Where was I? Ah, yes, Tuesday morning 29 May 2012, one day before Armageddon. On the way to the Labour Department yet again, I’m fully loaded with documents: those I carry for the work permit and two sets for Immigration, including the now miraculously completed business visa set I do not intend to use. To while away time in the taxi, I count that set: 109 A4-sized sheets! (Labour is happy with fewer than thirty pages.)
At Labour, after a short wait, I produce the three required documents. Soon, the section head herself – Khun Kanlayanee, she deserves to be named – takes over again to process my case. Eventually, my work permit book bears reference to working also for the Ministry of Culture and for that I’m charged 3 000 baht (75 euros), but, since my visa expires on 30 May, the work permit cannot be extended: ‘you must get the visa extended first and then come back here later today – we close at 4 but you should be here by 3pm – or early tomorrow; your work permit will then be extended accordingly, but of course, since you now have two employers, you’ll have to pay double fee [another 6 000 baht]. When you come back, no need to take a number to queue up: come to me directly.’
It’s 10:30am by the time I make it to the Government Complex and almost lunchtime when my number is called. I’ve had plenty of time to photocopy the work permit pages downstairs and to take smoking breaks outside. The same avuncular officer – Khun Sirimongkon, he deserves to be named – will nonetheless find that I forgot to photocopy that page, see, sure we need to know who you other employer is, come back after lunch break.
The Government Complex building we are in is a huge, seemingly round structure and the arrangement of shops and offices downstairs is both concentric and labyrinthine. There seem to be all sorts of international junk food on offer but, if there is some simple Thai fare somewhere, the canteen you find in any ministry, I miss it. I lunch on two Italian whole-wheat biscuits (Misura, I recommend them) I’ve brought and a small carton of milk I buy at the inevitable 7-Eleven there.
Past one o’clock, Khun Sirimongkon takes a few minutes to finish his part of the job and then tells me: ‘Wait outside for the return of your passport with a full one-year visa. It won’t be long.’
Oh joy! It’s finally happening.
On the spur of the moment, I pay a quick courtesy call to Khun Aphichai, who has been my ‘processing officer’ for years at the business section, to tell him goodbye, hopefully for good, since I’ll now be out of his paper-grabbing hands (nothing personal, of course, sir).
Then I go to Reception and get a queuing number ahead of time to ask for a re-entry visa for the year to come: even though I’m not planning to go abroad, I’d rather have it handy than waste at least half a day crossing town to get one. (This precaution served me well in January when I had to leave overnight to go and bury my father in France.)