A Young Man in Thailand

 | Fri 22 Aug 2014 15:14 ICT

CityNews – Many of us expats, I imagine, have been thinking about our future in Thailand a lot these past few months. Following recent visa crackdowns, and what can cautiously be described as a complete political reshuffle (for better or worse), the future of us aliens can appear uneasy at times. For me, a young man with no savings who left England the weekend after my last exam to begin a new life out here, I can’t deny that I am beginning to worry.

Even though I majored in Thai language for my bachelor’s degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies – a small niche college, part of the monstrous University of London – I can’t help but think that my heavy commitment to this country may serve me less well than expected. My fluency in Thai and my (self-proclaimed) ability to adjust to dramatic cultural differences has proven to be a blessing, opening doors and setting up a life that I swear is far better than what I would have ended up with back in England.

However, as a young man who left for Thailand with no more than a plane ticket and a couple of thousand baht in my pocket, the future I so dreamily desired has already turned to a much more serious and far more complicated reality.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this place. I feel more at home here than I do back in England (sorry Mum), and I have no desire to leave anytime soon. Yet something haunts me, as a man from a poor background now living day-to-day, hand-to-mouth, for what is now a reasonable salary for me is certainly not quite what the Thai government expect when it considers my visa.

I have lived here for almost four years, and studied Thai in England for another three. Now, with a girlfriend of over two years and with friends across the country, the next logical step would be to secure my residency here indefinitely. Well that’s the plan at least.

So this got me looking, and I soon realised that (as in most countries in the world) you need some hefty savings or at least need to be earning a damn lot to be able to stay here. International love only works out if you’re rich, right? 

If I was to get married, I could get an annual visa, ensuring my right to stay and also work in Thailand for as long as I am still married. Sounds cushty. Yet the current rules do state that one needs at least 400,000 baht secured in a Thai bank account (something you can’t open without a visa in the first place) for more than two months prior to application – which must be done every year – or a minimum salary of 40,000 per month, or a combination of the two totaling a full income of 400,000 baht per year.

However, I do not fit in any of these categories – so I won’t get married. And of course I wouldn’t marry just so I could get a visa. I don’t like to play that game, as it always comes to bite you in the ass. Call me old-fashioned but I believe there should be some love involved in there somewhere.

Another route is that after a full three years of consecutive work and with all the correct paperwork, one can apply for permanent residency, a visa-less entry stamp giving you rights to reside here indefinitely. Now that sounds like a plan! Oh, but did I mention that you need to earn 80,000 plus for over three years, and also the fact the government only gives one hundred of these passes out each year? It seems like a fight to the death, and a bloody expensive one at that. Regardless, I can still dream on. Perhaps I should ask my bosses at Citylife for a raise.

So for now, things remain the same. I work hard, earn my keep, and sit at immigration every 90 days with a racing heartbeat, worried that the immigration officer might be having a bad day and will force me to go home. That good friend the B-visa slowly fills my passport.

Yet a conversation with a friend drew my attention to the harder realities of living here, and to the inevitable conclusion of beginning a family. I feel like I am a family man, and a family of my own is certainly something I would like to have. But with family comes great responsibility. And with children comes education.

I am of a very strong mind when it comes to education, and I want more than anything for my future children to be well educated. I enjoy critical thinking and hard reality, and I would want a quality education … stop the presses.

“The Office of Basic Education of Thailand (OBEC) have released new orders from the Junta which now bans the dissemination of “provocative” or “false” information that could encourage schoolchildren to criticize the Junta or the Laws of Thailand.” A recent report from Citylife said.

Chords are struck, and I don’t even have children yet! Is this where I want to be? Is this where I want to attempt to give my children a well-rounded and truthful education? With a “revised approach to history” planned, perhaps not. And if I can’t even afford a visa, there’s no chance of private school either. But then again, I’m against private schools anyway – blame my liberal upbringing.

These broad terms regarding what is “false” or “provocative” haunt me. As part of a “national reconciliation” programme, one could hope that these measures are only temporary, but as with every good propaganda machine the story will soon disappear and simply be forgotten. Such is what happens when history books get re-written.

So where to go, as a young man who has his heart set on Thailand? It must clearly be a game of give and take. I’ve already given up my right to vote or to protest, so what if things get worse? I’d rather stay here and fight it out, I know that much. How could I ever go back? If I had to, if I was forced to, how could I begin again in a country that I feel more alien in than I do in my new home?