Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Police: Special Branch

Had a delightful visit from three (3) members of the Bangladesh Police Special Branch yesterday. I was told that this type of visit is of maximum importance for my security, as a foreigner. I’ve been here 9 months. Clearly it wasn’t THAT important.

Anyway, so three (3) men came to see me, to fill in a form. A 2 page form, with questions that ranged from things like passport number and visa number through to my travel history of the last 3 years and my entire professional work history. My answers ranged from the truth through to lies. Deciding that my professional work history is of minimum (zero) importance to my ‘security’ I told a few porkies to get it all over with a bit quicker.

Nevertheless, the two (2) page form took the three (3) of them two (2) hours to complete. It was as if they were given the form that very morning, had only been allowed to open it when they arrived here at Moanoghar and ALL of the questions were totally foreign to them. Random snippets of conversations:

– No, I don’t have a social security number. Yes, I know that US citizens have social security numbers, but UK citizens don’t. Yes, I know. Yes, US citizens have social security numbers. But I am not a US citizen. No. Really. I’m not. I can’t give you a social security number. Because I don’t have one. –> there was maximum disappointment about having to leave this field blank.

– Have I ever applied for a visa in Bangladesh before? Well, this is actually my 3rd visa in 9 months. No, I don’t understand it either. Yes, it makes no sense. Wait, I am dialling VSO now. Hello VSO, please deal with these people asking me visa type questions. Ta.

– Any other citzenship? Um…well. Yes. (shit, shouldn’t have said that…). South African citizenship. Yes, dual citizenship. No, my SA passport is in Dhaka, safely locked in my locker. No, no one can get to it. Is it really necessary to have a copy of it? Really? REALLY? Thought not.

– My favourite thing in Bangladesh? The people. –> this was not actually a question on the form, but it’s a standard question that all Bangladeshis ask foreigners. Followed by my standard answer.

– You want me to sign the form, but leave the date field blank? Sorry, I won’t sign it unless I put a date on it. Put 31 October 2009? Um, why? I see, you’re behind on your paperwork and you won’t want your boss to know. Okaaaaay. That is a good enough reason for me. 31/10/2009 is it then.

It was all very Police: Special Branch, Bangladeshi style. Whereby my little 2 page form will end up on a rotting pile of other 2 page forms, and never looked at again. Fact. But one of the special branch men did apologise that’s its all manual and not ‘in the computer’. AND apologised for taking up so much of my time. They were actually all very sweet, albeit a little Dumb and Dumber. And Dumbest. It’s almost unheard of for people in official/government/army jobs here to be nice/civil/human to the non-official people they are dealing with, so I reckon I got the three (3) best guys for such a visit.

2 Comments»

  Julie wrote @

Oh! This makes my blood boil and reminds me of my SB visit which was v similar and on the day before the election (kinda busy for us) and was also unannounced. Then I had another visit from another spy agency and then one of those guys kept pestering me to go out with him for a drink! Favourite thing about your country? Not that.

  estellevisagie wrote @

Ha ha. Yes, totally NOT that. Shame, I actually felt quite sorry for them in the end. And I didn’t even shout at them. Not once. I’ve taken to shouting at security people these days. Espec at the army check posts in the Hill Tracts. Eeeeerytime it feels like different rules, and just another ‘official’ who doesn’t know what he’s doing. I worry about my departure to countries where I can’t shout at official people and get away with it…


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