On Tuesday, I went yet again to the sprawling Government Centre on the other side of the Moon (total taxi fare: 535 baht) to get yet another, this time eleven-month extension of my ‘non-immigrant’ visa and a new reentry visa.
In over thirty years, this was the first time I made the sweaty March pilgrimage wearing a jumper under thoroughly Belgian skies. No real seasons any more – isn’t that fine?
To beat the traffic, I arrived too early: offices don’t open before 8:30. But processing is rational, swift and smooth. Officials even smile! Within one hour I was through, and had had time into the bargain to read the title short story in Rewat Panpipat’s Kradook Khong Khwamluang (Bones of deception): the tribulations of a child born with monkey features. As usual with poet Rewat, the story is well written, but I failed to see the point of it beyond banalities about superstitions, the plight of the poor and Buddhist forgiveness. And the title still puzzles me.
The vexing question of reporting every three months to Immigration didn’t arise. Casual conversation with sundry visa revelers that morning makes me think that the Law will catch up with me at the airport, whenever I leave the country, which I won’t anyway unless I really have to, say, attend a family burial or some such emergency.
Actually, this is no law but a mere regulation which has been on the books for over twenty years and which Immigration has bothered to enforce only months after they moved to new premises on October 1st, 2009. My latest reentry was on October 21st, 2009 and no mention of it was stamped in my passport then. So why should I be penalised for their initial lack of action, especially since, when faced last year with the Catch-22 of when to start the three-month countdown, no fewer than two Immigration officers advised me to ทำเป็นไม่รู้ไม่ชี้ (pretend it doesn’t exist)?
What kind of fine are we talking about? At reportedly 500 baht a day, since October 2009 that’d be a quarter million baht so far…
In a case like this, the rational solution would be to let me leave without being fined and then start counting as of my next reentry into the Kingdom: then I would abide by this irrational and demeaning regulation that treats ‘non-immigrant’ foreigners as potential criminals or compulsive home-hoppers.
By the way, I noticed as I sat waiting for the reentry visa (single: 1 000 baht; multiple: 3 800 baht) that by the end of the first hour 25 requests had been processed. Even if only singles were requested, that’s 25 000 baht per hour. How much in a day’s work?
On the other hand, the taxi driver who took me there told me that, not far from the Centre, there was a shop famous for still selling food (curries) for just 10 baht a plate – ‘copious enough: if you order a second dish, you probably won’t finish it,’ he said. ‘I’ll be going there as soon as I drop you.’