Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chiang Mai Thailand - foreign residents summoned to police station

A sudden crackdown on farang residents has seen unannounced police visits to addresses previously provided by foreign residents to Thai immigration. The officers handed over forms for completion, with a list of questions asking for detailed personal information to be provided.

The forms, in Thai only, require that the farang give a full physical description, including:

Skin colour, width of forehead, nose size, body shape/size, voice pitch, height, as well as any distinguishing marks...

I know we farangs all look alike, but even so!...

Should that not be sufficient to identify the Thailand-resident farang, were he to suffer sudden memory loss, death, or some other quite serious condition, the police also require full details of your occupation, hobbies(hobbies?!!...), a copy of your passport, photos, and your telephone number. In some areas of Thailand, foreigners are being fingerprinted.

The police are also asking local Thai residents if they know of any other farangs living in the area, who may not be registered with immigration, or who have since moved and not provided their new address to the authorities.

So... why the sudden crackdown? The main reason allegedly is an increase of illegal Burmese workers into the area, combined with potential problems linked to the economic downturn, and which the police suggest may force poorer Thais into crime as well. The figures seem to reflect an increase across a whole range of criminal activities in recent months in the Chiang Mai area; muggings, house and car theft, bag snatching, even murder.

Obviously farangs are considered prime targets for this crime surge, and with the tourist industry having suffered enough from the political upheavals of the past, the police are hoping that these measures will help to offset any further damage to Thailand's reputation.

Somehow I don't feel reassured. Being asked for the detailed physical description above, in the light of the worrying crime trends, feels a bit like being measured for your own coffin...

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