Weekly Local Biography

  Immigration Inspector Kanokpun (Noon) Roobkajorn

Visiting the Immigration Office to renew visas or check in every 90 days is not a task that many expats enjoy. However, there is one person in the Immigration Office who wants to change that feeling. That person is Immigration Inspector Kanokpun Roobkajorn, a petite multi-skilled Thai woman, blessed with a sense of humour and a pride in her job. She wants the Chiang Mai Immigration Office to become the top Immigration Office in the country, a position which is currently held by Nongkhai, but not for long, if this determined young woman has any say in it. She even gave as her hobby, “Working overtime!”

Inspector Kanokpun was born in Bangkok, probably known as ‘Nong Noon’ in those days, the middle child in a family of three girls. Her father and mother both worked for the Royal Thai Air Force, and her mother was a Nursing School tutor. This was to influence her choice of careers. “I wanted to become a nurse like my Mum.”

When she finished school, a position in the Air Force in nursing training was not available, but she was taken in to the Police Nursing School, passing all her entrance exams. She wanted to be a nurse, and that she did, emerging four years later with a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the Police General Hospital.

Now it was time to work, and she revelled in the exacting duties of the Emergency Room (ER), at her training hospital, for the next two years. She also got married, and revelled in the even more exacting duties of being a wife and mother as well as a nurse.

Her husband worked in the office at Thai Airways International, so they would come up to Chiang Mai for holidays and she decided that Chiang Mai was a better place to bring up her son. Only by the time she got here it was two sons! She transferred hospitals to the Police Dararusanee Hospital here, where she again worked in ER. Her husband had to stay in Bangkok, but flew up every weekend to see his wife and their two sons - which eventually became three sons!

However, after 14 years, the excitement and the stress of ER left her looking for another challenge. Being in the police had its advantages, as it was possible to transfer sideways into other departments - if you passed the entrance exams. Kanokpun studied the English language and the law and was then accepted into the Immigration Department, to work at the airport in Bangkok for 12 months.

After the year in the capital, she wanted to come back to her ‘home’ - Chiang Mai. More exams were required, with more study, and she was sent to Chiang Mai as a sub-inspector at the airport, where she stayed for three years.

Not being one to sit around waiting to be ‘kicked upstairs’, she continued with her studies and was promoted to a full inspector and transferred into the Immigration Visa section where she worked for five years, and is now in the Administration section.

I asked her if she felt it was more difficult being a woman, for her to get up the ladder of command, but did say that she did not have to answer it if she would rather not. I was given the immediate response, “I want to answer this! I think it is harder for women. Men don’t accept women as much and that’s why I have to work so hard!”

Some career police colleagues have also, at times, queried her career path to Immigration, not having come up through the usual ‘police’ ranks, but via nursing. “It was a good idea (for me) to become a nurse,” said Kanokpun, “it helps me to understand people.” It has also helped more than one road accident victim to have a nurse with many years ER experience render first aid at the roadside.

Inspector Kanokpun does believe that in her position in the Immigration department, she is also there to help people. It distresses her that some foreigners become so distraught that they will break down in tears. To be able to work with different cultures, she will spend time working with the person, in a one on one situation to try and iron out perceived difficulties.

Being Thai, and being in her own country, she does expect the foreigners who come to seek advice to show some respect when they come to her office. Dress code, or perhaps lack of it, being important in her eyes. “It is impolite to come without a shirt,” she said as an example. I have to agree with her on that point. The expats themselves would not go into an immigration office in their own countries dressed in such manner. While it is her position to ensure that the immigration laws of Thailand are upheld, there was no mistaking her wish to assist the foreigners to comply with the various regulations. Inspector Kanokpun is a genuinely caring person.

That caring nature is an extension of that which she gives to her family. “I stay in a house with all males. My husband and my three sons, plus sons of a poor friend. It is difficult for me as I was raised in a house with all girls, and it is even difficult in these days just raising children. I want to see my sons become successful in their lives. I never think about my future.”

That busy life, raising a family and holding down an important position, means that she does not have time to indulge herself in hobbies. Apart from “working overtime” she did say that she enjoys watching movies on the TV when she can. What kind of movies? English movies so that she can practice her English - so that she can communicate better with you and me.

Inspector Kanokpun is an impressive woman, and Chiang Mai expats are lucky to have such a person working here - for us.