The new head of Thai immigration, Maj-General Surachate Hakpal – known as “Big Joke” in the media – has begun implementing his tough anti-corruption message at immigration.
The signage going up nationwide is clear and unequivocal: No Tips.
By this he means no more back-handers to corrupt immigration officials or the agents who collect the tea money from tourists and either pass it on or keep it for themselves.
Pictures posted on the Immigration Facebook page showed a permanent sign at an airport that said: No Tips please. The message was also in a graphic with Royal Thai Police insignia behind and “The Immigration Bureau” at the bottom.
It was also in Thai and Chinese.
Another stuck on a window at an immigration office clearly stated in English that visa fees were just Bt2,000 – no more.
At Sadao on the Thailand-Malaysia border, a printed sign on a counter said “No Tip” while an accompanying sign said “No other fees charged in passing this border”.
Surachate started his job as immigration commissioner on Monday after his move from deputy chief of the Thai Tourist Police Bureau where he was involved in many highly publicised crime busts.
One of his first statements as he moved to his Immigration desk was to announce an end to the practice of border officials taking bribes of Bt300.
Local media was saying that the practice had become the norm, with agents charging tourists Bt2,300 for their visas.
It was reported that sometimes the fees were kept by the agents themselves but other times they were passed on.
Thus, even honest officials felt they were being tarred with the brush of being corrupt.
Surachate also vowed to go after all agents and their customers nationwide involved in procuring visa extensions with fake documents.
He was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday over the arrest of Yupin Jantakhat, 55, who was acting as a visa extension agent. She has been charged with falsifying tax documents for the purpose of seeking visa extensions for her clients.
Two Nigerians, who were not named, presented the false papers at the government immigration offices in Chaeng Wattana.
Local media reported that Yupin was handling visas mostly for Indians, Pakistanis and Nigerians.
Yupin was arrested in Soi Dan Samrong, North Samrong after the paper trail led to her residence there.