Customs chief tries to explain declaration directive
The Customs Department has tried to allay fears about a request for passengers to declare valuables before leaving the country, saying it is only a voluntary matter designed to help people returning to the country with the same items.
The request, made under Customs Announcement No 60/2018 and signed by Customs Department chief Kulit Sombatsiri on Feb 26, has raised eyebrows as it is thought it could cause problems for outbound travellers.
Outbound passengers with valuable items, such as watches, cameras or laptop computers, which have serial numbers that can be verified, can report to custom officers in the outbound passenger zone, he said.
They need to give two photos of each item to officials as well, he said.
After officials check the items, passengers will be issued documents listing the valuables to present to Customs when returning to the country.
The requirement has sparked criticism, particularly in social media.
Mr Kulit said the department is only suggesting that people taking valuable items out of the country declare them with customs officials so there is official proof that they have done so.
This measure is to prevent problems arising if they are randomly searched when returning to Thailand so they can prove the items are personal property and not bought abroad immediately prior to returning, he said.
The full 'suggestion' list is on the Customs Department's website.
It includes this notice:
"WARNING: The information in this website is intended as a general guideline only and subject to changes without prior notice."
People can decide whether or not to declare the items as this is not a legal requirement, Mr Kulit said.
In the same announcement, people travelling to Thailand with items subject to duty valued at no more than 200,000 baht can pay a direct levy at the airport without going through a lengthy import declaration process like that with regular "imported goods" which takes more time.
This is a rise in threshold as this duty declaration only used to apply to items in luggage worth up to 100,000 baht in total in the past. This would be more convenient for travellers, Mr Kulit said.
People bringing in personal items will have duty waived for items worth 20,000 baht in total or under.
Taxes will also be waived for people bringing up to 100 cigarettes or one litre of spirits into the country.
Customs Department deputy director general Chaiyut Kumkun said the controversial request is not new.
It was part of an old regulation which was issued under the 1926 Customs Act, he said.
The old Customs Act was repealed and has been replaced by the 2017 Customs Act. As a result, old items under the old law were revoked so the department has to issue new announcements covering the same details, he said.