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Phuket Opinion: As good as it gets

PHUKET: The ongoing saga of huge delays in clearing foreigners through Bangkok’s two key airports this past week has been a delightful comedy of errors that has shone a bright light on Thailand’s inability to cope with a basic dilemma overcome by major airports around the world.

opinion, tourism, transport,


The Phuket News

Sunday 20 August 2017, 09:00AM


PM Gen Prayut ordering Air Force personnel to step in over Immigration's inability to cope with tourists arriving in the country says all most people need to know about how the nation operates. Photo: The Phuket News / file
PM Gen Prayut ordering Air Force personnel to step in over Immigration's inability to cope with tourists arriving in the country says all most people need to know about how the nation operates. Photo: The Phuket News / file

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.

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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.

 

 

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OzGeoff | 23 August 2017 - 07:06:20

Thai "authorities" are renowned for not seeking expert advice in solving problems. Seems that the "authorities" always want to re-invent the wheel.How long will it take for Thai governments to learn to be pro-active not re-active with problems? Flooding every year is an outstanding example of inaction.

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Jor12 | 22 August 2017 - 13:32:42

So the PN editor writes that Thailand is an “international hub for crime". If one reads the background of Alexandre Cazes, he has lived in Thailand since he was 17 years of age and not come to notice of authorities while growing up in Canada. Through using his talents as a computer wiz he managed to amass a large fortune using the dark web - albeit some being criminal activity. He could have done this anywhere in the world. One could equally say that Australia has a similar trait, harbouring war criminals and drug lords who amass fortunes and Saudi Arabia for harbouring mass murderers, such as Idi Amin. If these so called criminals are being harboured by Thailand why don't the countries from whence they came, stop them from leaving the country at the border in the first place? One might then question why they are not picked up at borders.     

"The only rationale possible for making Thais complete this form in the first place is if Immigration did not trust..." Well no, it's part legacy and part legal. For starters we are talking about bureaucracy thus very difficult to get them to change a process unless in this instance you have responsible minister who is an aggressive, autocrat. You will note that one signs the card, thus making it a binding legal document. So, when you sign that you have no prohibited items, the case is cemented when you are in fact found with prohibited items and be "done" for smuggling. Scanning your passport at a self-service ekiosk isn't the same. In any event you could still be subjected to a random inspection. Likewise your address in case of a passenger having an infectious disease, (Ebola is a good example - public health risk) or simply losing your bag, authorities may want to contact you. 

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Christy Sweet | 21 August 2017 - 15:37:34

Sir Burr, I was informed in person  by Phuket Immigration just last Thursday it must be done each and every time one leaves the country.  

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Sir Burr | 21 August 2017 - 12:15:59

You do not have to re-register your address if it hasn't changed. Have done three annual extensions with the same Notification of address. Have been out of the country numerous times and have stayed in many hotels within Thailand.
Phuket Immigration informed me of this when my missus first registered me.

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Rorri_2 | 20 August 2017 - 11:16:35

The writer will surely wear the wrath, of those two bedmates, jor12 and eagle, even though what he says is 100% correct.

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Sir Burr | 20 August 2017 - 11:16:07

I successfully applied online for my 90 day report on the 2nd August and got the status as Pending.
My only other successful 90 day online application was Approved in a matter of hours. After nine days of my unchanging status, I called Phuket Immigration to ask if anyone was actually looking at these online applications. After being passed around (fobbed off) four times, it became obvious no one had an answer and that I was to come in person to Immigration in Phuket Town.
It wouldn't be so bad if I understood the reason for 90 day reports in the first place.

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malczx7r | 20 August 2017 - 10:32:14

They'll never learn because they place so much importance on "face" that it holds them back, the fact that the Tsunami warning sign said Km instead on M because they wouldn't ask it was right now bites them and makes them a laughing stock, if only they'd have asked, it's the same with lots of signs all around Phuket!  

They might clear immigration queues faster if they made staff put down their mobile phones, I arrived last week and spent 5 minutes in front of an officer who seemed pre-disposed, as I eventually got stamped, as I walked past I looked and he was on his phone messaging, a quick look around and you see countless staff all on their mobile phones!!

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simon01 | 20 August 2017 - 09:42:54

I like this "Immigration's inability to cope with tourists arriving in the country and all people need to know about how the nation operates" Everyone does know how it operates ... chaotically. it always has done and always will. Paperwork for paperworks sake. Each department never talking to any other department all with different goals and pulling if different directions. Thats all before you get to your hotel. But you can never tell anyone how to make it better as thats the way it always been done so thats the way it will be done for the next twenty years.Same in all areas of visiting Thailand.

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Fritz Pinguin | 20 August 2017 - 09:21:46

Just do away with these 90-days reports and send the guys wasting time with that to help at the airport.

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khon kaen | 20 August 2017 - 09:04:41

35 million arrivals - not tourists in the Kingdom. Big difference.

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