CM Consulate Activity Feb to Dec 2020

Hello again – the Chiang Mai consulate blog has not been very active throughout this year. The last Activity Update was back in January 2020 – oops! Thanks to the COVID situation there has been limited public diplomacy activity & our focus has been elsewhere in support of the Embassy response to COVID.

Like elsewhere in the world from February to May of this year, Thailand moved into managing the pandemic and enabling public health restrictions. The following months, of June to more recently, saw life transform and the economy struggle with no tourists and many people and businesses out of work. Domestic tourism over the past couple of months have helped, but things will be in a downturn until the return of International tourism – but who knows when that will be?

Consular work continued over this year, although there wasn’t the same level of activity involving tourists. The Consulate remained open during the year, not closing during the health restriction period. We moved into a two weekly regime for passport renewals, with a request to wear masks during appointments & hand sanitizing. During the period of March & April we were open longer hours and took many calls and emails dealing with matters associated with COVID, particularly around travel back to Australia and Thai visa extensions. It was a stressful time for many.

Things are generally more stable now. Thailand managed the pandemic response well, citizens were compliant with restrictions, and with limited local transmission there was a good health response. Although many Australians are still here there are airlines and a weekly repatriation flights for travel to Australia. With no tourist, the consulate has been occupied responding to expats that generally live long-term here.

Our Websites, Posts & Facebook pages along with the Australian Embassy social media platforms have been sharing updates on information during this COVID period. While the Australian Embassy in Bangkok has been the point of contact for COVID matters and information, this consulate has tried to assist through information sharing & directing clients to appropriate information sites.

The Embassy Bangkok Website and Facebook page still remain a good source of information about travel, restrictions, quarantine in Australia, etc

Australian Embassy Website

Australian Embassy Facebook

Mae Kuang Dam just north of Chiang Mai

Consular Service

The Consulate role in Chiang Mai for the North of Thailand involves: (1) taking passport applications; (2) providing information & referrals regarding notarial services; (3) supporting Embassy consular case work – such as client visits in hospital, at home, in goal or prison, liaising with local officials, etc (4) referring Australian visa enquirers to VFS Global & appropriate websites; and (5) providing other general information & assistance to the public.  More consular information at the end of this blog. The role also involves undertaking some public diplomacy activities & engagements.

Over the period from Feb to Dec 2020, the Honorary Consul provided 4,368 hours of his time + a number of after hours commitments to operating the consulate. These hours are made up of the Mon – Thur consulate operating hours where phone calls, emails and visits by clients are handled. In addition there are commitments after hours to handle consular case contacts & public diplomacy activity.

Community Outreach & Public Diplomacy

Invitations from the Thai Government, private sector and other agencies to events around Chiang Mai have been limited during this year, for obvious reasons. These opportunities provide for engagement with the community. The following shares some of the public diplomacy activities:

Republic of the Union of Myanmar – Enjoyable evening reception to celebrate the 72 Anniversary of Independence. Guests heard from Myanmar Consul General, the Governor of Chiang Mai and were treated to a traditional culture dance followed by social networking and sampling of traditional food.

Chiang Mai University – February was the 55th Anniversary Of Chiang Mai University. A recognition reception was held and it was a honor to be a guest along with others from the Consular Corps and visiting University representatives from around Asia. 55 years ago they began with 260 students and today have 35,000 students.

COVID Charity Support – During April the Consular Corps in Chiang Mai coordinated to help those in need. It was a small donation, adding to other contributors across Chiang Mai, to reduce the needs of those in the city. Distribution to people with real need was done with great support of the staff of Chiang Mai Provincial Government.

Australian Direct Aid – In June the Consulate Chiang Mai had the pleasure to accompany BlueSky Chiang Mai (a community environment group) to make a donation of equipment. The CM Provincial Governor and Head Of Natural Resources and Environment of Chiang Mai, accepted the donation to aid in the suppression of local forest fires . Thanks to a Australian Direct Aid Program grant, provided by the Australian Embassy Bangkok, to Blue sky Chiang Mai this donation to our local community was made possible. A number of the local forestry firefighters who battled countless blazes this past season were also on hand to accept the donation.

Rotary Eye Clinic – Life was evolving back to more routine activities in September. The Consulate dropped in for a visit to Rotary Eye Clinic at the 48 Commemorative School in Lamphun. This particular volunteer clinic was supported by a donation from the Australian Embassy social club last year. About 450 students were tested and supplied with glasses as necessary.

Lanna Expo Chiang Mai – Another event in September involved joining my consular corps colleagues and other special guests for the grand opening of Lanna Expo 2020. In its 8th year, it was a large event over 10-days showcases products, food, and businesses from the 4 Provinces of Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampung and Mae Hong Song.

Thai Passport Office – I had the pleasure of attending the opening ceremony of a new Thai Department of Consular Affairs, Passport Office in Chiang Mai. Opening remarks were offered by H.E. C Anamarn, Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Chiang Mai was the first passport office opened outside Bangkok 20 years ago. Today they have a state of the art technological application system that involves capture equipment for face, fingerprints, retina scan and electronic signature.

Consular Corps Reception – The US Consulate General Chiang Mai, Sean O’Neil, hosted a reception for the Northern Thailand Consular Corps at Le Meridien Hotel in recognition of the US Consulates 70th Year Anniversary in Chiang Mai. It was a very enjoyable social evening with colleagues and friends.

School Awards – During October, Wichai Wittaya English Program School hosted the Honorary Consul of Australia in Chiang Mai, and T. Kitthanate Srisawat, the former Director of Education in Chiang Mai at an award ceremony. As the Honorary guests it was very enjoyable to share some thoughts on getting an education and to present students with certificates and scholarships for outstanding achievements.

Australian Alumni – Enjoyed a working dinner with M.L Laksasubha Kridakon, the new Australian Alumni President & current vice-president/Board member of the Australian Thai Chamber of Commerce (Auscham), at Acharn Saiyud’s classical Thai cuisine in Chiangmai, where food is so beautifully prepared. We enjoyed a sumptuous meal and chatted about work on the Australian Alumni / AustCham future & events in the North. 🇦🇺🇹🇭

Consular Outreach – The Australian Embassy Outreach Program came to Chiang Mai. A consular officer from the Embassy provided for notarial services. It was held in a lovely restored historic city building, now the Raming Tea House. I went along to support the consular staff and to speak with clients – 11 people took advantage of the service.

Remembrance Day 2020 – The Consulate joined Consular Corps colleagues and a large number of guests on November 11th at the Chiang Mai Foreign Cemetery for a service of remembrance. There was an Exhibition commemorating the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain with tribute to Airmen and Airwomen from many countries who gave their lives during the Second World War. Thanks to the British Embassy, British Honorary Consul and CM Foreign Cemetery Board for this memorial event. The Australian Anzac Day Service in Chiang Mai had to be cancelled due to restrictions this year.

Honorary Consul Reappointed

I am happy to share that I have been reappointed as Australian Honorary Consul for Northern Thailand, resident in Chiang Mai, for a further 3 years (to 2024). I was originally appointed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2015 and report to the Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand.

The role has been interesting, and at times, challenging. The people to people consular service aspect can be rewarding but at times, difficult & demanding. The public diplomacy activities are usually the pleasurable aspects of the function. Here’s to looking forward – 3 more exciting years of supporting the Australian Embassy for the North of Thailand – “in the land of smiles”

Consular Service Awareness

Passports Applications Chiang Mai – Australian passport applications can be lodged with the Honorary Consul, Chiang Mai – by appointment only – every second week. Please contact the Australian Consulate Chiang Mai (Monday to Thursday 9 am to 12 noon) on 091 857 6996 or by email – ausconcm@gmail.com – to book an appointment. More information here

Bangkok Consular Outreach – nothing planned – More information here

Notarial Services – the Consulate in Chiang Mai is not authorised to provide these services. They are available at the Embassy in Bangkok, only with an appointment. More information here. There is Queensland Justice of the Peace resident in Chiang Mai, should they be able to assist you – contact the consulate for details.

Marriage in Thailand – No Impediment Certificate –  The Australian Embassy Bangkok issues a Certificate of No Impediment for Australians to get married in Thailand – these can not be obtained from the Chiang Mai Consulate. More information here 

Statutory Declarations – Please note that Australian consular or diplomatic officers are only permitted to witness an Australian Statutory Declaration being made for use in Australia by an Australian entity. More information here

Thailand Visa & Entry – For matters dealing with visa’s for Thailand or entry for Thailand you need to contact Thai Immigration if you are in Thailand or, the Thai Embassy in Canberra or their State Consulates if you are in Australia. The Consulate can not assist with matters dealing with Thai Immigration & entry to Thailand.

Booking Appointments – Australian Embassy Bangkok – Passport and Notarial Services are provided by appointment ONLY – (subject to appointment availability and excluding Embassy public holidays). See here for booking information

Booking Appointment – Australian Consulate Chiang Mai – Please contact the Australian Consulate Chiang Mai during operating times (Monday to Thursday 9 am to 12 noon) on 091 857 6996 or by email – ausconcm@gmail.com – to discuss your questions or to book an appointment.

Round Up

As we move into the festive, holiday period of Christmas and New Years one has to wonder what will be in store for 2021? What will the situation regarding health, economy and a return to normality look like? Enough of these unprecedented times!

The Chiang Mai Consulate will be closed from – 24 December to 3 January – for the holiday period. During this closure period for urgent assistance please contact the Australian Embassy Bangkok – email: consular.bangkok@dfat.gov.au – or – phone: 02 344 6300

You can also call the Consular Emergency Center in Canberra – 24 hours – From overseas – +612 6261 3305 – or – if you are in Australia and need to contact an overseas consular post, use – 1 300 555 135

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Australian Consulate Chiang Mai

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