The British embassy in Bangkok has announced that its sole remaining provincial consulate, located in Chiang Mai, is ceasing to offer notarial and documentary services from February 1. This means that pension letters, affirmations and certificates of affirmation are now being handled only by the British embassy main site in Bangkok.
The latest restriction on consular services for Brits in Thailand are said to be part of the Foreign and Commonwealth’s 2013-16 consular strategy which claims to be committed to a more professional, modern and streamlined service for British nationals. Effectively, the latest move means that the Chiang Mai consulate will deal only with Brits in hospital or are jailed or have died. The consulate cannot assist with UK visa or passport applications.
The move has created a sensation on Facebook and Twitter where many people are suggesting that the latest restrictions on the Chiang Mai consulate are merely a prelude to total closure. This would mean that Chiang Mai would be in the same position as other resorts such as Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui. Here, some emergency help for Brits in distress is available from an honorary consul working from a home base, but on a strictly limited basis. In reality, the work in Thailand is being centralized on Bangkok while frontline and personal services are being discouraged in favor of reliance on internet information and on the telephone.
There are certain parallels with the short-lived history of the doomed British consulate in Pattaya, based near the Immigration Bureau in Jomtien, which opened in January 2009, only to be shut down altogether less than three years later after a process of slow strangulation of services. The Foreign Office at the time put forward a number of justifications for closure ranging from lack of toilet facilities and the smallness of the premises to the need to open a new trade office in Laos (which never happened). In reality, it is generally accepted that the real reasons for Pattaya’s demise were to save money and to solve recurrent staffing difficulties at the time.
The overall decline in consular services for Brits in Thailand is in contrast to the situation for other European nationals. At least seven other EU members have established permanent offices in the provinces and more are planned in the near future. There is now even a consulate general established by the Austrian embassy just for Chonburi province.
British nationals needing a consular service of any kind, including documentary ones, should consult the British embassy website which is comprehensive. Many notarial services, including pension affirmations, are available by post and there is no reason to visit the embassy in person. Passport applications are handled by a separate office in Bangkok, known as the Trendy Office, and require a visit in person or by a third party who has proof of being the authorized agent.