Letters to the Attorney: Visitor Visa

Dear Khun Virasin,

My wife and I are elderly US Citizens. We are long time visitors to Thailand. I am currently undergoing treatment for cancer in America.

My treatment will take several months, and we have been trying to get a visitor visa for our friend of many years, who is a Thai citizen, to come here to help and be with us.

Our friend is a 52-year-old woman who is licensed in massage therapy. She is a woman of extraordinary character and integrity.

She has a large, close family. She owns a home, some farm land, and a condo in Bangkok. She is debt free and has significant savings.

She filed an application for a B2 tourist visa. The application included full documentation about her, and letters of support from my doctors, letters of recommendation regarding our character and integrity; letters to document our ability to pay for the flight and living expenses while she was here, and even an offer to post a bond insuring her timely return to Thailand.

When she arrived for her interview in Bangkok, the interviewer asked three questions.

  1. What city will you go to?
  2. Why will you go?
  3. What work do you do?

At that point, without looking at the documentation provided, he terminated the interview and denied the application. We found such behavior to be insulting and frankly quite bigoted, but we also understand there is no process for appeal.

My question is this. We have all of the documents prepared for the application and we know that a new application can be lodged. Is that a waste of time? And, do you see any other conceivable category for a Visa that we might pursue?

Mr. XXXXXX

***********************

Dear Sir,

The US Embassy Officers generally only reviews the completed DS-160 for information, the appearance and demeanor of the applicant, and answers to a few questions before making a determination. If the person has ever been denied a visa before, this will affect the decision of the case. The primary purpose of the interview is whether the applicant will return to Thailand.  The burden of proof is on the applicant.

With a long line of Visitor’s visa applications every morning, the office only takes a few minutes to make a decision. That is the reason why they did not review the documents which your friend brought with them.

I understand that it is not fair but that is the system that the Embassy is currently using. The officer has full discretion to approve or deny a visa application.

Regards,

Robert Virasin

 

Justice for Some

In their book, Tort, Custom, and Karma, Professor David Engel and his wife researched the issue of legal access for the poor in Thailand in Chiangmai, Thailand. The findings are surprising. From the mid 1960’s to 2000, the rate of litigation has declined significantly relative to the general increase in population and the increase number of Thai attorneys.

Professor Engel found that the general public has an antipathy to the legal system. People on a local level feel alienated from the legal system. They believe that there is no justice for them in the courts. In the opinion of those in the middle and lower economic classes, government officials are corrupt and only the wealthy and powerful receive favorable rulings from the courts.

In addition, there are economic hurdles to accessing the court system. Filing a lawsuit is expensive and time consuming without a guarantee of success. The average Thai worker lacks the knowledge and experience to file a lawsuit. Attorneys are generally required to navigate through the court system. Those who lack the funds to hire an attorney usually lack the expertise to file and argue a court case .

In Thai courts, most civil actions do not allow punitive damages (damages exceeding compensation and meant to punish the defendant). This deters people from filing lawsuits and attorneys from accepting cases from low income clients. Even in egregious tort cases that results in a severe injury or loss of life, an imbalance of wealth and power among the parties usually results in a one-sided settlement. This may be the only route for lower income individuals to get any financial recourse.

The lack of a justice system has been exasperated by the reduction of community and the use of village elders to mediate settlements between parties. In an increasing networked world, people are less involved in their local communities which has led to an increased breakdown of community foundations. When there are conflicts, the average Thai person does not have a person or place to assist in settling their disputes.

There are potential solutions to the lack of access to the court system. One solution is to allow punitive damages for torts caused by outrageous or irresponsible conduct by a defendant. If someone is drunk driving and destroys the victim’s property or causes personal injury, the compensation from punitive damages could be an incentive for the victim to seek restitution through the court system.

Another possible solution would be to create a local arbitration system to replace the loss of respected village elders. An arbitrator can resolve conflicts without the legal formalities of a traditional court hearing thereby making it more accessible for regular people. The government arbitrator can issue a court enforceable decision or attempt to prod the parties to negotiate a fair settlement.

A large segment of the population feel that they do not have access to the justice system. Disillusionment in the law has become the norm. This can lead to the breakdown of civil society. Growing disenchantment with the legal system contributes to the feeling of the lack of justice. Something should be done to reform Thailand legal system to allow tort victims greater access to the court system.