PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered relevant agencies to ensure that long immigration queues at Don Mueang International Airport will be resolved quickly.
He said yesterday that he had instructed the Immigration Bureau, Airports of Thailand and the Ministry of Transport to prepare contingency plans to deal with chaos similar to that seen at the airport last Friday, when passengers had to wait up to five hours to be processed by immigration officials.
The prime minister blamed the situation on the delay of many flights that day, which resulted in increasing numbers of passengers and a shortage of immigration officials at the airport.
“Such an incident is rare. Normally it takes each passenger no longer than five minutes” to pass the immigration process at the airport, Prayut said.
He also said more immigration officials had been dispatched to Don Mueang Airport, while the Ministry of Transport and Airports of Thailand had been instructed to map out contingency plans. Prayut also suggested that Thai nationals should be exempted from filling out certain forms at the airport to cut down waiting times.
He also urged people not to criticise the previous incident too intensively, particularly on social media. “What they say will cause damage to the tourism industry,” he said.
Earlier, the Royal Thai Police stated that the chaos at Don Mueang last Friday night was caused by the delay of 13 flights that, in addition to the 12 on-schedule flights, meant that 15 immigration officials on duty had to deal with more than 9,000 passengers.
A police spokesman said five more immigration officials had been sent in to help with the situation, but that was still insufficient.
Next month, Airports of Thailand will add eight arrival counters, which is expected to almost double passenger-handling capacity at the airport from 1,000 people to 1,800 people per hour, according to the company’s president Nitinai Sirisamatthakarn.
He suggested that Thai passengers should use automated passport control machines for immigration check-in to ensure quick processing.
Meanwhile, a new immigration form will replace the existing one on October 1 in line with a Cabinet resolution in January approving a Tourism and Sports Ministry request for changes to the “TM6” form.
The Cabinet resolution allows the use of the old TM6 form, which has two separate sections for arrivals and departures, to be used until September 30. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports requested the delay to adjust to the new form to help the agency in its analysis and planning of tourism marketing strategies.
The new form has only one side for visitors to record both arrival and departure information, with an “automatic channel” barcode for more convenience.
In July, the prime minister instructed the Immigration Bureau to decide whether to cancel the requirement for visitors to use the TM6 form as part of measures to improve immigration procedures at airports and reduce waiting times.