HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Impressions of a smoker

Immigration visa procedures explained

Don’t get rid of songthaews

Impressions of a smoker

I was returning from Hong Kong and as I had to check out of my hotel room at noon and my flight was not till 6 p.m., I decided to spend time at the airport.

I am a passionate smoker, so after I had a delicious meal, I looked for the (smoking) room provided. In my imagination I saw comfortable sofas and chairs, newspapers and magazines on display, maybe a small bar, providing hot and cold drinks, and of course, what’s of great importance, good ventilation, keeping fresh air flowing into the room. That was my dream! The reality what I found was a tiny, little room with big full ashtrays, a few chairs, packed with people standing next to each other like sardines in a box, in a cloud of smoke and bad smell.

We all held on to our cigarettes in unity, demonstrating our freedom. Still, we can do what we want at least in a 10 square meter room. I felt the non-smokers wished to punish us, laughing about our suffering.

Sure, I love the fresh air at the airport, I really enjoy it and I have no desire to cloud it with my cigarette. Believe me, we smokers like fresh air as much as non-smokers do. We are not anti-environmentalists. Many of us fight for human, animal as well as nature’s rights. We move mountains, change priorities, we rescue, care, get involved, love (sigh) we really work hard. So why punish us?

I looked out for the smoker’s room in Bangkok airport. I found the same tiny, little room, this time with glass windows all around, giving view to all the passers by. Maybe at the new airport the management will set an example of freedom and sensitivity, providing us a nice environment, using MY imagination.

I am curious to see.
Doris Kraushaar
Chiang Mai

Immigration visa procedures explained

Dear Editor;
I was interested to read Mr Harwood’s letter of 17 July 2004 on the information (or lack of it) in regard to obtaining a visa/extension based on having a Thai wife and how many photo copies he would need.

Many foreign guests to the Kingdom of Thailand automatically assume that all information supplied should be perfectly translated into their mother tongue. However, I put myself in the situation of being a Thai looking for similar details in Thai on USA and UK government web sites - to no avail. The fact Mr Harwood found the information on the old www.imm3.police.go.th website in English is testimony to the fact that an effort to assist was and is being made.

Mr Harwood is quite correct in his understanding that ‘a’ photocopy is singular. Only one copy is required if you are in Bangkok - where no doubt the site was originally created - so it is technically correct. However, I understand that two copies are needed if the application is made elsewhere (1 set for central records in Bangkok and one set for the local office that you apply from).

He has commented that the rules appear to keep changing, but it seems from the information in the letter that his situation has changed, not Immigration rules. In his earlier applications he stated that he applied under a retirement visa; so therefore qualified for ‘one-stop service’ needing only one set of copy documents as it is dealt with locally. His latest application was based on having a Thai wife so different rules apply and involves Bangkok. The “application under consideration” is to allow officers to check that an application is bona fide, as it is not uncommon that couples no longer live together or more seriously some marriages are for convenience.

I was a little surprised that, having been here in Thailand for some time, and renewed the Visa seven times that he hadn’t taken the precaution of bringing a spare copy of all his documents anyway and the several months used to collect details could have been obtained much easier if he had visited the office.

I am glad Chiang Mai Immigration officers assisted him and were polite, and that he was able to walk the 10 meters to the photocopier and copy another set of documents without too much inconvenience.

Regarding the website, I am pleased to announce that the new national site www.imm .police.go.th (in Thai) is complete and a link to the English version, presently at www.chiangmai-im mi gra tion.com will be added shortly, and the information that Mr Harwood was looking for has been there for 6 months. The translation from Thai to English is still ongoing and any outside body who would like to assist us can contact me at connon @ kttr.org

It must also be said that if you want the latest information, visit your Immigration office.

Alastair Connon
National Federation of Police Monitors Committee

Don’t get rid of songthaews

The Editor,
I must disagree with the suggestion that getting rid of red songthaews will solve traffic congestion in Chiang Mai. Let’s do the math: a metered taxi and a songthaew are roughly the same size but the metered taxi can only move a maximum of four rich passengers at anyone time compared to a songthaew which can haul about 15 plus. Hmmm, 15 or 4, which is the bigger number? Songthaews usually carry around 50 passengers per day, so they are tremendously efficient in easing parking problems as well because they help cut down on private vehicle journeys.

This is not the first time metered taxis have been present here. The reason that they were discontinued is because they were uneconomic as people didn’t want them. They do have their place but they are not the answer to mass transportation as they are too expensive for locals to ride in. May I suggest again to this paper that a traffic congestion charge would help tremendously in this respect? (I note with interest that this is being considered in Bangkok.) The very root of the traffic congestion problem is that too many people are driving over-sized vehicles such as cars, trucks, S.U.V.s and the like. Why not ride a bicycle, which I do my self? As for the pollution problem, why not enforce the law? I can only wait with bated breath for this to happen.
Nick Hanlon
(Editorial reply- the news item comment suggested getting rid of 90 percent of red buses and using taxi motorcycles instead. The red buses may be able to hold 15,but the majority plying the streets have two or three only.)