Papers please

Posted: August 1, 2010 in Thailand

A lot of tourists in Thailand seem to be upset about the announcement by the Thai police that they will start enforcing an ages old law requiring hotels and guest houses to report every day they have foreign guests. It smacks of some old style totalitarian state with check points staffed by guards demanding “papers please” whenever a foreigner wants to move about.

The truth is this law has been around a long time but never enforced simply because they had no systems to enforce it. The police are getting a new computer system at their Immigration Control System Centre that makes it possible for all those hotels and guest houses to report in online everyday as required. I’m assuming most tourists never knew about the law. Or is it that they just expect this law to continue unenforced like so many others?

I’ve seen some comments on forums in which some foreigners boast that they won’t be affected since they stay with friends when they visit and not at a hotel. Not so fast. There’s a law for that, too. Equally unenforced for ages, and maybe it will continue to be, the applicable law is actually a burden upon the tourist rather than the guest house owner. It requires you to report to the nearest police station within 24 hours of arriving in an area in Thailand. It is actually more of a burden than you might imagine. I did it myself and found that the local police had no idea what I was talking about. After explaining it to them they weren’t sure how they would take the report. They finally decided to create a handwritten memo for their files that basically said some nutty farang came in to report his presence in the town.

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