Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013


British citizens who are not enamoured with the help they get from the British Embassy in Bangkok will not be surprised to read today that the British government makes £56 million a year just by keeping people on hold on the telephone.

I laughed my socks off when I read today’s Daily Mail. Actually according to the story they make actually over £100 million a year from getting people to call ‘Premium Rate’ telephone numbers – What shysters! And the government is telling people to tighten their belts!

“Nearly two thirds of calls fielded by government organisations were made to the higher-rate 0845 numbers, a Commons committee found. Only 40 out of the 365 customer phone lines are free to use.
Anyone who phones a government line to report the death of a spouse for tax or benefits purposes pays premium rates, while the Student Loans Company also uses the numbers, saying that doing away with them would cost it £1million in revenue.” – said the man from the Daily Mail.

"Almost half the £56million was generated while callers were on hold, waiting to speak to advisers.
In Bangkok the British Embassy its cutting its notarial services – saying its saving the money to spend on consular matters – helping expats in trouble perhaps?  They seem to suggest Brits go to other Embassies to verify that they are retired and have a pension of £100,000 a year.

The sooner Montenegro sets up shop here the better!

But then of course acting in accordance with British Government policy they could go even better.
They could replace the staff in the Embassy gate house, who are always sending people elsewhere for no reason, with a coin activated machine.  They could also put a coin machine on the revolving steel strutted door.

Their ticket machines which give you a queue number could be made to operate on 50 baht notes (maybe 100)  and they could include a swear box in each interview room.

They could make a fortune from their telephone answer services by installing credit card applications (1) Press 100 baht if this is a visa matter.
(2) Press 500 baht if this is an emergency consular call and is a matter of life and death  (3) Press 1 million baht for the unadultered truth from our climate change officer (4) for Overseas Aid etc.

TOT is already making a fortune from those Embassy calls that do not connect with anyone.

But even when you get through you will be advised something along the lines (1) Please go to our website for information on your problem.  They are working from a script – just like Bangkok’s boiler room boys.

I used to be alarmed about Visa agencies - but now reading all the Appendices the FCO put out to deal with every visa problem and the language they are couched in - I believe they are an absolute necessity. God knows how much you lose when you tick the wrong box.

They could reduce their staff. If foreign correspondents in Bangkok have been decimated by say 9 out of 10, then think of the Foreign Office potential savings. The whole operation could be run by six guys and gals with IPADs and Mac laptops. They could reduce the spooks to two. One to call up ex Premier Anand and the other to call Andrew MacGregor Marshall. Don't be fooled. Its nothing like 'Strike Back!'.

No Embassies are. But their ability to spy on their own citizens can be first rate. How come everybody else but the authorities knew that for instance Gore Vidal was sodomising under aged boys in Bangkok for years?

Like the Canadians the the 'New Brits' could live in a high rise with shared security and for all that meeting the British public stuff they could open a few True type stores and fill them full with dollies in Union Jack tops and pleated mini-skirts providing all the services they charge for - which I guess is all the services  - unless you are of course Prince Andrew visiting Thailand on a 'trade and trick' trip.

Dealing with the British Embassy can be a little like dealing with a voice controlled elevator as in the video skit below. The glory days have gone forever. They have bunkered down and you're not going to break them with a bangalore torpedo.


  1. Pensions haven't risen that much AD. The required amount for the retirement visa is 800,000 baht or around 15,000 pounds a year, not 100,000 pounds. Whether other countries' consulates in the provinces will do the letter for Brits is a matter for them and for the immigration bureau. Certainly it has happened in the past to my certain knowledge. Brits can also use a visa agent - those absolutely necessary things according to AD - to go to Wireless Road on their behalf, or separately submit the documents by post. The whole saga is just another example of the British embassy retreating on all fronts whilst, of course, carefully preserving the extra resources to help those Brits really in the shits. My advice would be not to read too much into that optimistic claim.

  2. Barry. We have to read AD to find out what is happening in Thailand.
    The British Consul has given less information in my 13 years in Thailand than AD has given this fortnight.
    The people associated with this contempt for robbing its citizens blind should be hung drawn and quartered. The Consul serves no purpose whatsoever and is used as a luxury posting. Like most other consuls they should be scrapped, along with the pathetic telephonist who constantly repeats WE CAN ONLY ADVISE. Sir i am sorry but we can only advise. Answer to losing wallet and credit cards and no money to get home. We can only advise to cll a relative to send you money. I have no living relatives or friends willing to send me this amount. Well I am sorry sir but we can only advise. Maybe the 0845 on repeat.

    1. Why complain to me? I retired over three years ago. But it's simply silly to say that this news is only on AD's site. It has been reported in varying degrees of accuracy by the Bangkok Post and several print and on-line publications in both Phuket and Pattaya. By the way you have a rather weird idea of what a luxury posting is. The typical honorarium for honorary consuls is around 1,500 pounds a year. No it isn't a misprint.

  3. Yet another form of indirect taxation paying for lazy, inefficient, inept, overpaid and under-worked civil servants (Official Spongers).

    Without wishing to sound peeved Andrea...I fail to see anything to laugh about and as far as I'm concerned if I never had to deal with any of those pompous Cretins ever again it wouldn't be a day too soon.

    Just exactly what do those Wankers do in Wireless Road? and I'm not referring to the never ending circles of Cocktail party's etc.

    They don't even process UK passport renewals which now have to be sent to Hong Kong who apparently then send them on to the UK.

    WTF is going on with these people? I recently met a UK citizen who decided to fly to Hong Kong to renew his passport, when he arrived at the British Consulate they informed him he couldn't submit his passport application in person and he was advised they now only handle postal applications. I'm quoting what he told me and I don't know for a fact if he's correct, but if this is the case nowadays it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

    Can any other expats provide examples of the amazing services Superman Kent and his band of heroes at Wireless Road provide?

    1. Yellow card to Clueless for calling me Andrea - just because the Daily Mail did

  4. Fine Inspector, but lets try not to get personal. That is unless you want to set up a personal frontier post outside the British Embassy and when anyone leaves demand to ask where they are going and how much they intend to spend.

    1. I think they are just worried someone very sick or destitute gets onto British Soil and camps their arse down until the embassy offers assistance. Headline :- "Man dies after Embassy throws dying man onto Bangkok Street" would not make good headlines in the UK.

    2. I take your point Andrea and I promise it won't happen again,

      With regard to setting up a "personal frontier post" in Wireless Road, I'm sorry to say it's a long commute and my wife insists I haven't the necessary spare time to give it my all due to regular housework duties.

      Saying that I can recommend several Noodle vendors who I can guarantee will provide a more satisfactory service than the Consulate staff, please let me know if and when you require a list?

  5. I quite agree with you that completion of settlement application forms( I assume you mean Appendix FM ) now required by UK Visas and Immigration is a formidable exercise and not one that should be undertaken lightly by lay people. If one happened to be a self -employed person with savings and an income derived from rfentals, share dividends etc then I would recommend employing a qualified OISC registered immigration practitioner every time. The sheer cost alone of applications is such that to make a mistake would be demoralising enough, never mind the impact upon one's plans and family life.
    It's all about the money these days. Frankly, Andrew, I would think long and hard about re-locating to Blighty. Education of one's children is indeed a problem here in Thailand but then again, living in the UK brings with it a whole new set of worries with very little dividend. Taxation, bureaucratic hurdles everywhere, a shitty climate and, to be truthful, most folk struggle to get by and it shows. The untermensch are increasingly, unspeakably repulsive with their ignorance, stupidity and meanmindedness. Your citadel by the lake in a country which still values common courtesy at every level should not be forsworn lightly.

  6. Calling the Embassy emergency line, a few weeks ago, about a seriously endangered Brit,I was directed by the phone system to some ( dare I say Welsh, Irish, Indian ) bint in London whose only ( and totally useless ) advise was that British Citizens in prison or police cells, in Thailand, can not expect any consular treatment over and above that given by the Thai system to Thai nationals............( whatever that means.)

    It was an emergency and I have not checked what that phone call cost, but i'm betting 30 minutes on the line to an indifferent and ignorant idiot in London cost me a quid or two.

    I recall the wireless road advice to a person on overstay with serious hepatitus and stage 3 liver cancer, "you are on overstay, go to IDC and turn yourself in........."
    Which he dutifully did.
    This advice was given on Dec 23rd and the guy spent about 4 weeks in the Thai Judicial system and nearly died.

    He could have been told to keep a low profile, get to the airport and on a flight home............

    1. The issue posted above is basically a microcosm of why I don't get the kvetching here. There is no way that the embassy can be your first line of defense. It's not practical and if there is advice given to contravene local law they will be in a real bind. Perhaps I just have low expectations of civil servants, but I wouldn't rely on them to give me good advice.

      I suppose that the embassy employee could have said: "Well, if you get rolled up whilst wandering around Bangkok you might be subject to confinement until they sort it out. However, if you get to the airport and have a ticket out of the country, they'll probably just give you a fine and let you go on your merry way". Then it would be up to the individual what to do. Pro-tip: NEVER EVER EVER GO TO THE POLICE STATION VOLUNTARILY WITHOUT SPEAKING TO COMPETENT LOCAL COUNSEL. This advice applies in all countries without exception, and doubly so in less than transparently run countries.

      @ap: As for the individual who's lost their cards, wallet, etc. and has no living friends or relatives willing to front them the cash to get home, my advice would be to perhaps be a nicer person and cultivate better relationships. Alternatively, I'd recommend not traveling like a nitwit. I carry 3 different bank cards, 3 different credit cards and only take one set at a time. The other two sets are kept in separate locations wherever I am hanging my hat. When I'm transiting and have to have all 3 on me at once they are again split up. One set in the wallet and the duplicates in a locking cut resistant pouch which resides inside my carry bag, locked to a metal fixture inside. Over the top? Sure but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  7. If anyone is ever P##sed off by the gatehouse girls insistence you discuss your personal business in earshot of others, here is the embassies official response to a complaint about her...

    "Firstly thank you for your enquiry. There should be no need to discuss any private or sensitive personal information within earshot of others. If you have an appointment there should be no issues. However if you are a ‘walk in’ customer certain questions have to be asked by my staff to ensure you go to the right department. They are not meant to be obtrusive.

    Should an individual decline or not wish to supply any information, protocol dictates that a senior staff member clarifies the problems and or requirements. This can be done away from the intercom."

    Senior member of staff means the Ghurka's at the turnstile, so just ignore her and tell the Ghurka's why you are there...

  8. Unlike eg the British Embassy Tokyo it is extremely discourteous that the Embassy Bangkok does not have front and foremost on its website “Out of hours emergency assistance Information”
    And there is a serious aspect to my post. Recently a British citizen was in a major car accident. Rescue services took him unconscious and injured to the nearest hospital which happened to be private. The hospital rather enterprisingly took his phone from his pocket and then started calling his address list asking for someone to come and guarantee 250,000 baht so that he could be operated on. Luckily they got a friend who came straight in and guaranteed payment etc. But suppose 12 British gap year students in a minibus on the motorway at 10 at night are totalled by a lorry. They and all their possessions are strewn across the motorway. Rescue services take them all severely injured to a private hospital. Their travel insurance documents are back on the motorway. The hospital demands some evidence they can pay. Kids can access a website in 5 seconds on their smart phones. They think Embassy---- But the Embassy Bangkok has zip about Emergencies/out of hours contact and yet the Embassy might have one of their Honorary Consuls (who are not contactable except thru the Embassy) 5 minutes away from the hospital. The kids then start trying to call back to the UK to parents etc. Maybe their phones are not topped up, maybe they cannot get thru and so on, what do they do??? I do hope that there is an Emergency Response Plan to deal with such incidents where there are multi British casualties but the lack of any clear information on the Embassy Bangkok website is very troubling

  9. Inspector clueless. You are correct. Only postal applications which take up to 6 weeks. If you got to wireless road there are people who can advise you on the best route to buy a stamp, how to lick it and put it in the letter box. This advice is free. The only quick way to get a passport is go home but you have to book 4-6 weeks in advance for a interview or pay 100 pounds approx for a quicker interview.
    Wireless road should advise British citizens that they can apply for a new passport and start the process when you are 3 pages from finished. I understand they are advising British citizens that Kabul and Baghdad are extremely hostile places and anyone traveling there do so at their own risk and if they need further assistance then please call them between the hours of 9.00am and 9.10 am for anyone who speaks English