SINGAPORE - Singaporeans can now expect shorter waiting times in immigration at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, with two automated gates reserved for Singaporeans entering the country.
In a Facebook post on Sunday (Aug 20) morning, the Royal Thai Embassy of Singapore said that the Immigration Bureau of Thailand on Saturday (Aug 19) announced that Thailand has begun using automated gates for immigration checks for incoming foreign visitors.
It said that "Singapore is the first country to be allowed" to use the feature at Suvarnabhumi Airport, and that the bureau will consider adding other countries "in the near future".
"The Immigration Bureau of Thailand stated that the decision to use the Auto Gate was based on an analysis of security and on a reciprocal agreement, as Singapore is now considering allowing Thai nationals to use its automatic gates," it added.
Singaporean tourists do not need to register with the Thai immigration office to use the gates.
The system will simply record their information and fingerprints at the gates, for identification during future trips.
It can also verify passengers' identities by linking to airlines' check-in systems.
For purposes other than tourism, visitors still have to apply for a visa and undergo the regular immigration process.
Student Britney Cheong, 19, who is in Bangkok on holiday, arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 9.45am Singapore time on Sunday.
She told The Straits Times that not many Singaporean tourists knew about the new initiative, and there were not a lot of people using the automated gates.
"I saw a staff member hollering for Singaporeans to go to the automated gates, but I didn't know what was it about so I didn't follow," she said.
The system is also being considered for other Thai airports, such as Don Mueang which is the other airport in Bangkok, U-Tapao in Phla, and Phuket.
The automated gates aim to address the problem of congestion, and reduce the burden on airport staff.
The plan to allow Singaporeans to use the automated gates was first announced at the start of August.
Police Lieutenant-General Nathathorn Prousoontorn, commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, had said it would halve the waiting time in the immigration queue at airports in Bangkok, which was about half an hour.