Agency boosting staff and counters at Don Mueang airport in bid to alleviate huge crowds of arriving passengers.
EXEMPTING Thai nationals from filling out immigration forms is among the measures being considered to help relieve the overcrowding of arrivals at Don Mueang International Airport.
Immigration Bureau commander Pol Lt-General Nathathorn Prousoontorn said yesterday that his agency had discussed the passenger backlog problem with executives of the airport.
They agreed to increase the number of immigration counters and outsource some of the work.
He said one of the measures being considered was for Thai passengers to no longer be required to fill the departure and arrival TM6 form.
The immigration police chief said his agency wanted the proposed exemption to be implemented as soon as possible and it was seeking to expedite amendments to relevant regulations.
He dismissed concerns that cancellation of the requirement would adversely affect national security, pointing out that authorities already have a database of Thai passengers.
“The Immigration Bureau has also sought permission for foreign passengers from certain countries to pass through the automated passport control channels” that are now reserved for Thai passport holders, to help relieve the overcrowding, Nathathorn said.
He said that from tomorrow, the number of immigration officials at Don Mueang airport would be increased to 100, from 42 at present, and they would work four shifts around the clock.
He also said Airports of Thailand (AOT), which oversees Don Mueang airport, has agreed to create space to set up more immigration counters. Within two weeks, the number of immigration counters will be increased from 25 at present to 39, he said.
The Immigration Bureau chief was speaking to The Nation after inspecting immigration operations at Don Mueang airport yesterday, where there were still long queues of arriving passengers.
Over the past year, the number of passengers passing through Don Mueang airport every day has increased to 40,000, up 400 per cent from 2012, when it was reopened as Bangkok’s second international airport.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered relevant agencies to tackle the problem of long immigration queues at the airport.
The PM instructed the Immigration Bureau, AOT and the Transport Ministry to prepare contingency plans to deal with chaos similar to that seen at the airport last Friday night, when almost 10,000 passengers had to wait up to five hours to be processed by immigration officials. The chaos was blamed on the delay of over a dozen flights.
Meanwhile, the Immigration Bureau yesterday described as “inaccurate” media reports that the prime minister had signed a new ministerial order last Friday to exempt all passengers from having to fill the TM6 form when they leave and enter the country.
In a statement, the bureau said that the order, effective from October 1, would cancel the existing TM6 form and replace it with a new one that asks for information necessary for the Ministry of Tourism and Sports in analysing and planning tourism marketing strategies.
“Passengers still have to fill the form when they leave or enter the country,” the Immigration Bureau statement said.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports clarified yesterday that from October 1, the existing TM6 form would be replaced by a new one – in which both the “departure card” and the “arrival card” will be on the same page.
The ministry said in a statement that an electronic alternative to collect necessary passenger information would be needed before the TM6 form was eventually scrapped.
“The relevant state agencies are in the process of doing so,” the statement added.
Recently, Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the think-tank Thailand Development Research Institute, said the TM6 form cost Bt5 each and that almost 7 million Thais travelled overseas, according to the 2015 statistics.
He noted that all the information that passengers have to fill in is already on the passport, which has to be produced while passing through the automated passport control machine.