PHUKET: Anchalee Vanich-Thepabutr, Phuket’s Member of Parliament, has agreed to help foreigners living in Thailand by pushing for a top-level inquiry into the way the country’s immigration laws are applied. Khun Anchalee was shown Section 5 of the Alien Registration Act which – as reported in the Gazette on October 15 – requires all foreigners to register with police and get what is, in effect, an internal passport. This allows them to live in the country without having to do ‘visa runs’ every three months, and to get a phone line, credit at the bank, a driver’s license and many other normal, everyday amenities without difficulty. After hearing of the problems foreign residents face because the Act is not implemented, Khun Anchalee told the Gazette in an interview here yesterday that she would place the issue before the Thai Parliament’s Foreign Relations Commission. “Then,” she explained, “we can call the principals – from Interior, Immigration, and Labor – before the commission for an inquiry.” She said she was sympathetic to foreigners’ plight: “I remember when I studied in the US, I had a telephone, a [driving] license – everything in my name. I can understand.” The Gazette’s mid-October lead story focused on the cumbersome nature of Thailand’s visa laws, specifically how the system laid out in the Alien Registration Act is circumvented by handing out “temporary visas” to all foreign nationals, irrespective of their true status. While such temporary visas are useful for visitors, they curtail access to normal civic amenities for those living, investing and doing business here. Most foreigners maintaining homes, businesses and families in the country – some for 30 years or more – are, officially, only ‘temporarily’ in Thailand.
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