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XII No.7 - Sunday April 7 - Saturday April 20, 2013

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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern

Immigration frustrations

Dear Editor
Got to bed early last night. Up at 6am this morning. We left the house without breakfast, to get our young daughter to her pre-school at the opening time of 7am. We drove across the city and arrived at Chiang Mai immigration at 7.30, well before the office begins daily business. As always, all 14 or so of the parking spaces offered at immigration were full, so we had to park in private grounds further up the road and walk back. There were already about 50 or so people waiting outside, despite the early hour.
The procedure at immigration is now different from that of a couple of years back. Now, upon arrival, you are required to sign a numbered list to ‘register’ your arrival. Because the rules are so unclear and badly communicated, many of the people hanging around didn’t realise that they were supposed to sign the register list, thus we were only in the low thirties on the list. I’m quite sure many didn’t sign it at all.
You might reasonably be tempted to think this registration number would denote your place in the queue. Not so... as soon as the doors are opened and people push and shove their way in, it’s ‘first come, first served’ and you are now given a ticket with a new number on it. (At this point it becomes clear that the queuing and signing outside was nothing more than some arbitrary exercise, presumably to keep you from getting too bored while you hang around waiting for opening time.)
This new ticket number you are assigned is actually a queue to get into a queue. How does that work? Well, when the ticket numbers are called forward to the desk, each ‘alien’ (for that is what they like to call us) is then given yet another new number in another new queue, depending on why they have come to immigration. Some will be for 90 days check-in, some may be for retirement visa renewal... ours was for a ‘spouse visa’ renewal. So that main queue is subdivided into smaller queues for specific requirements. Our main queue number was only 54, so we were optimistic that by the time this number was divided up into section, we might get through the system and be away quite quickly.
We were wrong. When we went to the desk to declare that we required an annual renewal of a spouse visa, we were told that that queue was already full up for the day and there were no more slots available! This was only ten minutes after the office opened. It became clear that the bulk of these slots had been filled by people who had managed the miracle of booking their appointment online.
We were told that we would have to come back again next week and start afresh. Thankfully, my (Thai) wife is quite rational and pro-active and she asked how we could be sure that the same thing wouldn’t just keep happening day after day until I would eventually run into an expiry situation. She was told that if she came back on Monday that they would “recognise her face” and she would definitely be seen on that day. Note... no receipt, ticket number, appointment or even a contact name to ask for... just “we’ll recognise your face”... not exactly professional eh?
With regard to online booking, I should point out that we had tried to book our appointment online some two months ago. In fact we did so on the very first day permissible (90 days before expiry/renewal) and discovered that, even at that early stage, all the slots had been already taken. I have to say I’m somewhat curious about that... seems there’s a higher chance of winning the lottery than getting an online appointment. (Are these being block-booked by agencies, or how is it that all slots are filled immediately on the first available day for booking?)
So, today’s efforts were a complete waste of time and effort. We will try again on Monday. I do really pity people who have travelled from far afield to come to immigration in Chiang Mai. I met a man this morning who had left home at 3am. For all I know he too might have been sent home without service.
I don’t want to whine unnecessarily but it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that this system is not working. It’s clear to see that the Chiangmai immigration operation is not big enough to cope with the numbers of ‘aliens’ that require service. There appears to be a critical shortage of human resource at the sharp end, where the processing of applications is done. Perhaps if such trivial pursuits as ’90 days reporting’ were abolished, the staff would find more time to attend to the important tasks such as visas. As it is at present, I’m sorry to say that this department is visibly shambolic, lacking in logistic structure and takes inefficiency to a new dimension.
A Frustrated User of Chiang Mai Immigration

Donations for the fire in Mae Hong Son

Dear Editor:
I live near a market here in Chiang Mai, it’s called “Thanin” Market, while shopping there the other day there was a loud announcement over the public speakers they have there. It was regarding the fire that killed fourty five people who were living in a makeshift camp in Mae Hong Song. They were mainly Karen people who had escaped some time ago from the regime in Burma.
I had to ask a friend what the announcement was about, I was told the market were asking stall holders and shoppers if they could donate items needed badly by the people at the camp. They gave a list of urgent items that were required and said they would be taken to the camp on Sunday the 31st of March. I got involved as I think everybody who heard the request did, and I thought what a nice gesture by the market it was. There was an empty shop where you could take your gifts too and it was packed with donations.
Amazing Thailand, well that’s the poorer Thais for you, as any Farang knows who has lived here any length of time they are “Simply The Best”. I would like to thank “Mam”, the young lady who translated the message for me, if not for her I would be none the wiser as they say!
Happy Songkran to you everyone involved with “The Mail”
Yours, Lung Del

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Immigration frustrations

Donations for the fire in Mae Hong Son


Note: Letters printed herein in no way reflect the opinions of the editors or writers for Chiang Mai Mail, but are unsolicited letters from our readers, expressing their own opinions. No anonymous letters or those without genuine addresses are printed, and, whilst we do not object to the use of a nom de plume, preference will be given to those signed.
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