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Immigration police have strenuously denied asking for bribes from airline passengers for letting them through the newly created lane specifically for people arriving from countries where the deadly Ebola disease is rampant.
The denial came after an English couple traveling from Singapore to Phuket on Monday (November 3) told The Phuket News that they were invited to pay a fee to get faster service by going through the Ebola line.
“We were waiting in a line for 10 minutes and I could see it would take us up to an hour [to get to the Immigration desk],” the husband said, under condition of anonymity.
“We saw an Immigration officer walking along the long lines asking everyone if they wanted to take a fast lane by paying B100 each.”
He said that initially he did not want to pay but after waiting for long, he decide to use the “service”.
“Only three of the eight counters were manned, processing people from every country. I told the officer that we wanted to go in the fast lane so he brought me to a desk that had a big sign saying ‘Ebola Line’. He took B200 from my hand and added them to a big stack of notes that he had taken from previous ‘customers’.”
He said that going through the Ebola line was very fast – it took just a few seconds – and people were joining the fast lane at about one a minute because they were tired of waiting in the main lines.
“There were three officers standing at the one desk. They just opened the passports, stamped them and give them back to us.”
But Lt Col Watcharapol Kanjanakuntorn, Airport Immigration Deputy Superintendent, insisted that there is no special lane for passengers to jump the queue in return for B100.
“There is no fast lane for those who pay a bribe at the airport immigration,” he said.
“I do not believe officers put people through the Ebola line. That is a very strict measure to screen people from the affected countries and we cannot mix them together.
“We had some reports before [about fast-tracking for bribes] but we have checked and found nothing.
“However, I will investigate this once again.”