM7 as part of the renewal process why must applicants painstakingly re-enter the data on what appears to be an unofficial form with no official number and isn’t standardized nationwide? Re Cars/ Licences; Why are Immigration not in direct contact with the appropriate agency?  Accurate/up to date details of vehicles found to have been used for illicit purposes are far more likely to be found there.

–          Social Media & names etc of contacts outside the Kingdom: This (Privacy) can be added to the lack of appeal or data protection legislation mentioned earlier.

–          Other peoples sensitive data routinely appearing on the back of these new forms in what appears to be an acceptable means of ‘recycling’ in many of the offices: This is particularly prevalent @ Samui, leading many to wonder where their own data will end up & how long it will be before their finances are plundered or identities cloned.

–          These changes came with no prior warning: A fair number of long term residents make life easier all round by preparing everything for their annual extension via computer beforehand. The first they hear of any change in procedure is when forms are thrust in their direction to be completed on the spot and by hand. In heat, with no space & with failing eyesight and/or bad handwriting this is far from ideal. A standing joke among many being “The only consistency in that office is the Inconsistency!

The above has caused a great deal of anxiety among the people it affects, many of whom are elderly and/or have health problems. With no noticeable means of redress people on the receiving end are feeling particularly vulnerable. Complaining in 1’s or 2’s is unlikely to get anywhere but if enough people (a tsunami of complaints from all major tourist/retiree-sending countries!) voice their concerns their voices will surely be heard. One way to ensure this happens would be to:

–          Contact your Embassy to highlight your concerns and copy your letter to the Embassy of whoever is currently chairing any collective group they may also be members of. EU passport holders should note Slovakia assumes the role of Presidency of the EU from 01 July. Be sure to include both sides of the form given to you, especially if someone else’s data is on the back.  The three page example seen a few days ago contained copies of 2x passport pages  belonging to separate 3rd parties & clearly showing their embedded passport no,  while the 3rd page appeared to be tax-related & contained a list of 32 names and columns showing financial details. A further example seen today shows the full Bio page of a British woman born on 23 Dec 1987 with several photos of her and her husband and child. For obvious reasons I have refrained from identifying her further.

–          To increase your chances of being heard you should keep communications short, factual and to the point. Rants go straight in the bin.

–          Family and friends can assist in a number of ways too, including contacting the Thai Embassy, TAT offices, TAT events and related forums at home. The behavior highlighted above would be deemed harassment or racial profiling if conducted in the west and that is how it should be presented in order to ensure something is done about it.

–          Having read this far I hope you will be equally concerned & will have the strength of character to do something about it.

 

James Wormold

22 June 2016

 

 

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