Gen Surachate gave the order last Thursday, just four days after taking up the position of Commissioner of the Immigration Bureau last Monday (Oct 1). His appointment as Immigration chief followed his high-profile performance as the Deputy Commander of the national Tourist Police.
In taking up his new position, Gen Surachate last Monday vowed to take action on the issue of officials allegedly extorting tour operators, promising the public to tighten the regulations “to prevent the issue from damaging the image of Thailand”.
He said banners will be erected to inform tourists that there are no extra charges for immigration processing. In addition, an investigation into the matter will be launched to find the culprits. Violators will be prosecuted and are likely to face embezzlement charges, he said. (See story here.)
Last Thursday, Gen Surachate made good on his promise with signs being posted at Survanbhumi International Airport clearly labelled ‘No Tips Please’ in Chinese and English.
The next day (Friday, Oct 5), two senior immigration officers had been transferred pending an investigation into visa brokers bribing the officers in order to obtain illegally issued visas by using falsified documents. (See story here.)
And by Saturday the Royal Thai Police Immigration Bureau posted on its official Facebook page the warning: “Please be announced that Please No Tip to the Immigration . (Tip = Bribe ) If you see any immigration officer do anything like that please let us know or inbox us immediately.”
The number given to report any such extortion – or bribes – was the Immigration hotline 1178. (See post here.)
Gen Surachate also posted on his own Facebook page yesterday his clear understanding that ‘tips’ were ‘bribes’ or cash being extorted by officials from tourists, and that officers at Don Muang international Airport were under investigation for money received from Chinese tourists. (See post here.)
Phuket Airport Immigration Chief Pol Col Supachok Yongstar this afternoon confirmed to The Phuket News that the signs had now been posted at Phuket Airport – in Hindi, Chinese and English.
“Finally our commander has insisted this. There is no ‘fast track service’ anymore,” Col Supachok said today.
“We have responded immediately by setting up the ‘No Tips’ signs. Everything is going well right now,” Col Supachok said.
“I think the fault is not only Immigration Police, but there is the tourist side. They must not ‘give in order to receive’ at all. I am glad that’s so clear for everyone about ‘tips’ for fast track,” he added.
“Taking extra money for fast track service has ended. It is in the past already. The past is gone. There is no need to talk about it again,” Col Supachok said.
Meanwhile, in response to a complaint that The Phuket News was already investigating involving a Ukrainian tourist who said she was forced to pay an extra B400 to be issued a visa on arrival as ‘a processing fee’ at Phuket Airport, Col Supachok today denied his officers were acting inappropriately.
“Let’s start for the future, as Maj Gen Surachate has finished this already. There is no longer a fee for fast-track service,” he said.
While The Phuket News was investigating the complaint by the Ukrainian tourist, Ministry of Tourism & Sports officials stationed at the Tourist Assistance Centre (TAC) at the airport confirmed that such complaints were not uncommon – and were referred to the appropriate superior officers.