11 July 2024

The newly-appointed immigration police chief today ordered his subordinates at all international airports and border check-points to stop demanding “tip” from foreign tourists and threatened to crack down on “brokers” preying on Chinese tourists applying for visa on arrival.

On his first day on the job, Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn visited Don Mueang International Airport and ordered “no tip” signs to be put up at the immigration counters providing visa on arrival.

He admitted there had been some immigration police officers demanding extra fees from arriving Chinese tourists in addition to the official fee of 2,000 baht for visa on arrival.  A Chinese tourist got into a brawl with security guards at Don Mueang airport last Thursday after he refused to pay 300 baht in “tip” as demanded by an immigration police officer.

A video clip which has gone rival shows the Chinese tourist being assaulted by one of the security guards.    Two senior officials of the airport were suspended as a result of the incident which prompted Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to come out to apologize.

Thai airport authorities have a different version of what happened.  They claimed that the tourist didn’t have proper travel documents and was barred from entering the country.  They said he, nevertheless, tried to sneak out of the restricted area before getting into a physical altercation with a security guard. He was later put on a plane and sent back to China.

Pol Maj Gen Surachate, who was reportedly handpicked by Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan to take over the post of immigration police chief,  claimed that there were “brokers” who preyed on arriving Chinese tourists.

“They claimed that they were collecting the extra fees on behalf of the immigration police. It’s true that some immigration officers took the money but the brokers also pocketed the money themselves,” he said.

He threatened to launch a crackdown on the alleged brokers and ordered “no tip” signs to be posted in the arrival lounge.   He said he has issued an instruction to immigration officers at all international airports and border check-points to refrain from demanding extra fees from foreign visitors.

Chinese tourists make up one-third of the 30 million tourists who are expected to visit Thailand this year.  A big influx of Chinese tourists is expected starting next week which is the beginning of a long annual national holiday.

Thailand has introduced visa on arrival for Chinese tourists to facilitate their visits, and partly because Thai consulates in China are not able to handle increasing huge volume of visa applications.