BANGKOK – Pol Lt-General Nathathorn Prousoontorn of Thailand’s Immigration has said that travellers travelling to and from Thailand still need to fill in the “TM6” immigration form for security reasons, the Immigration Bureau chief maintained yesterday.
He said that despite overcrowding at immigration counters, foreign travellers are still required to complete the TM6 arrival and departure card for authorities to collect information on their travel.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the Royal Thai Air Force to dispatch personnel to help immigration officials.
In a Facebook Live interview with The Nation yesterday, Nathathorn explained that under Thailand’s policy to promote tourism, authorities allow citizens of more than 60 countries to travel to Thailand without a visa, so Thai authorities do not have their information prior to their arrivals.
“For Thailand, the form is important as it is the tool for us to get and keep information about foreign visitors when they stay in Thailand,” he said.
In response to criticism that travellers to several European countries do not require such a form, the immigration chief said those countries require travellers to apply for a visa before entering, which provides all their details. “Their authorities know in advance whom they allow to enter their countries,” he said.
The Immigration Bureau is in the process of amending the immigration law to exempt Thais from filling in the TM6 form, because basic information of Thai citizens is available on their passport.
“We already proposed the amendment of the exemption to the agency concerned. But if it cannot be exempted we may shift to require them to fill in electronic forms before travelling,” he said.
Prayut in July 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. However, starting on October 1, a new immigration form will replace the existing one in line with a Cabinet resolution in January approving a Tourism and Sports Ministry request.
The new form has only one side for visitors to record both arrival and departure information, with an “automatic channel” barcode for more convenience.
Shortage of manpower
Heavy congestion at Don Mueang International Airport’s immigration checkpoints last weekend prompted an urgent investigation to determine why thousands of visitors were kept waiting for nearly five hours.
Prayut yesterday said he had instructed the Immigration Bureau to open all counters for service.
In dealing with a shortage of manpower, the PM said he ordered Air Force commander-in-chief ACM Jom Rungsawang to dispatch his officers to help at the immigration counters.
“If all-out efforts by the Immigration Bureau, Airports of Thailand and the Ministry of Transport cannot deal with the congestion, we will find another solution,” he said.
Prayut said there were several reasons why the process was very slow, including limited space at the passenger terminal, which has a capacity for 1,000 to 2,800 people but sometimes has to deal with as many as 4,000 passengers arriving at the same time. “We will have to see if the existing terminal space could be expanded,” the PM said.
In a related development, national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda yesterday said he has ordered the Immigration Bureau to set up operation centres at five major international airports – Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai – to help with the backlogs of arriving passengers.
He warned that if there was further chaos at any of the airports, those in charge must be held responsible.
Source: The Nation