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Calling all Brits

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From Pattaya Mail

Pattaya City Expat Club (PCEC) is hosting a visit by British embassy Bangkok consul Joanne Finnamore-Crorkin on Wednesday morning August 30. She is responsible for the embassy’s consular, welfare work with British nationals throughout Thailand and will speak generally about the services available as well as those unavailable. One particular concern to the embassy at present concerns uninsured British nationals having accidents requiring hospitalization.

PCEC invites all Brits – and anyone else interested – to attend the meeting which will be held in the 4th floor meeting room of the Executive Tower of the Holiday Inn, Pattaya Beach Road, next Wednesday starting promptly at 10.30 a.m.. There is no requirement to be a PCEC member on this occasion and admission is free. Please arrive no later than 10.15 a.m.. A discounted breakfast is available from 9 a.m. in the sixth floor restaurant for those interested: just say to restaurant reception staff you are attending the PCEC meeting.

The Executive Tower is the second Tower on your right if you enter via the Beach Road route (after the Beach Tower). Parking available on the premises or on Second Road which offers an alternative access route. PCEC believes this is an important meeting as the role of the embassy’s consular work in Thailand has evolved over time and continues to do so. For example, there is now a partnership for issuing British visas and British passports with VFS Global. The consul will answer questions about embassy services from attenders at the meeting. If any non-members get lost in the Holiday Inn complex on the morning of Wednesday August 30, they can phone 0817827363 for direction assistance.

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From Pattaya Mail

British consul reassures Pattaya expats

His Majesty’s British embassy consul, Joanne Finnamore-Crorkin who is in charge of welfare work with Brits across Thailand, gave a well-received talk about her work to over 100 members and guests of the Pattaya City Expats Club. She pulled no punches and said she would not offer dishonestly to look into matters that were not the embassy’s concern. For example, the hot topic of British state pensions being frozen in many countries, including Thailand, was a political issue that could be settled only in the British parliament.

The consul explained that all initial enquiries to the embassy are now transferred automatically – at local rates – to the London call center whose staff decide which to refer to consular staff in Bangkok. This is a worldwide system and is meant to ensure that all callers, no matter which country they are in, receive the same advice. She gave last June as a typical month: the London center received 823 calls about Thailand and referred many of them to the Bangkok British embassy’s consular section.

Joanne emphasized that consular responsibilities have evolved over the last 15 years or so. For example, there are now many more British deaths here as the expat community ages and more cases concerning child welfare than in the past. The other main areas of welfare are hospitalizations, victims of crime including rape, missing and trafficked persons, sentenced prisoners and those awaiting deportation. She said that dealing with these cases was now the priority in consular work. Conversely, there was now less emphasis on notarial and documentary services, although the embassy did issue emergency passports, certification of passports for visa or other purposes and counter-signed affidavits for Brits wishing to marry in Thailand.

She noted that applications for British passports and visas are no longer the responsibility of the embassy but are handled by VFS Global. In a busy question and answer session, Joanne confirmed that the embassy was very concerned about Brits with unpaid medical bills and there was a general discussion about the pros and cons of compulsory medical insurance. She also confirmed that consular staff were now in regular contact with city, tourist and immigration police as well as hospitals. A visit to a mortuary was now part of the training.

In the afternoon, the consul visited the international law offices adjoining the Jomtien headquarters of Chonburi immigration bureau, led by Dr Jessataporn Bunnag. She met staff responsible for visa advice, training for driving licences and heard about the wide variety of civil and criminal cases being handled by attorneys. She was also introduced to the Foreign Workers Registration Center, housed in the law offices, which is responsible for the paperwork of thousands of guest workers from neighboring countries in Chonburi province. Appointed to her current post almost a year ago, Joanne expects to be Bangkok consul for the next few years. The appointment of a new honorary consul in Pattaya, to replace Bert Elson who has retired, is currently awaiting confirmation from London.

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