Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha ordering Air Force personnel to “support” struggling immigration officials in clearing huge queues of tourists could hardly be a surprise. It is an army general’s solution to a simple civil problem. Yet the call by the Immigration Bureau to no longer have Thais complete the now world-renowned TM.6 “Arrival/Departure Card” took the biscuit.
The only rationale possible for making Thais complete this form in the first place is if Immigration did not trust that passports and identification cards issued by the Royal Thai Government itself were trustworthy. Can anyone hear the words “international hub for crime and trafficking”? Maybe, and the recent case of dark net billionaire magnate Alexandre Cazes living a life of luxury in the Kingdom did nothing to help shed this slur.
Meanwhile, the immigration debacle in Bangkok has also highlighted a few key issues. First, it took only one post on social media to go viral for the highest-ranking officials in the country to order immediate action for a problem that took months for officials to even recognise in Phuket when our airport suffered similar delays last high season… as if Bangkok officials consider Phuket’s problems proportionally that unimportant.
Also, even the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has predicted that 35 million people will visit the Kingdom as tourists in 2018, which starts less than five months away. That’s the equivalent of half of the country’s population passing through immigration in a 12-month period. Immigration is obviously far from ready for that onslaught.
Worse, the problem is nothing new. London Heathrow Airport last year welcomed 71 million international arrivals. Why on Earth Thai authorities have not asked them how they manage to do it is beyond comprehension.
The simple fact that for the better part of the past year the Immigration Bureau has been unable to get even a website up and running for expats living in the country to register their 90-day reports says it all.
Thailand 4.0? Perhaps it is, as the Thais joke online, 0.4 instead.