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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has demanded that Thai immigration end the culture of bribes for visas.
He has ordered the new immigration chief Maj-Gen Surachate Hakpan to sack officers taking money from tourists – especially Chinese tourists – just to stamp their passports.
The practice has come to light at Don Muang airport where middle men routinely charge each passenger 300 baht tea money that is a back- hander to immigration to “facilitate visas”.
The scandal also comes in the wake of Chinese social media claims that the assault on a Chinese tourist by a security guard happened because the tourist refused to pay the 300 baht as he was not getting a receipt.
Thai PBS reported that the whole way visas are issued will be reassessed by October 18th.
Tourism and sports minister Weerasak Kowsurat intimated that the paying of bribes at the airport was ingrained behavior.
The furor comes amid yet more damning statistics on Chinese travel to Thailand – figures for August showed Chinese tourism down 11.8% on the same month last year.
There were 870,000 arrivals from China compared to 930,000 in August 2017.
PM Prayut tried to put a positive spin on matters but admitted tourism was down. He said he wants to see sacking of corrupt staff.
That has already happened in the security guard case and some connected have been suspended, it is believed.
The PM also warned people against sharing damaging videos.
He also expressed approval of the idea to give Chinese “double visas”.
Maj-Gen Surachate – Big Joke in the Thai media – is facing his first big test after assuming the role of commissioner of the immigration police on Monday.
He has implemented a “No Tip” policy though PBS said that he was also going after the middle men at the airport for tarnishing the name of his department’ men.
Prayut is demanding that he look deeper than that at the culture of bribes for visas that exists in Thailand.