Why the visa process or the passport stamp seems corrupt in Thailand.
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Written by Andy for the Hobo Travel Tips Newsletters.
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I have been entering and leaving countries for the last 5 years. Not the same as a Journalist or a business person that enter and leaves a lot of countries. I have been living in these countries for extended times. Each country I enter I stay about the legal permitted time in that country. I try to stay about 2 months so I have a small understanding of the country, and probably a better understanding than a business person.
They have lots of names for the required stamp on your passport. A visa, a tourist card, or a stamp. One way or another you need to get permission to enter and leave a country. You get one to enter, and one to leave.
Thailand's is unique. They only give you 30 days. The normal period is about 90 days. This is enough to travel by bus or car across a country, and visit lots of places. If you wish to study the language. It is sufficient to get started. To extend or stay longer is easy. You either leave and return or go to the immigration and pay some money.
THAILAND HAS AN ILLEGAL SYSTEM OPERATING
As of August 17, 2002 when I wrote this page. You could buy an extension for 15 or 30 days on your visa at tour companies. This was not offered in all locations. But in places like Koh Pha Ngan where they have the full moon party there were signs in every window advertising this extension.
When I saw these signs. I thought bullshit. I have never seen a tour agency advertise a visa extension. This is the operation and job of immigration, and immigration offices do not just give that job to idiot tour operators or travel agents. So I started to look around, and talk with people.
I found that in Phuket that some 20 plus tourist according to gossip had been taken down and questioned at the police station, or maybe even charged with criminal behavior for doing this, or buying a visa extension from these tour companies. I heard lots of stories.
I NEED VISA EXTENSIONS
I need this extension, or more time. So I pay attention. I left through the border of Mayanmar once, and the border of Malaysia once so far. I will cross into Myanmar or Burma again in the next few days for another 30 days. The rumor and probably fact is I can do this as often as I like, with no problem. And people have been doing this for years at a time. I know of a couple of people that have done it for at least 6 times, and one person for years.
Governments close holes in their system when it is obvious there is corruption. That is unless someone is on the take, or receiving money. I have been offered, or told how to pay, and buy this extension at least 10 times. I have seen numerous advertisements in Koh Pha Ngan for extensions in windows. This to me is obvious corruption. someone at the top is making lots of money, and the whole country is on the scam.
It is not only Koh Pha Ngan. This illegal extension is available anywhere. The difference is they openly advertise there.
This seems petty to most travelers, UNTIL you get caught. The person that will pay for this is the unwitting tourist that thinks it is legal, and does it. They may find they have now lost their passport. Or they may end up in jail. Or they will have to pay a bribe to get off the hook, or to get their passport back.
I was just last week talking with a German girl that came from Koh Samui or Koh Pha Ngan to the island of Koh Phi Phi where I was located. She had 2 days left on her allotted 30 days. She was planning to pay the 1000 or 2000 Baht and get and extension in Koh Phi Phi. So she had just arrived by a 2 hour boat ride from the mainland or the city of Krabi. She discovers that Koh Phi Phi does not participate in the corruption or more correctly, it is not as organized on Koh Phi Phi. She had to, and did return to the mainland or the city of Krabi. Anja was not happy. She had to pay 200 Baht to go, and 200 Baht to return and then pay the normal immigration office money also. Plus it was going to take about 6 hours to make the trip.
She made the trip. Got about 10 days more or something. Because she had to, or start paying fines for being in the country too long. These fines add up extremely fast, and you have no choice. You must have an exit stamp to enter the next country.
THE NATURE OF CORRUPTION
In the USA we call this "Between a rock and a hard spot."
Either way you are in trouble. This is the nature of corruption. They get you in a place where you have no choice. Pay or you are screwed.
SIMPLEST AND STRAIGHT FORWARD CORRUPTION
In Mexico this happened all the time. It happens in lots or most countries. Or at least the underdeveloped.
A policeman comes up and ask you for your passport. You hand the passport to the person you think you should trust, and is official of the government. He or she than stands around and will not give you back your passport until you offer some money,or sometime they just get to the point and ask. Very common. I think it is better to just not carry your passport. The penalty is less. They do not want to kill you for a passport infringement. They will make you go to your hotel, and to prove you are legal. But the last thing they are going to do is cause an international incidence for a passport. They never know who your are, you could be the daughter of a senator.
Lots of times. All the policeman want is sex, and the woman gives it up.
Thailand is obvious permeated with this process. It is obvious and easy to see. Corruption that is obvious is the worst type of corruption. That means that everyone is in on the take, and all the PEOPLE believe this OK.
Corruption is not just about government officials. It is about all the people in a country agreeing to be corrupt. It is about the morals of a country. Corruption exist in countries because the whole country agrees to participate. In the worst cases, it becomes dangerous to not participate. This however is just the tip of the iceberg for Thailand. They also have something called the WHITE ENVELOPE. This is the graft a person pays as a business owner. It is customary to give it in a white envelope. Ergo White Envelope.
All countries have corruption. So the comment that says,
"Yea, but the USA has corruption also."
This comment is bullshit, said by idiots.
Yes the USA does have corruption. And corruption is on a continuum. From very bad like Mexico or Africa to very little like the USA and most of Europe.
To say that because some corruption exist, it is OK for another country to have corruption, is to justify corruption. An idiot looks at things of this nature in black and white terms. It is process from very bad to in the end very good. Most countries are trying eradicate corruption. I believe the freedom of the press, and the camera is the solution. Take Photos and send to CNN or BBC.
This will not happen much, because normally all the people want the corruption. It benefits them in the short run, and they cannot see that it keeps them in the long run. An underdeveloped nation.
Just some thoughts, and opinions. Beware, and be careful.Do things the correct way and not the easy way.
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