Thailand plans new measures to relieve overcrowding at Don Mueang airport

Nok Airlines Co. employees serve customers at the company's check-in counters at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok.
Nok Airlines Co. employees serve customers at the company's check-in counters at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Increasing immigration counters and exempting Thai nationals from filling out immigration forms are among the measures to be taken to help relieve overcrowding of arrivals at Don Mueang International Airport.

Immigration Bureau commander Pol Maj-General Nattorn Prohsunthorn said on Wednesday (Aug 9) 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 also 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, Nattorn said.

CONTINGENCY PLANS

He said that from Thursday, 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 on Wednesday, 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.