Security is paramount at airports

A one-hour delay in getting through immigration at a peak traffic period is merely the process of normal security. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The past week has been an eventful one filled with so many issues one can pick to write about -- the one-month ban for red shirt-linked Peace TV, our highly effective Royal Thai Police finally managing to translate the charges against Red Bull scion Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, and the long waits for tourists at both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.

Peace TV is going off air right when there is a fear of possible deviation from what the military regime wants. It was also banned when the referendum was being held and its latest ban came 15 days before the verdict in Yingluck Shinawatra's rice-pledging case.

The case of Mr Vorayuth is an interesting one. It seems laws are being twisted to prosecute politicians but cases such as hit-and-runs that cause death are being allowed to go away silently as authorities argue that current laws have statutory limits. If laws can be changed for political cases, then why can they not be changed for others? After all, there are so many fraud and criminal cases that have greater value than the 738 million baht that was involved in the political case that prompted the law to be changed.

But what surprised me most was the reaction of authorities after pictures and complaints filled social media about the long waits facing travellers at both international airports in Bangkok. First the report of four-hour delays at Don Mueang made authorities jumpy and then came the one-hour delays at Suvarnabhumi later in the week.

Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.

There is no reason to defend a four-hour wait to get through immigration. It is simply unacceptable in any circumstances. Authorities knew there were delayed flights, they knew that X number of flights were going to land at that particular time and they should have made the necessary arrangements, no matter how.

But I am baffled that people became so excited over the one-hour waits at Suvarnabhumi. Similar waits are common at London's Heathrow airport, Sydney's Kingsford Smith airport or Istanbul's Ataturk airport, not to mention even Narita airport in Tokyo.

A one-hour wait is not that big a deal. If you go to any of the airports mentioned above, the likelihood that you will be waiting for an hour is assured unless you are lucky to reach there at a time when there are no flights arriving at all.

I have experienced more than an hour-long ordeal at all these airports, with the latest at Istanbul just a few months ago. There were just a few counters operating and that led to a point where I nearly missed my connecting flight. I actually had to run a long way after clearing security to make the flight.

All these airports have good information technology systems to expedite the process but still delays are common unless one is a business-class or first-class passenger who can use special lanes.

Mortals end up in cattle class and enduring these lines is not uncommon, so why is so much fuss being created about slow processing at Suvarnabhumi?

Yes, things should move faster but with thousands of people coming into the country at any given time, a detailed check of those entering the kingdom is paramount. Thailand has already been called a "paradise for terror networks" as many terror groups remain in sleeper cells in the country. If speed is given too much priority, the security of the nation could be compromised.

A problem could be caused by the latest move by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to use Royal Thai Air Force officials to help expedite immigration and customs processes.

How can one know if these people are trained to be able to detect those trying to enter the kingdom illegally on fake passports or visas? Is it not the job of immigration officers to be the first people to check whether any perpetrator is trying to enter the country?

Immigration officers around the world are taught how to detect liars and what eye contact means with those handing in their passports. It is not just to scan the passport and put a stamp on one of the pages. It would therefore be advisable for the government to rethink the use of such a strategy and not just buckle under pressure of social media and undertake any action just to speed things up.

Yes, tourism is a major source of income but paramount is the security of the people of Thailand.


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