This is Thailand
1) Which Thai consulates have been known to accommodate the ‘visa on a separate sheet’ request?
Hugh: Specific questions like this one are hard to answer unless we have had the same problem. I have never needed a ‘visa on a separate sheet’ – where a visa is issued on a sheet of paper and stapled into the passport instead of stamped in the passport itself. It is often used when you don’t want anyone to know if you have travelled to a certain country. But I would bet that someone on the forums at www.thaivisa.com/forum would have run into this. ThaiVisa.com has a number of forums where you can submit a question and someone out in Internet Land will come back with an answer. I don’t recommend ThaiVisa.com for all your questions about Thailand. Many of the forums are filled with people new to Thailand and there are many complainers and people who know only a surface level about the culture here. But the people on the ThaiVisa Forum are usually very knowledgeable. Typical questions go something like: “Where is the best place to do a border run?”, and “How can I get my girlfriend a tourist visa to the U.K?” I would submit my question to them and see what they come up with. By the way, ThaiVisa’s Thai Language Forum is my favourite as it has some really well-informed linguists and they are always fun reading.
2. I heard that suicide rates in parts of Asia were skyrocketing as a result of the bad economy and loss of jobs has this affected Chiang Mai?
James: Dr. Paritat, director of Suan Prung Psychiatric Hospital told me that the Department of Mental Health-DMH is aware of the impact of the global economic crisis on mental health, especially the suicide problem. But so far there is no significant change in the number of the patients coming to the hospital.
3. Do you think we are in any danger with these protests going on?
James: This is from the US Department of State: “The Department of State advises all American citizens residing in or travelling to Bangkok to monitor events closely, to avoid any large public gatherings, and to exercise discretion when moving about Bangkok. All demonstrations are unpredictable, and any demonstration can turn violent without warning.” You may also consider how many people died over the Songkran festival period, I think the death toll was around 350 in mostly road accidents, with plenty more injuries. Having fun in the sun is a lot more life threatening than walking the streets while people are protesting. The Songkran death toll in fact is incredibly high, many more people died during the five day festival than American soldiers all over the world in the same five days. A death toll like this for the US army would be absolutely devastating as the yearly average since the War on Terror has been about 500. So to answer your question, unless you get directly involved, it is very unlikely any harm will come to you.
4. Can I export images of the Buddha?
James: You should first ask whoever sold you the item if you will need permission, they may know. You can go to the Faculty of Fine Arts at Chiang Mai University and get signed permission for the export of replica images or newly cast complete images. For antiques you’ll have to go to the Chiang Mai National Museum (053 221308), or any other national museum. You’ll need a copy of your passport with certification from your embassy or consulate, two 3x5ins photos of the object and a receipt or trade certificate. If you decide to take your image to the university, give them at least a day to make a decision. By law you can’t take even a fake image of the Buddha out of the country, but tourists do it daily and we have never heard of problems.
Hugh: It has come to my attention that when I said that U.S. Social Security would not do direct deposits here in Thailand that I was working with some out of date information (from the Social Security Administration’s own website). A few good readers have let me know that your benefits can now be direct deposited here. Bangkok Bank (the only one I have found so far) will allow direct deposits. It seems like in Chiang Mai only the Kad Suan Kaew branch knows about this though. Check with them before you do anything. You must open a separate special account; one with no ATM card option. The money is usually deposited promptly but to withdraw your money you may have to transfer the cash to another account first. These restrictions are probably to protect you and your money from other people accessing your direct deposit account. I wish I knew about this when I set up my own direct deposits. So much for relying on the Social Security website. But if you want to check with them they are at ssa.gov. My website, retire2thailand.com, has an updated section on all the things you will need to do to apply for Social Security while you are abroad.