The Thai Ministry of Labour has opted to issue work permits to administrators of expat groups on social media sites such as Facebook.
The decision has come amid pressure from Thailand’s foreign community who are eager to stay in the country long term, but not willing to learn the language or integrate in to the culture in order to find a job.
The bill, The Foreign Social Media Admin Act of 2559, will allow any social media administrator of a group of expats on a social media site, but not currently in possession of a Thai ID card, to qualify for a work permit.
The move has lead to a surge in new, but essentially empty, Facebook expat groups springing up for areas all over Thailand; however social media users appear to be unclear on the exact terms of the act. The bill makes no specifications about the numbers of members required within a social media group for the administrator to qualify for the permit.
This has lead to online debate about what exactly constitutes a ‘group’. The Oxford Dictionary refers to a group as ‘A number of people or things that are located, gathered, or classed together’.
Some have argued ‘number’ could mean any number, even zero; although as it is impossible to be an administrator of a Facebook group without being a member: this is irrelevant, but some are optimistic Facebook groups with themselves as the solitary member will suffice.
Others have argued that the plural use of ‘people’ and ‘things’ must mean at least two people. Many however feel that two people would be better labelled as a couple, and therefore there must be at least three people to make up a group, citing the example of ‘group sex’, a label that cannot be applied to intercourse between just two people.
There have also been debates over whether Facebook groups which were unable to attract anyone other than fake profiles, people based outside of Thailand or administrators’ Thai wives will qualify for the work permit.
Administrators will be issued with a bright shiny pink badge to make them feel even more important when deleting spam posts, but will be required to undertake a course in social media management, with key curriculum elements including learning how to not write in capitals, how to suck the fun out of everything, and which elements of Thai society are not not free to discuss.
Long term administrator of the facebook group ‘Farang Community Chaing Mai’ David Nicolson Freidberg commented on the news, “As an expat, socialising exclusively with other expats, communicating exclusively with other expats, and excluding Thai nationals from our exclusive group, it feels great that the Thai government has finally recognised us as valuable members of the Thai community and Thai culture. I can’t wait to get my badge!”
His co-administrator Jouni Flemming had the following comment : “As an admin of our facebook group I am a very important part of the online experience of farangs. I reply to all their questions with very detailed answers, whether I actually know anything about the subject or not. What is more important than the content of the answer is the fact that is signed with (admin). That is where the power lies”
It is not only the facebook admins that are happy to see this new rule coming, but it will also apply to the Thaivisa.com moderators, although it will be a bit more difficult to track them down. Thaivisa.com moderators tend to hide behind obscure pseudonyms. One of them is Onthedarkside. When confronted with the new rule he replied : “It’s about time the freaking government recognizes our work. As long as they don’t print my real name on the work permit. Being a true Thaivisa keyboard warrior is all about being and staying anonymous! Now leave me alone, I just spotted a rare pokemon down the soi! Gotta catch’em all!”
Ponpat Siripanna of the Thai Ministry of Labour added that the next step will be to issue work permits for foreigners that want to do renovations to their own condo, do basic household chores and refill the oil in their cars.