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So, as you all probably know, since Jan 15th, the old ATM cards (with no chip) no longer work, so I prepared to go to my local K bank branch to procure a new one. Being a very old hand here, I know that doing anything even remotely official requires that you have absolutely every piece of paper imaginable, each with 5 copies, all signed by every living relative you have! So, this guy was prepared, I had:
- My passport (photocopied the main and visa pages)
- My Bankbook
- My ATM card
So, the wife and I drive to the bank and get a ticket and within a few minutes, our number comes up and we are escorted to a desk.
Being fluent in Thai, I don’t need wifey for translation, but she just happened to be with me as we had another appointment after doing this, so I sit there while she types away on her keyboard, occasionally looking at the screen. I am then handed a bundle of papers, all with crosses where I have to sign.
I politely mention that I’m only here to get a new ATM card, not to apply for a mortgage, she smiles and gestures for me to sign. I sign all of them.
Then she looks at my passport, then the screen, then my passport, then the screen, then she tells me that the passport number on her screen doesn’t match the one I have here.
I told her that was because I opened the account 22 years ago and naturally, I have a different passport now. She then disappeared (not literally, although I wish she had vanished in a puff of smoke) only to return and tell me she has to see the old passport before she can continue.
I proceeded to show her my Thai driving licence, telling her that I also have the bankbook, which, along with my passport, is surely sufficient evidence to prove that I am, in fact, the person I say I am.
She shakes her head and tells me I have to go home and bring the 22-year old passport to her.
Realising it is pointless getting upset, I smile and tell her that’s exactly what I will do then, and I drive all the way home, find the said passport and duly return, leaving wifey in the bank, as surety.
I have now sat in front of her yet again, and the new ATM card process continues …….
More paperwork to fill in …..
At this point, I decide it is time to get a little vocal,
“Excuse me, did you know about Thailand and 4.0?”
“Yes,” She replied.
“So, what’s with all this paperwork then? I don’t want to borrow any money or open a new account, I only wish for you to replace my ATM card with one that has a chip in it because this one (I waved it around) no longer works.”
By now I have the attention of everyone in the bank.
“Do you realise how many trees have been destroyed in order for you to give me a new ATM card?” I enquired.
She squirmed in her seat slightly, feeling a little uncomfortable.
I was warming up now ……
I then decided to ask the for the manager …..
She duly arrived,
“Yes Sir, what can I do for you?”
I asked her if I was a Thai person and wanted to get a new ATM card, would I have to go through all this, which included having to go home and dig up a 22-year-old passport”
“Yes’ She replied.
I then asked the clerk if I could have all the papers I had recently signed, which she duly gave me. I counted them out loud
“…. 11. 12 13. Thirteen sheets of paper I have just had to sign in order to get the new ATM card, which I still haven’t got, how can this be?”
“Well, it is for our records” She replied.
“Well then, you must have a huge warehouse full of paper then,” I concluded.
“Yes, we have 3 rooms upstairs that we keep our paperwork in.” She answered.
I then pointed to all the computer screens,
“What do you use all these for, Facebook?”
“I was under the impression that Thailand was aiming to be a 4.0 nation, one that is fully digitalized, yet from what I’ve seen here, Thailand is around 0.4”
Chuckles of laughter from the audience ….
At this point, the good wife stood up and walked out of the bank (she doesn’t like to make a fuss)
I then decided to go the whole nine yards ….
“I have had a bank account here for over 20 years, and the last time I was here, I wanted to open another account, but was told I must have a work permit to that, is that correct?”
“Yes Sir, it is” came the confident reply.
“But I am retired and therefore not working”
“Aaah, then you can’t open a bank account”
“So, when I apply for a long-term visa, why do Immigration tell me I must deposit 800,000 baht in Thai bank account if I am not allowed to open a bank account without a work permit?”
She then excuses herself and rushes into a corner and gets her phone out and starts talking to someone.
She then returns, informing me that she has asked her boss about this.
I look round at the waiting people and they are glued to the proceedings, almost all have missed their numbers to do their banking business, preferring instead to watch this!
Her phone rings, she answers ……
“Actually Sir, you can open another bank account” She exclaimed.
“Good Lord! How wonderful!! If getting a new ATM card is anything to go by, I shall have to sign hundreds of documents then.”
“All we need from you is your passport and proof that you are retired” she replies.
“Proof that I am retired? How do I do that?” I enquire.
“I don’t know Sir”, came the reply.
“If I don’t have proof that I am retired, can I still open the account?”
“Would a signed letter from my wife and two children confirming that I am retired be enough?”
“How about a video call to my 87-year-old mother in England?”
“What proof do you need”, I ask.
“I don’t know, just need proof you are not working”, she replied.
“But earlier on, you wanted proof that I AM working, now you want proof that I’m not?”
“How many pieces of paper do I have to sign to close my account?”
“OK here’s my bankbook and my old ATM card. I wish to withdraw my money and close this account” I handed her the stuff.
She rushes off ….
I turn my attention to the people watching …..
“Do you people have any idea how hard it is for a foreigner to stay in your country? When I do my marriage visa, I have to give them photos of me and my wife in every room of the house, a map to my house, 30 copies of every document I have, plus I must have 400,000 baht in my bank.”
The manager returns with my money, I take it and thank her profusely.
As I leave, I receive a round of applause from the audience …
As I get outside the bank, I now have to deal with the wife’s wrath …
“You’ve done it again! Embarrassed me in front of all those people”
I smile and walk past her …
“Where are you going?” She asks
“Oh I’m off to get drunk” came the reply.
“But it’s only 11:30 in the morning?” She replies.
I get in the car and drive off.