A senior officer at the Driver’s License Department at the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO), who asked not to be named, confirmed the news after Thai nationals in Phuket recently confirmed being issued new and renewed drivers’ licences, while a foreigner allocated an appointment to have his licence renewed had his appointment cancelled.
The senior PLTO officer explained to The Phuket News that the PLTO had resumed issuing driver’s licences several times since March last year, when the Department of Land Transport announced that all services related to issuing new and renewed licenses had been suspended.
“We have started and stopped providing services [issuing new and renewed driver’s licences] many times. In July, we provided services for several days and were ordered to stop again, according to the situation regarding the pandemic. We had opened for renewing licences for many short periods of time,” the officer explained.
Most recently, the PLTO stopped issuing driver’s licences again earlier this month. “The DLT has issued an order on Aug 3 to stop providing all services all across the country, and the order has been in effect since Aug 4 on,” the officer said.
However, the Department of Land Transport since March last year has consistently maintained its announcement in English that all services related to issuing driver’s licences remain suspended. The announcement remains on the DLT website home page today (Aug 15).
“Actually, the Department of Land Transport has ordered offices across the country to start and stop providing services about licenses many times during the pandemic, so stopping since March last year must be information that needs to be updated,” the PLTO officer explained.
“I will inform the officers who are responsible for managing the website to update the information. The information may have been updated only in Thai, not in English. Thank you very much for informing us,” he added.
Meanwhile, the officer confirmed that any person stopped by police for driving on a licence that expired this year will not face any charges.
“The DLT has asked for cooperation from the Royal Thai Police to suspend the charging for all holders of licenses which expired from April 10 to Sept 30 this year. The licenses are considered valid. Drivers can use them as usual,” the officer said.
“At this stage, the deadline is only Sept 30, but if the DLT issues an order to extend the period suspending services, the deadline will be extended for sure. Do not worry about the license during this time. No police will check your license for sure,” he added.
However, the officer was much more vague about people stopped by police with driver’s licences that expired before April 10 this year.
The factor remains especially important for foreigners who were never informed in English by the PLTO that they may have applied to renew their licences at any time since March last year ‒ while at the same time the message in English by the DLT head office in Bangkok has remained that all services relating to issuing driver’s licences have remained suspended since March 31, 2020.
“They do not meet the criteria, but police know the necessity and the current situation about our suspending services,” was all the senior officer, who asked not to be named, would say.
The PLTO office currently remains open to the general public only to provide advice, the officer confirmed.
“Our office remains open to both Thais and foreigners. However, we can only give advice to people coming to the office. We are not providing any other services,” he said.
“The reason we have stopped providing any services is to stop the movement of people. If our office remained open while offices in some other provinces remained closed, people may come to the office that is open, which may increase the risk of infection,” the officer explained.
PLTO services deemed critical for the Phuket Sandbox scheme are an exception, the officer noted.
“Right now, we have stopped providing all services, but Phuket is under the Sandbox scheme, so we still need to provide some services that may be involved in the scheme,” he said.
“If a foreigner or Thai plans to go abroad soon and needs to have an International Driving Permit, we will consider issuing the permit [actually only a translation of a current valid driver’s licence issued by the Royal Thai Government] for those who really need the license and are able to present evidence of their flight booking. We will consider these case by case,” the officer said.