Immigration Authorities Tighten Grip

 | Wed 30 Jul 2014 18:39 ICT

CityNews – The Immigration Bureau in Hua Hin has announced that it will enforce rules requiring foreigners to carry a valid photo ID at all times and report within 24 hours of moving to a new address, sparking fears that these will soon be enforced nationwide.

The rules apply to both tourists and expats, Thaivisa reported, adding that they are likely to be enforced across the country.

The ID documents deemed valid are a Thai driving licence, an original passport, or a copy of the passport verified and stamped by local immigration authorities. Failure to carry one of the above may lead to a fine of 2,000 baht.

Another rule on the books states that foreigners must report to police or immigration when they visit another province and stay for more than 48 hours. However, these rules are rarely enforced.

Many expats voiced concern about the move on the Thaivisa website, pointing out that the rules were open to abuse by corrupt police officers and would discourage foreign tourists.

Visitors who want to travel extensively “will just not want to come to Thailand for fear of being fined when they don’t report their whereabouts,” one wrote.

The latest move follows a crackdown on those who overstay their visas or make regular ‘visa runs’, which is expected to affect thousands of foreigners living in northern Thailand.

“These regulations are not new, they have been on the books for quite some time – but importantly they reveal the authoritarian backbone of existing Thai immigration laws that assumes foreigners of any sort are persons to be strictly controlled,” Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch told CityNews. “Immigration should explain clearly why and for what reason they are implementing these policies now, especially when they appear to only create bureaucratic requirements and opportunities for abuse.”

He added: “No one disputes that Immigration has the legal right to enforce these restrictions – but if they start doing so in Hua Hin or elsewhere, and detaining and fining foreigners who are out and about without their original passports, this will only serve to give a further kick in the teeth to the already flailing tourism industry. One wonders when workers and owners in the hotel and tourism related industries will start to insist on government policies that contribute to their happiness by attracting tourists rather than driving them away.”