Arrivals at the airport are split – Thai passports to the right and foreign passports to the left. Foreign passport holders face longer queues and slower processing times. Thai passport holders face shorter queues and fly through. Funnily enough, that’s exactly how it is when I fly into Auckland. Kiwis and Aussies turn right and fly through while everyone else queues, and may even be asked a question or two before they can proceed. It’s little different in much of the world. Just because the Thais make you queue with other foreigners at Immigration doesn’t mean they hate you!
When you do reach the front of the queue at Immigration control, you may be met by an unsmiling officer who peers at you with suspicion. It makes a mockery of the Land of Smiles moniker. It’s not only you who they glare at. Just as the officer who processes you may not smile, neither do the officers processing Thais. That’s just the way it is with Thais in authority and it has nothing to do with anti-foreigner sentiment.
Outside the terminal, you get in to a cab and the even though you queued at the machine, took an automated ticket and did everything right, the driver doesn’t want to turn on the meter. When he does turn on the meter, it seems to be rising much faster than it should. He’s pulling a fast one on you because you’re a foreigner, right?! In much of the world taxi drivers have a reputation for taking advantage of visitors. Bangkok drivers pull this crap with Thais too and this week a video circulated of a Bangkok taxi driver ripping off a Thai he had collected at the airport. This happens whether you’re Thai or foreigner and has nothing to do with any hatred of foreigners!
Reports of police harassing foreigners in downtown Bangkok, frisking them, going though their wallet and even examining the call / message history in their mobile phone was a great concern to many foreigners in Bangkok. Most foreigners in Thailand – visitors and expats alike – don’t know their rights, and even those who do may be too timid or don’t have command of the local language to exercise them and thus refuse to let the cops search them. Did the police do this because they hate foreigners? I don’t believe that’s the reason at all. I have long maintained these checks were carried out in the hope that they would find drugs on them. If someone was found to be carrying anything they shouldn’t like illegal drugs, or prescription drugs without a prescription, the cops could either arrest them (and gain much kudos at the station for catching a criminal) or shake them down for cash. This was not about hatred of foreigners, but is rather symptomatic of greed and corruption.
Bar closing time is officially midnight or 1 AM depending on the type of bar, but many venues have long been given an hour’s grace and allowed to open until 1 AM or 2 AM. In some parts of the country, the law is being followed to the letter and bars closed at midnight. Some foreigners claim they are being persecuted by early closing. Such comments are nonsense and say more about foreigners in Thailand than anything else. The truth is that bars you most often associate with foreigners in Thailand – the red-light bars on Sukhumvit and Silom – have received latitude and been allowed to open later than the law allows. Yes, foreigners have actually received special treatment! The vast majority of Thai venues are in darkness at 1 AM. Would they allow bars for foreigners to open later than what is legally allowed if they hated foreigners?
Foreigners cannot own land in their own name in Thailand and there are limits to the number of apartments in a building which can be foreign-owned. I imagine these laws were brought in to ensure that wealthy foreigners don’t buy up chunks of property and push prices beyond a level locals can afford. While I am all in favour of an open market, I am also in favour of countries acting in the best interests of their citizens, something many Western nations seem to have forgotten. Not allowing foreigners to purchase property in Thailand has nothing to do with Thais hating foreigners, but simply putting the country’s citizens first.