Britain’s expat community in Pattaya is loudly mourning the closure of the local consulate in Jomtien after less than four years of service. The British embassy in Bangkok earlier this month announced that the consulate would close permanently on Thursday November 22 because “we are changing the way we provide consular services for British nationals in Pattaya and the surrounding area.”
All requests for notarial and documentary services, including income letters for immigration and affirmations, must be made after that date to the consular section of the British embassy in Bangkok’s Wireless Road. Requests for consular assistance, for example, hospital and prison visiting or advice when a relative dies in the Pattaya area, will also be handled from Bangkok but with the assistance of a local honorary consul, yet to be appointed. He or she will work on instructions from the Bangkok bosses and will not have a Pattaya public base.
The doomed Pattaya consulate has had a chequered history. It was officially opened in January 2009, under then honorary consul Barry Kenyon, ostensibly because the income generated by notarial services was too large for an informal arrangement in a nearby coffee shop which he had run for years without incident. At first the venture seemed successful as the income generated rose to 350,000 baht a month and an average of 100 Brits per week visited the cramped premises in Jomtien Soi 5. However, the staffing was clearly insufficient for such a large enterprise.
Following Barry Kenyon’s retirement at the end of his contract in July 2010, following 15 years of service in various capacities, staffing problems soon set in and three staff members had resigned for various reasons within the space of 18 months. In April 2012, the hours of operation of the consulate were reduced, first to three days a week and latterly to two, and the enterprise was run by Bangkok-based staff. This reduction in the level of service anticipated the total closure which has been announced.
A former honorary consul in Pattaya, Howard Miller, who runs the Pattaya One media empire, said he was surprised by the decision to close as the Chiang Mai embassy has been left open and serves a much smaller British expat community. Many Pattaya expats have expressed their anger about the closure saying it is a betrayal of past promises and will lead to a great deal of inconvenience.
Insiders at the British embassy told Pattaya Today that the consulate had been closed for several reasons. It is deemed too small and has no running water. It has had successive staffing problems and the knock-on training costs have been prohibitive. Finally, the closure is justified by the financial cuts demanded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.
The decision to close is against the general trend for European nations to have a diplomatic presence in Pattaya. Austria, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Russia all maintain offices and staff in the Eastern Seaboard city. Barry Kenyon concluded, “My personal feeling is that the initiative was strangled by bureaucratic red-tape and a failure from day one to put in the necessary resources. If you get a thing wrong at the beginning, recovery is well-nigh impossible.”