The foolhardy and provocative action by up to 20 German nationals in removing a legal checkpoint, a measure to contain the Covid 19 virus in a district of Chiang Mai, cannot be condoned no matter what inconvenience it caused. It was a rash, illegal act that damages goodwill in Thailand towards foreigners. When will foreigners learn? This is not our country. We are merely guests and it has nothing to do with money.
Up to 20 German men who removed a Covid 19 roadblock set up by local district authorities near their Chiang Mai homes have been arrested by police in the Hang Dong District of the province and are being investigated for breaking the law. They are also having their visa status reviewed by the local immigration bureau.
German residents in the Hang Dong district of Chiang Mai are in hot water this weekend after being called in by police for questioning over the removal of a community Covid 19 checkpoint near their homes.
The police action follows a complaint from Mr Somsak Kanakham, the Hang Dong District Chief to Hang Dong Police over the action which the community leader says was illegal and should lead to prosecutions.
20 Germans and their Thai wives removed a checkpoint blocking vehicular access to their homes
It is understood that up to 20 German men and their Thai wives jointly removed what appeared to be a permanent roadblock erected in the centre of the road near a private housing estate of detached homes.
The Germans claimed that the roadblock prevented them from accessing their homes using private vehicles.
Police, however, arrested the men and also called in the Immigration Bureau to review the visa status of all those involved in the incident.
Rising tensions towards the western community
The controversy comes amid rising tensions between foreigners in Thailand particularly white caucasian westerners who increasingly are being associated by authorities especially local governments, with the disease outbreak.
Aside from a major cluster of infection at a Lumpini boxing stadium on March 6th for which a senior army officer is being investigated and Thai returnees from western countries, a consistent source of infection highlighted by Thai authorities has been entertainment venues and the foreigner oriented nightlife scene in large cities and resorts popular with foreigners.
Pattern of infection bears out government concerns and policies regarding tourist hotspots in Thailand
These concerns have been borne out by the pattern of infection for the Covid 19 outbreak as predicted by a government expert panel which produced a study before the state of emergency was announced to guide the senior officials.
Its findings have, so far, proved very accurate. It warned that tourist hotspots would be the key areas impacted.
Phuket this week was confirmed as the province with the biggest rate of infection at 33.6 per 100,000 with many of those infected and dying of the disease being foreigners.
Foreigners breaking the law are aggravating the situation – stop now as it is fueling tensions
An aggravating factor has been foreigners failing to comply with the emergency laws and regulations as laid down at all levels including the wearing of face masks where ordered by government officials and of course the ban on gatherings or private parties.
Such actions have fueled very real and rising antipathy towards westerners in Thailand.
Of course, the situation has been built very much on existing prejudices lurking even before this outbreak and a rising sense of nationalism in the country which for a certain segment of the population is especially anti-western, another segment is on the other hand, anti-Chinese.
This devastating virus and its aftermath, will stir further tensions between westerners and China which also existed before Covid 19 arrived.
It is something we will hear a lot more about even when the virus crisis abates.
Popular Facebook page with nearly 600,000 followers shut down by the social media giant after attack
This week has seen a popular anti-corruption Facebook page, Spotlight Thailand, in Phuket with nearly 600,000 followers shut down by the social nework after its administrators launched what can only be described as a vitriolic attack on foreigners within the context of the current emergency that does not warrant further reporting.
Online stories of foreigners behaving badly are growing and much of it is also fake news
This has been accompanied by reports of foreigners behaving badly and failing to comply with the lockdown regulations throughout Thailand.
Some of these stories are fake news and exaggerations but unfortunately, many of them are also true.
Foreigners must keep to the letter of the law
The fact of the matter is this.
Foreigners in Thailand must comply with all laws and regulations laid down by all authorities, even those at a local level no matter how unreasonable you may think them to be.
It is one thing for Thais to consider the laws unreasonable and flout them, it is quite another for foreigners. This is not your country and never will be.
Thailand is a uniquely sovereign country and no foreigner except perhaps for the minute few who are Thai citizens should assume anything more than the fact that we are guests in the kingdom no matter how long we have lived here, what visa or residency status we have and no matter what contribution we have made or how deep or even sincere are our connections to the country or goodwill.
Virus is a historical event which has already changed our world and will change it further
This virus is a historic event that will herald vast changes geopolitically in the world but here also in Thailand, a hard lesson will have to be learned by the expat and foreign community.
For now, any foreigner who fails to comply with the law and regulations is doing the foreign community here as a whole nothing but a disservice.
Checkpoint should NOT have been removed
The German men and their Thai wives should not have removed the barrier on the road put there by a legal authority no matter how inconvenient.
It was wrong, probably an instinctive and rash act.
If it is shown that it was a breach of the law then they must face the consequences. We do not live in a globalised world where property rights equate to sovereignty or a right to infringe the law, even local ones.
At the end of the day, the law in Thailand is the only protection any foreigner living or staying here has. That may well and quite reasonably, be scant comfort to many but it is all we have.
It must, therefore, be respected no matter how unreasonable or inconvenient. The alternative is to fly home when the right opportunity arises.