Upcountry passport offices busy as city besieged
The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)’s Bangkok shutdown campaign to seize several government offices, including the Industry Ministry, has left many business owners unable to obtain licences to run their operations.
Meanwhile, thousands of people have lined up at provincial passport offices nationwide to apply for passports and collect their travel documents. The main office in Bangkok's Chang Wattana Road has been closed for a month by the group of anti-government protesters led by Phra Buddha Issara.
At least two agencies including the Industrial Works Department and Board of Investment Office have been shut down for a month and are not able to issue licences for business owners.
Industrial Work Department director-general Nattapon Nattasomboon said the number of business owners who visit and ask his office to issue licences has dropped to 30 per cent, affecting the establishment of new businesses over the past two months.
From December last year to January 2014, the number of requests to set up new factories was only 254. During the same period between 2012-2013, the number of requests at that time was 331.
The number of new employees also dropped from 6,334 workers to 5,905, while the amount of new investment has decreased from Bt12 billion to Bt8.5 billion.
These reductions have been caused by two factors – the closing of departments and the loss in confidence by investors over the political situation.
Meanwhile, most top level officials in the Foreign Ministry are working at home as the ministry has been closed. They work and communicate with each other online.
At the Consular Affairs Department, Thongchai Chasawath accepts that the process of issuing passports has slowed down.
Bang Na, Pinklao offices not affected
However, people can still apply for passports at Bang Na and Pinklao, and at provincial offices except for Surat Thani and Phuket.
However, he said full operation to provide services for members of the public would be resumed by tomorrow.
Officials at the Interior Ministry have moved to work at other offices after PDRC protesters seized the ministry and held it since November last year. They moved to other offices located near Bangkok, such as Klong 1, Klong 6 and Klong 9 in Pathum Thani.
The ministry’s permanent secretary, Wiboon Sanguanpong, said he had moved operations to the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, but was unable to enter the department every day. He gives instructions to his officials via mobile phone and uses e-mail or smart-phone messenger applications such as LINE to communicate with officials.
The Labour Ministry, which has been shut down for 22 days, has rented a hotel in Bangkok for officials to work in. Some have worked at home.
The ministry also rented university buildings to use as temporary offices from which to issue work permits for foreign workers.