The first 3 months of 2021 have come and gone – amazingly fast. Here in the north of Thailand we have transitioned from the cooler days of winter to the very hot summer days, with the accompanying & unwanted burning/smoke season. The Songkran Holiday will soon be with us in mid-April and then Anzac Day on 25 April. With tourism generally restricted to domestic travelers the consulate activity has been primarily focused on services to the longer term expat community in the north. Even with Covid-19 management & protocols well in place there has been limited public diplomacy opportunities over this period.
Over the 1st quarter from January to March 2021, the Honorary Consul provided 132 hours of service time + a number of after hours commitments – to operate the consulate. These hours included 368 client contacts during the Monday – Thursday consulate operating hours where phone calls, emails and visits by clients (with appointments) are handled. Passport applications and issue are a considerable part of the work load. In addition there are some commitments after hours to handle consular case contacts & public diplomacy activity.
The role of the Consulate 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 as well as (6) undertaking some public diplomacy activities & engagements.
Inquiries on returning to Australia have been the main questions and feedback provided to clients. The Australian Embassy Bangkok 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.
Flights to Australia can still be challenging to secure but many have returned home. The Embassy still coordinates a weekly Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Sydney. A call for expressions of interest are advertised on the Embassy Facebook page, usually about every two weeks. Commercially, Singapore Airlines is taking bookings from Bangkok, via Singapore, to a number of cities in Australia, The Embassy in Bangkok Website and Facebook page still remain a good source of information about registering your interest to return to Australia, travel, restrictions, quarantine in Australia, pre-flight covid tests & travel declaration requirements.
The Australian Ambassador to Thailand has also been publishing information videos on the Embassy Facebook page regularly.
Community Outreach & Public Diplomacy
Invitations from the Thai Government, private sector and other agencies to events around Chiang Mai have been limited over the period. The following shares some of the public diplomacy and other activities of interest:
Australian Direct Aid Program – I had the pleasure of visiting two groups that were grant recipients in Chiang Mai this year. I caught up with the CM International Rotary Club children’s water safety and drown prevention program, that operates in association with Kru Payu’s swim instruction program, at the Bronco Kids Club. Using an Australian water safety program, this year the DAP grant will support about 400 3rd and 4th grade students from Chiang Mai City public schools, to learn water safety. A fantastic undertaking to help children.
The Consulate also visited Hope Home Chiang Mai to meet the lady that operates this small registered social welfare home, the staff and some of the children. An Australian Direct Aid Program grant this year has helped the Home tremendously and allowed for some improvements to therapy equipment and social outreach programs for children with special needs and disabilities in Chiang Mai. It was heart warming to understand the support offered & the commitment to caring for these children and to see how the DAP grant has assisted.
Mission Innovation – I was pleased to attend the launch of a new global initiative that involves Chiang Mai and being led by Australia, Germany and the EU. Today the EU announced Mission Innovation Hydrogen Valley platform with 32 flagship projects. The Honorary German Consul for Northern Thailand, Mr Sebastian Schmidt, also Chairman of Enapter, hosted a small open air press conference and dinner reception at the Anantara Chiang Mai. The opening speeches were provided by video involving the Governor of Chiang Mai, the Australian & German Ambassador. Others joined in person, also via video or online. Among the “most advanced H2 projects in the world” is one developed by one of Europe’s fastest-growing green hydrogen companies – Enapter’s Phi Suea House in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The multi-house residence in 2015 became the world’s first self-sustaining development fully powered by a clean energy system.
Hellfire Pass – The Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre and Walking Trail (including pedestrian access through the iconic Konyu Cutting) has reopened to the public. To ensure health and safety of everyone, visitors are required to follow all sanitary measures including health screening and social distancing implemented on site.
Thai King’s Documentary – The Australian Embassy was honoured that His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen presided over the premiere screening of the documentary “His Majesty the King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua in Australia” at the Residence of the Australian Ambassador last night. The documentary highlights the shared history between the Thai Royal Family and Australia. Privy Counsellors, Prime Minister Prayut, Cabinet Ministers and other senior officials also attended the reception. The event included a photo exhibition depicting the historic visits to Australia by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit The Queen Mother and His Majesty the King. The documentary was screened on Thai TV in three parts – on 16, 17 and 18 February.
Order of Australia Medal – Congratulations to this Australian in Phuket – Wal Brown – for being awarded the Order of Australia medal. The Australian Ambassador to Thailand, Allan McKinnon, invested Wal Brown OAM with the Order of Australia medal for his services to the international community in Phuket.
Wal has tirelessly coordinated the Patong Police’s International Liaison Volunteer Program for more than a decade. This group of international volunteers helped Australian and other international visitors whenever they encountered issues in the island’s entertainment hotspot of Patong. Ambassador McKinnon said Wal “embodied the best of Australia and its values, particularly when it comes to cooperation and mateship with those in his community.”Even with tourism severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wal has continued to serve his community. Seeing many in his community suffering from sudden wage cuts, Wal stepped in to help raise funds and donate food to those most in need.
January 26 Australia Day – Story of Australia Day video – https://youtu.be/j0oxaMpsUR0
There were two venues in Chiang Mai that held celebrations with many reportedly attending: (1) Yummy Pizza Family Restaurant, Mae Hia, held their yearly Australia day celebration with lamb chops and snags, beef pies, Aussie burgers the works along with sharing aussie culture & songs, and, (2) Downunder Pub, Loy Kroh Road with a Sausage Sizzle, Hot Pies, Aussie Chips
New Years Greetings – Its was a lovely gesture by Witchai Wittaya English Program School, to visit the Consulate to offer new years greetings and appreciation for our involvement is some school events last year.
Anzac Day Dawn Service – Chiang Mai 2021 – On 25 April 1915, members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on Gallipoli. On the anniversary of this day each year, we pause to honour the service and sacrifice of all our veterans who have served in wars, conflicts, and peace operations. The picture in this post is courtesy of the Australian Department of Veterans Affairs, which has created the poster to commemorate 104 years of Anzac Day celebrations to help remember and recognise the contributions of all Australians during the war.
The Consulate has been informed – the House of Praise Christian Church in Chiang Mai will again, be hosting a small ANZAC service at 6 am on Sunday the 25th of April.
The ANZAC Dawn Service will be an outdoor event at the House of Praise Church courtyard. They will not offer the usual social BBQ activity after the service. It will only be the dawn service.There will be usual COVID protocols in place (temperature checks, mask-wearing, and signing in of attendees). Open attendance is welcome at this event – but it is subject to last-minute changes depending on the Government COVID policy on the day.
Location – House of Praise,78 Theparak Road, Chang Puak, Chiang Mai – If you have any question the Church contact number is – 093 263 5964 – Google Map reference –
Hellfire Pass & Kanchanaburi, Thailand – 2021 ANZAC Day commemorations are cancelled. Unfortunately, given the on-going global COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government has announced there will be no government-led public overseas Anzac Day services in 2021. The Australian Embassy wishes to thank all stakeholders that have been supportive of the commemorative events and hope that they may be in a position to hold the services in April 2022. Reference – https://thailand.embassy.gov.au/bkok/events.html
AUSTCHAM Hellfire Pass Anzac Tour –
The Advance Australia Council together with the New Zealand Thai Chamber of Commerce and New Zealand Society invites the Australian and New Zealand communities in Thailand to join them for this year’s ANZAC Day tour to Hellfire Pass.
Due to COVID restrictions, there will not be any official services at Kanchanaburi this year, but they will be visiting Hellfire Pass on ANZAC Day (Sunday 25th April) to lay wreaths in honour of our service men and women.
Three weeks until the #ANZAC weekend. Join us at our ANZAC Day Tour to Hellfire Pass.See details in a link below for itinerary and available packages. Please note that the due date for Accommodation booking is extended to April 9, 2021, at 5PM.
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 – email@example.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 – firstname.lastname@example.org – or – email@example.com – to discuss your questions or to book an appointment.