Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson
Thailand 2023 - 2024
Sawadee ka! My name is Anna, and I am traveling to Bangkok, Thailand where I will serve as a Volunteer Legal Advocate at Asylum Access Thailand (AAT). AAT provides comprehensive support and legal services to refugees. At AAT, I will conduct client intake and research. Read More About Anna →

More about AAT services and status of refugees in Thailand (July 14, 2023)

Last Sunday, I went to a legal clinic on LTLS with the Pakistani-Ahmadiyya community. There were about 18 or so participants registered for the clinic. There was a community paralegal and interpreter present, in addition to the AAT legal advisor leading the clinic. The components of the clinic included: welcome and greet, introduction, ice-breaking game, pre-test, topic’s presentation, Q&A, and post-test to see how much participants learned from the session. The majority of the presentation highlighted options for moving to a third country, like Australia or Canada. For such legal clinics and workshops, AAT is limited in the information they are able to provide.

More info about services provided by the RSD team:
AAT’s RSD team provides clients with legal advice and representation at first instance (FI), appeal, and reopening, both at our office as well as to clients detained in Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). For all clients, the team provides legal advice, including counseling on the RSD procedures and RSD interview prep. For clients who request for legal representation, we will screen them and decide how to proceed in accordance with our intervention criteria. If we are unable to fully represent clients, we still provide legal advice and self-help to clients on how they can file their own RSD claim.

After a client has informed reception that they would like assistance with the RSD process and once reception makes a referral to the RSD team, then the RSD team lead assigns a legal advocate (aka me) to screen the client. From here, LA duties include scheduling the client for screening and sending recommendations to the supervisor on whether to represent the client. The supervisor will review the screening and make a decision. From there, if it’s full representation/short service, the LA’s role is to start preparing submissions for the client under the supervision of the RSD team lead. If it’s advice only, then the LA will book the client for self-help and advice.

more information about AAT services

Note on UNHCR decision (if recognized):
If an applicant is recognized as a refugee by UNHCR, they will have their UNHCR card extended, and they will be able to access increased services at BRC. This does not offer increased protection under Thai law – if they do not have a valid visa, the applicant is still considered an “illegal” overstayer.

Differentiation between urban and camp refugees:
Refugees in Thailand are divided into two groups — camp-based and urban — with the former classification given only to people who left Myanmar. The UNHCR is responsible only for determining the statuses of urban refugees. Camp-based refugees are processed through a Thai government–led procedure and cannot move outside designated areas. No national legal framework exists for the protection of urban refugees, and as mentioned above, the UNHCR status designations are not formally recognized by the Thai government. The process of being resettled in a third country can take years. Additionally, resettlement is a durable solution that is available to less than 1% of recognized refugees.

AAT legal screening exists because AAT is currently one of only two legal service providers to urban refugees in Thailand. Legal screening is necessary as AAT is unable to provide services to all UNHCR registered persons of concern (POCs). Screening enables two things: which services a client can access and the level of input we can provide.

Thailand is home to around 4,300 refugees and 850 asylum seekers (2019).

Note on LTLS:
Some LTLS options include resettlement, private sponsorship, humanitarian visa, family reunification, and voluntary repatriation.

another pretty BKK night view

spirit house (also called San Phra Phum in Thai) in my neighborhood. San means shrine and Phra Phum means Spirit, God, or Angel. Thais believe that protector spirits live in these little houses, so they build them in front of their homes or businesses.

First official week of work – lots of firsts (June 30, 2023)

I’ve officially had my first week of work, and I also had a friend come visit me last weekend – it’s been an eventful week!

Last week, I met with a courier from AAT who helped me run errands such as setting up a Thai bank account, getting a phone plan with a Thai carrier, and finalizing my work permit documentation. It was really helpful to have her accompany me because she was able to communicate in Thai about which type of account to set up, which phone plan might be best, etc. I’m also going to be getting a separate phone through AAT which will be used to make client calls.

I’m still getting my bearings and exploring different things in Bangkok. Although I haven’t taken the MRT (subway) yet because there isn’t an MRT station near my apartment, I did take the BTS sky train for the first time last week. It was really easy to navigate as a foreigner. First, I went to the station near my apartment, then I selected the right route using Google Maps. Once, I’d figured out which stop I was getting off at, I entered the destination and paid around 50 baht in coins. Then, I took the card and scanned it to get through. I was amazed at how quiet the sky train is – both the train itself and the people inside. It’s definitely way calmer (and cleaner) than NYC subways.

So far, I’ve found that Grab bikes are a quick and easy way to get to locations that aren’t too far away, like work, for example. However, when destinations are further away, the sky train is typically a more affordable option.

I’m still getting used to the heat in BKK. I bought some tank tops and shorts because I didn’t bring a ton of clothes with me, and lightweight, cool summer clothes are definitely what I need. It’s amazing how so many people here will be wearing pants and a long sleeved shirt and not even be sweating. I feel like I’m sweating buckets and need a shower every time I leave the apartment haha. Also – sunscreen is key here.

Steven updates:

Steven and I on the flight

Steven being cute in the new apt 😉

Last weekend:

  • When my friend came in town, it was the perfect opportunity to see some of the top sights in Bangkok. We managed to pack a lot into one weekend, including going to Chatuchak Market, Lumpini Park, Chinatown, Khaosan Road, several temples, and a river cruise. We spent several hours at both Wat Pho and the Grand Palace; they are incredible. We also saw Wat Arun from a distance.

at the Grand Palace

Lumpini Park

amazing BKK night views

Thailand soon! (May 31, 2023)

Sawadee ka! I will officially be moving to Bangkok, Thailand in just a few short weeks. I am feeling all sorts of emotions regarding the big move and have also been really busy with last-minute travel preparations, spending time with loved ones, etc. Anyone close to me knows that I’ve always felt a strong desire to spend a significant amount of time in Southeast Asia, and I am beyond excited that I have this incredible opportunity to pursue my professional passions in Bangkok. This will be my first time living abroad, and I can’t wait to see how I grow both professionally and personally through getting out of my comfort zone.

These next two weeks before I depart will be pretty jam-packed, and some things that I have done to prepare for my travels include:

  • Booking my flight – I depart on June 15th and will have a long day of traveling ahead! My first flight is around 12 hours, then I’ll have a 3.5 hour layover, and then onto my next flight which is 8.5 hours. I’ll land in Bangkok around 12:30am on June 17th.
  • Arranging my cat’s travel – yes, my cat, Steven, will be coming with me to Thailand! Even though it is pricey to bring him and there’s LOTS of paperwork involved, I can’t imagine parting from him for a year. I’ve had him since he was a kitten, and he’s been my support system through the past 5 years or so. He’s not going to be happy traveling for roughly 24+ hours, but I think at the end of the day, we’ll both be glad to be together in Thailand! Since my cat already has all his vaccines, my first step was to apply for the import permit. Then, I contacted the vet to help with getting the international health certificate. I’ve also been thinking about how to make him as comfortable as possible during the flight and travel time, including bringing a travel liter box for him. Steven has only been on one flight before (Nashville to NYC), so this will certainly be an interesting journey!
  • Preparing for the hot climate – Bangkok is hot, hot, hot. I’m used to warm, humid weather in Nashville, but not necessarily year-round heat. I made sure to get a pair of comfortable walking sandals and have been looking at the best work-appropriate clothes that will hold up well while commuting in the heat. There’s also monsoon season to consider, which will start in July pretty soon after my arrival.
  • Locating an apartment in Bangkok – It was harder than expected to find a pet-friendly apartment in Bangkok, but luckily, I did find a studio apartment that is budget-friendly.
  • Securing my visa – Asylum Access Thailand has been super helpful with the visa process and has made it pretty streamlined.
  • Packing – I’m trying to just pack the necessities with me, aka what I can fit in a carry-on suitcase and checked luggage. The rest of my belongings I’m moving out of my NYC apartment and shipping to friends in Nashville. Lots of boxes to take to UPS!
  • Submitting my notice at my current job

Thank you to Shauna and the Lumos committee for allowing me to embark on my travels so long after the original timeline (and after some modifications – from Tokyo to Bangkok). Also, I’m so grateful to Dr. Ken Spring and Dr. Stepnick for their encouragement throughout this process.

Thank you to my friends and family for following along during this new journey to Thailand. Me and Steven will talk to you all soon virtually once we’ve arrived and settled in 🙂

trip to visit my sister and brother-in-law before the big move ... first-time pickleball players here!

Steven and my roommate’s cat, Mellow. We’ll miss you Mellow!