THAILAND’S Immigration Bureau is formally asking foreigners who live in the country to provide their bank account numbers as well as information about their social media use and places they often visit.
The government justified the controversial move on grounds of national security, citing concerns about terrorism. The new, seemingly intrusive request is likely to face stiff resistance from Thailand’s large expatriate community, which had previously faced leaks of their personal information.
Reporting on internal immigration documents that it acquired, Khaosod English said that forms with the aforementioned fields would apply to visa extensions and the routine 90-day reports needed for legal stay in Thailand.
Here’s a look at part of the form:
— Zashnain Zainal (@bedlamfury) April 18, 2016
In addition to bank account numbers, the form asks foreigners about the social media they use and the vehicles they drive as well as places they frequent – “such as club, restaurant, shop, hospital and other places.”
While the form seems to imply that the information is mandatory, the government said otherwise.
“We won’t force them to fill it out,” said Chatchawan Wachirapaneekhun, deputy commissioner of the Immigration Bureau’s crime suppression unit, according to Khaosod English.
“We won’t bother with their social media – if they aren’t doing anything wrong.”
His comments are likely to add to a confusing situation. Thailand’s expats might wonder why the new fields were included in the first place.
Chatchawan attributed the new information request to “national security.”
“Considering entering the ASEAN community and the increasing terrorism problem, some people escape after committing a crime, and we cannot track them down,” he said.
In any case, the new move is bound to be viewed skeptically by Thailand’s expat community, which is still reeling from two data leaks of their personal information in late March.
The first leak exposed names and addresses of foreigners living in the southern Thailand. The second leak, which happened shortly after, revealed – among other things – names, addressed, passport and flight numbers, and most recent vaccine shots. That leak mostly affected persons originating from South American countries.
Both incidents raised sharp questions about the Thai government’s ability to protect the personal data and privacy of foreigners in the country. Thailand has come to acquire a reputation for lackluster cybersecurity, with government websites repeatedly hacked and information stolen from them.
Security software company BitDefender previously ranked Thailand as having the 5th highest risk in Asia for cybersecurity threats.
Given the government’s poor record in defending against hacks and leaks, Thailand’s expats may wonder why they should provide any additional information at all.