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Immigration 'tips' a concern for early-morning Phuket passengers

Senator Questions Immigration 'Tips'

Thursday, October 4, 2012
PHUKET: Questions will be asked about extra payments made to Immigration officials at Phuket International Airport, the chair of the Standing Committee on Tourism of the Senate, Senator Tunyaratt Achariyachai, said yesterday.

It's understood that an additional fee of up to 200 baht per passenger is sometimes asked to help non-English reading passengers complete visa-on-arrival forms.

The fee - described as a ''tip'' by some Immigration officials - is most often broadly applied on early-morning charter flights from China, and more recently Korea.

Flights of Russian passengers arriving on Phuket at night are also said to have been asked to make similar payments.

One Phuket hotelier has told Phuketwan that Chinese guests have complained about the payments and view it as corruption.

Senator Tunyaratt, who is Phuket-based, said yesterday that she had heard of the payments being made.

''Immigration officials say that it's just a 'tip' for them going beyond their normal duty to help when large numbers of passengers arrive.

''Many of the passengers sometimes cannot understand the forms in Thai or English. However, I don't think extra payments of this kind for Immigration officials are acceptable.

''It's not good for Thailand's efforts to end corruption to have tourists' first experience on Phuket making a payment they should not have to make.

''Helping passengers to fill in forms is part of the normal work that Immigration officers are expected to perform.''

The Phuket hotelier, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Phuketwan: ''It would seem that the night-shift Immigration officers routinely ask for this tip from unsuspecting passengers.

''A Chinese tour leader told me that it was common knowledge among arriving Chinese tourists that they would be asked for a tip by the Immigration officers.

''She did tell me that several Immigration officers did not ask for a tip from any tourists, but several were asking all Chinese tourists who queued at their desk.

''One Chinese woman refused to tip the officer and he promptly closed his counter, forcing the woman to go and start queuing again at another desk.''

Much larger unofficial payments are also reported to have been made to ensure big groups are processed quickly through Immigration on Phuket.

An extra 122 Immigration officers are due to begin work at Phuket International Airport shortly, after completing training courses.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I've been asked to Tip and I refused and I can fill in the forms fine.

Because I wouldn't tip he just thumbed through the pages of my passport for about 10 minutes, while hundreds of passengers were queueing up behind.

Posted by Tbs on October 4, 2012 09:36


Good, nip it in the bud.

Posted by stevenl on October 4, 2012 09:42


No surprise, when my girlfriend and I went to Singapore and were running a bit late immigration demanded a 1000 baht fee to grant the exit. Any government official that demands or request a tip should be Fired on the spot. It is their job to assist visitors and leave a positive impression of Thailand!

Posted by Jerry on October 4, 2012 11:48


Here's a tip that probably many long stay farangs know: go to Phuket Immigration with the exact change for your visa or extension. That way, they cannot deduct a 'tip' from your change, as they did with me, once.

Posted by Buster on October 4, 2012 12:32


Get their name and report them. I paid a woman at Ministry of Foreign Trade 1000 baht to fill in 3 forms as the ministry doesn't see fit to make the forms in English.

Posted by Media Watcher on October 4, 2012 12:34


It was suggested to me I should shell out the Bt 200, coming on an Asiana flight from Seoul.

I declined and not only did he spend 15min with my passport but also went to talk to a supervisor in an apparent attempt to deny me entry.

He failed and made no attempt to hide his dismay at the supervisor apparently not playing ball.

I'm on a Non-B Multiple and never had even 1 day overstay or any other infractions. I used to speak Thai with them but lately I don't anymore. Only seemed to make matters worse for me.

If you encounter this type of abuse, look closely at the immigration stamp. It has a small number that identifies the officer in question and a complaint can easily be filed targetting the correct person.

Posted by Andrew on October 4, 2012 12:52


Those in authority never seem to fail in finding ways to make extra money. If there's corruption at the top of the tree, then all will follow. I've heard it said that a country full of corrupt officials will never be rich. However, I'm still optimistic that there seems to be a move afoot in government to do something about it. Time will tell.

Posted by Ga on October 4, 2012 14:42


To avoid paying the "tip" To immigration in Phuket that the last 3 times wondered illegaly because I have non-B, every times when I live Thailand from Phuket, I come back through Bangkok where never any officials ask me anything.

Posted by dave on October 4, 2012 15:20


One would think that the form could be made in Chinese and Korean and Russian for those that don't speak English. But, that is applying logic.

Posted by larry on October 4, 2012 16:47



If you can't read english you have two choices. Either bring along somebody that do or stay at home. To travel around the world and being able to use your own language is not a human right.
English is THE world language and it's about time people wake up to the fact.

Posted by christian on October 4, 2012 18:21


If they don't speak English stay home? Good grief. Of all the xenophobic, ill considered, goofy nonsense I have seen posted here that comment takes the cake. Not only is it bad humanity, it would be fatal business. You want to tell 70% of the worlds population that they are not worthy of travel? I suppose you are right, if they come you have to explain and help them and take their money and then spend their money it's an awful cycle.

I would even question if English is the world's language? Studies done by linguists over the last 50 years have shown that English will most likely not be English as we know it in the next 20 years. In fact over the last 100 the internationalization of the language is very evident see any one of several BBC series done on the subject all interesting and informative. If you are Amercian (which I painfully expect) don't worry Jim Macneil also did one in the early 80's that discusses the same thing. Today maybe English has some momentum but probably not long term. 850 Million or 13% of the worlds population speaks Mandarin (more than native English speakers) there are even more Spanish than English speakers. As electronic convergence grows the internet will almost assuredly become less language centric with increases in voice with multiple language recognition and better translations. Some languages will die, some merge some grow. Really I sometimes find it hard to believe that there are people out there who feel this way. This is not 1960 Alabama after all. Most amazing is that someone who is living in a country that does not speak English! I am guessing you find the natives a little perplexing.

Larry you are of course right and I believe they recognize this and are trying to get the forms redone.

Posted by Martin on October 4, 2012 19:25


Phuket Airport should have CCTV cameras to footages all immigration desks and as well at immigration Phuket office so any bad behavior by immigration officier will be recorded....but I bet they will not do it at it is like shooting its own feet.
In Bangkok, they are signs everywhere asking tourists not to pay immigration officers without receiving official receipts...they should do the same in Phuket.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on October 4, 2012 19:43



Again you twist my words. I said either bring somebody along that can speak english or don't travel. Or at least don't complain when your language skills are inadequate. The chinese for example come on tour groups with a tour leader that should for sure be able to speak english. I have in fact many several chinese friends in China that do that exact work, and one of the "drags" of the job is that when they take the group abroad they spend considerable time on the flight collecting every passport and filling out the immigration documents for the customers.
As for your comments about english not being THE world language I full well know that Mandarin has the highest number of native speakers. But that does not make it a world language, english (and its variants/dialects) is easily the most widely used language if you look at how spread out it is around the globe. In fact, there is a huge focus in China on learning english, because it is seen as a basic esential to having a prosperous future. And the internet has made english MORE widely used and for sure not less.
I'm swedish by the way, and speak more or less fluent thai too, so I'm not perpelxed at all.

Posted by christian on October 5, 2012 07:50


I am not making any attempt to twist your words. But I had forgotten your earlier comment about "there being no evidence the rich commit crimes in Thailand and anyone who suggests it is a socialist" so maybe this wasn't the worst point you have made, I take that part back. What I was trying to do was to dig below the surface of a glib comment to the underlying implications. It sounds so simple but what does it really suggest? If you don't see the errant logic and bigotry that the statement "If you can't read english you have two choices. Either bring along somebody that do or stay at home." implies you should try to. It is at best a generality and I frankly question whether you mean it in all its depths. As an example wars, crimes, discrimination happen when cultures stop the exchange of information which leads to misunderstanding, etc.

Was there never a time you traveled when you did not know English and did not have help? What about countries where English is hardly spoken? Should everyone stay home until their English gets better? In my youth my family hosted foreign exchange students. I cant' think of one who read much English or spoke much when they arrived. It was a worthy experience for all involved and we all still get together. According to you it should never have happened. We should all be working to open doors to understanding no close them.

The question is did you think this through before posting it? Do you realize it's implications. I am guessing not and apologize in retrospect for my jumping to the conclusion that you had. I do try to think things through before posting but sometimes something slips by.

As for a world language ... LOL. I have 4 offices in China and do a considerable amount of trade there. Good luck with educating a billion people to speak English, Even in the states possibly the most culturally centric country in the Western world (French might have an argument) they recognize that there is not a world language and the schools, offices and government entities are often bilingual and sometimes multilingual. As a reference Latin was once the "world" language. How did that work out?

The common thread in your posts suggests a belief in the need for some sort of elitist hegemony of the wealthy and educated. No thanks I will stick with the crazy, anarchical and unorganized way it is. Less homogeneity rather than more, I enjoy its freedom, confusion, chaos and occasional corruption more than strip malls and white picket fences and new world order.

Posted by Martin on October 5, 2012 09:51



As for my earlier comment the watchword is MORE. There is no evidence the wealthy commit MORE crimes than the poor. In fact the opposite is probably true. See? twist my words again, saying I say things that I NEVER EVER said.

Posted by christian on October 5, 2012 11:10



My point is that it's not a human right to be able to travel the world and expect to be able to speak your own language. English however is widely used in any international setting, be it at airports, hotels, museums etc, including here in Thailand and most definitely in China and in more or less every country in the world. Here in Thailand, where we are and is what really should matter, english is definitely the official "second language", this is a fact. Now you and others want Thailand to spend resources because the chinese and russians don't speak english?
English might go the way of Latin in the future, but that is pure specualtion and I prefer to deal with the here and now. And the fact is that english, today, is easily the most internationally used language of all. Are we even discussing this?
I've read many articles about how the chinese are pursuing english skills, it's deemed as the key to success, as it is here in Thailand too. Extra curricular classes in english are very very common in china these days. To think that chinese will catch on in a big way is utopic thinking, even today after the simplification of the chinese language in the 1950s it takes on average twice the time to get a chinese child literate compared to english. It's just too damn hard a language to learn for it to become a "world language".

Also, the average chinese tourist outspends most other nationalities here in Thailand. They are wealthy, usually much richer than I am, and possibly also you, so we are not talking about some downtrodden proletariat, so there goes down the toilet your theory about me being an "elitist hegemonist".. If that was the case, I would be all for chinese dominating the world in all ways possible, including language-wise.

Posted by christian on October 5, 2012 11:36


Wow. I don't want to interrupt but English is indisputably THE international language. It is the language of commercial trade, international banking, air corridors, air traffic control, maritime control, early warning systems, science, etc. etc.

Posted by Pete on October 5, 2012 12:30


There is a huge difference between suggesting that people who don't read English should stay at home and saying that Thailand should not spend money on printing forms for Koreans, Chinese and Russian visitors thank you for explaining your thought more fully even if it seems quite a bit different than your original point. I can't grasp who you think believes that when they travel it is a human right that the country they go to must speak their language. If you base your argument on a fallacious point there is no argument.

On topic I would suggest again that if you want to be a world class tourist destination and you would like to increase your numbers investing in printed material in the language of your visitors would be wise. As it would also be wiser to not try to con 200 baht out of them in the immigration line. For some odd reason people tend to travel where they are comfortable and have the best experience. Crazy as that must seem to you, so making the experience more pleasant and comfortable by providing some simple forms would probably make people view their visit more positively.

No, there is no relationship between a belief in elitist hegemony and favoring the Chinese but thanks for playing. Once again you tie a fallacious argument to the root of your point making no point. Your continuing focus on class distinction and wealth speaks volumes. I don't think anyone travels to a foreign country that speaks another language and expects them to speak their tongue. At worst they just don't think about it and at best they try to prepare. So I am not sure where you get that the Chinese come here expecting Chinese to be spoken.

My object here was to refute the inanity of your original statement and try to get you to think through your point. This has now been compounded by further inanities and addressing all the illogical assumptions would take more effort than I am willing to expend. I suspect you have done the best you can.

Posted by Martin on October 5, 2012 12:35



Yes, of course it is. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous.


Your last sentence CLEARLY shows who considers himself intellectually superior. And you call me "elitist"? Take a look in the mirror, I say.

Posted by christian on October 5, 2012 14:29


Why dont they complete all the forms on the plane on the way in with a Chinese guide helping them?

Posted by Richard on October 18, 2012 09:42


gotta wonder about the Thai immigration mindset sometimes..few years back took the wife to Langkawi via Satun ferry. She tried to exit ahead of me through passport control and came back to me almost in tears..the kind fellow told her that he would not accept her exit form in Thai..told her it had to be in I had to fill it in for her..go figure??? Sigh!!

Posted by david on October 23, 2012 15:15


Thailand is going to suffer from the Australian Government to ensure its pensioners don't leave Australia for no longer than 6 weeks it was normally 13 weeks but this draconian law more so big brother will have far reaching problems for the Thai tourism when i spoke to a ministers office I was promptly told they want us to spend our money here and not overseas, democracy gone mad,I honestly feel that a new world order is around the corner.

Posted by Alex on October 28, 2012 09:30

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