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Long lines at Suvarnabhumi

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With 160,000 to 180,000 people arriving and departing Suvarnabhumi Airport every day, understaffed and unhappy Immigration Bureau officials find it almost impossible to cope. 

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The Immigration Bureau is blaming increased numbers of passengers and lack of staff for long lines at check counters and waits of two hours or more.

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Immigration deflects criticism

Suvarnabhumi arrivals 'overwhelming' bureau

Amornrat Mahitthirook

The Immigration Bureau is defending itself against a recent rash of criticism over its handling of arrivals and departures at Suvarnabhumi international airport, saying a combination of understaffing and a steady increase in the number of passengers has left it overwhelmed.

Natthorn Phrosuwan, chief of Immigration Division 2, which is responsible for immigration at the country's biggest and busiest airport, said the bureau was set up to manage a maximum capacity of 80,000 passengers per day when Suvarnabhumi opened in 2006.

However the number of people flying in and out of the airport has since increased to between 160,000 and 180,000 a day, he said.

Pol Maj Gen Natthorn said estimates point to the annual number of departures and arrivals increasing by another 5 million, or nearly 14,000 per day, within the next five years.

The division currently has only 1,045 immigration officers after 267 officers were either promoted or moved to work elsewhere, while new officers are still undergoing training that they must complete before they can start manning the immigration booths.

"Since New Year, the division has been flooded with complaints over the long lines at the immigration check counters, despite how hard our officers work," Pol Maj Gen Natthorn said.

"They sometimes even skip trips to the restroom when faced with a line of angry passengers."

At least 20 additional immigration officers should be added to the Suvarnabhumi workforce, airport director Somchai Sawasdipol said.

Immigration Division 2 hopes to negotiate with the Comptroller General's Department to allow it to use revenue collected through charging airlines per flight and passenger, in a move to fund improved working conditions and the recruitment of more staff, and to pay existing staff cash incentives such as bonuses and higher overtime payments.

Currently, the Immigration Bureau charges airlines 200 baht per flight plus 10 baht per passenger.

"Working at Suvarnabhumi is costly, given the high costs of living and expenses, while the overtime payments are too low. The work is also extremely stressful," said a source at Immigration Division 2.

The source said overtime payments add up to about 5,000-6,000 baht per month on average, but claimed this was not enough given the cost of commuting and the price of food at the airport, which staff have to eat if working double shifts.

The source added: "We have to work literally non-stop, and when someone moved to work at another airport, there was no replacement."

"Despite its glamorous image, no immigration officer wants to work at Suvarnabhumi. If they can choose, this airport would no doubt be their last choice," Pol Maj Gen Natthorn said.

"Heavy workloads, a high risk of facing a probe when it comes to a mistake, unattractive [overtime] payments and high living costs [in Bangkok] are among the reasons they don't like Suvarnabhumi."

Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan said he had recently discussed with Finance Minister Kittiratt Na Ranong a proposal to improve the working conditions of Suvarnabhumi's immigration officers.

Marisa Pongpattanapun, chairwoman of the Airline Operators Committee (AOC), a coalition of global airline managers, said the AOC was well aware of the problems facing Immigration Division 2 and had discussed possible solutions with the AoT and the Immigration Bureau.

She said it was important to resolve the problems at immigration because long queues can cause passengers to miss their flights.

"The matter really needs to be resolved for the sake of the country's tourism reputation," she said.

Immigration Bureau – the government agency dealing with people entering and leaving the country and those who want to live there สำนักงานตรวจคนเข้าเมือง
deflect – to try to prevent/to succeed in preventing something from being directed towards you ทำให้แบน,บ่ายเบน
criticism – comments that show that you think something is wrong or bad การวิจารณ์
defend – to say things to support someone or something ปกป้อง
rash – a lot of something; a series of unpleasant things that happen over a short period of time การระบาด,ความแพร่หลาย
handle – to take action in order to deal with a difficult situation ดูแล จัดการ, ดูแล
arrival – when someone reaches where they are going (arrives) ขาเข้า การเข้ามา
departure – leaving การออกจาก
combination – putting together การรวมกัน
understaffing – not having enough workers to do a job well
steady – staying at the same level, speed, value etc ไม่เปลี่ยนแปลง, สม่ำเสมอ
responsible for – to have a duty to do something มีความรับผิดชอบ, มีความรับผิดชอบ
maximum – the most possible ที่สูงสุด ที่มากที่สุด
capacity – the total amount or number that can be handled or contained ปริมาณสูงสุดที่จะรับได้
estimate – to say what you think an amount or value is or will be, either by using available information or by guessing คาดคะเน
currently – at this time; now ในปัจจุบัน
promote – to move someone to a job at a higher level เลื่อนตำแหน่ง
man – to be responsible for working at a particular place or operate a particular piece of equipment ประจำที่
flood – to do/come in large numbers เข้ามาอย่างท่วมท้น
skip – to not do something that you usually do or that you should do; to avoid ไม่เข้าร่วม, ขาด
workforce – all the people who work for a particular company, organization, etc. แรงงาน, คนทำงาน
negotiate – to try to reach an agreement by discussing something in a formal way เจรจาต่อรอง
Comptroller General’s Department – the government department in charge of accounting กรมบัญชีกลาง
revenue – income from taxes or business activities รายได้
fund – to provide money for something ให้เงินทุน
improve – to make better  ทำให้ดีขึ้น
conditions – the circumstances or situation in which people live, work or do things เหตุการณ์, สภาพการ, สถานการณ์
recruitment – the process of finding people to work for a company or become a new member of an organisation การสรรหาใหม่
cash – money เงินสด
incentive – something that makes you want to do something or work harder, because you know that you will benefit by doing this สิ่งกระตุ้น
overtime – time that you spend working at your job after you have worked the normal hours เวลาพิเศษที่นอกเหนือจากเวลาทำงานปกติ
stressful – involving or causing a lot of pressure or worry ตึงเครียด
source – someone who gives information แหล่งข่าว
claim – to say that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it อ้าง
commute – to regularly travel between work and home เดินทางระหว่างบ้านและที่ทำงาน
shift – a period of work time in a factory, hospital or other place where some people work during the day and some work at night เวร, กะ หรือระยะเวลาทำงานเป็นช่วงๆ,
double shift – working two shifts without stopping
literally – really true; exactly as what was said อย่างแท้จริง, อย่างตามตัวอักษร
replacement – someone or something that takes the place of another ผู้การทำหน้าที่แทน, การทำหน้าที่แทน
glamorous – especially attractive and exciting, and different from ordinary things or people ซึ่งดึงดูดใจ,มีเสน่ห์,เต็มด้วยความตื่นเต้นและการผจญภัย
image – an opinion that people have about someone or something ภาพลักษณ์
workload – the amount of work that has to be done by a particular person or organisation ปริมาณงานที่คนหรือเครื่องจักรทำได้ระยะเวลาหนึ่ง
probe – an investigation  การสอบสวน
unattractive – not good, interesting or pleasant ไม่ดึงดูดใจ, ไม่น่าสนใจ,น่าเบื่อหน่าย
proposal – a plan or suggestion for a group to consider ข้อเสนอ
coalition – the union of different groups for a particular purpose, usually for a limited time การร่วมกัน,การร่วมมือกัน,สัมพันธมิตร
aware – to know that something exists, or to have knowledge or experience of a particular thing ทราบ
resolve – to solve a problem, or to find a satisfactory way of dealing with it  แก้ไขปัญหา
queue – a line of people waiting for something คิว
for the sake of – for the benefit or good of someone or something ผลประโยชน์
reputation – the opinion people have about how good or bad someone or something is ชื่อเสียง

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