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Thai Immigration Now Wants to Know What You're Posting on Facebook


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According to a story on Khaosod English, Thai immigration has begun asking foreigners doing 90 day reporting about their bank accounts, what places they frequent (restaurants, bars, etc), and their online social media identities.  

The most comical quote from the article is:


“We won’t force them to fill it out,” he said. “We won’t bother with their social media – if they aren't doing anything wrong.”

Uhm, but who is the judge of that?  And one has to wonder if refusing to fill out these forms in itself doesn't become the basis for suspicion.  I mean, it's right there in the quote, "...if they aren't doing anything wrong."  That sounds eerily like "you shouldn't have a problem giving us this information unless you have something to hide."  

There are two ways one can read all of this.  The first is that this is just a poorly executed attempt to get a better handle on the foreigners residing in Thailand.  Obviously, with recent incidents, the Thai immigration is under pressure to know who is in the country and where they are.  This would not be the first, nor would I expect it to be the last, scheme that wasn't thought all the way through or took into consideration, in any way, public reaction.  

The second way to read this is in the light of other recent developments such as the proposed Great Firewall of Thailand as well as the government's attempts to crack down on dissent via social media.  Obviously having a database of all foreigners and their social media accounts would be an amazing tool for those who wanted to monitor foreigners residing in Thailand should the government wish to suppress or intimidate.  The potential misuse of such information is enormous.    

While it's easy to lash out at rules like this, one also should keep in mind that their home countries likely engage in the same behavior against their own citizens except those governments don't ask for people to supply the information.  With the Snowden revelations about NSA spying on US citizens and other leaks which show governments are collecting data using social media, it's difficult for any foreigners to take a moral high ground pointing to freedoms they don't actually enjoy back home.  

Ultimately, foreigners living in Thailand will have to decide for themselves how much is too much in terms of intrusion.  Will refusing to provide your Facebook details or your Twitter username cause you to become suspect?  Will some foreigner be arrested or detained for comments they made on social media?  

Only time will tell.

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