Songkhla keen on 24-hour checkpoint with Malaysia

Songkhla keen on 24-hour checkpoint with Malaysia

Malaysians queue up to pass through Thai immigration at Sadao checkpoint in Songkhla province on Monday as they pour into Songkhla for the Hariraya holiday marking the end of Ramadan. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan)
Malaysians queue up to pass through Thai immigration at Sadao checkpoint in Songkhla province on Monday as they pour into Songkhla for the Hariraya holiday marking the end of Ramadan. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan)

SONGKHLA - Traders and officials alike are looking forward to seeing the main border crossing with Malaysia open around the clock, but warn the benefits for tourism could be mixed.

The province has set up a panel to study the likely impact of the plan to open the Sadao checkpoint 24-hours a day to end the long lines at immigration and the increasing cargo congestion, and promote trade and tourism.

Deputy Songkhla governor Kajornsak Charoensopha said on Thursday the province agreed in principle with the idea, but was awaiting the report of a comprehensive study by Prince of Songkhla University.

The university's economics faculty has been commissioned to make the study, and to address the issue of preparations the province and business needs to make ahead of the change. Its report is due next month.

The two countries have already agreed to a one-hour extension of working hours at the Sadao checkpoint and at Malaysia's Bukit Kanyu Hitam, in Kedah state, on the other side of the border to ease the growing congestion of loaded trucks travelling in both directions.

The Thai office now opens from 5am-11pm and the Malaysian side from 6am-midnight.

The Sadao checkpoint is by far the busiest point for cross-border trade in the South, and for trade with Singapore through Malaysia. About 98% of Thai-Malaysian border trade passes through Sadao, according to the Commerce Ministry.

Malaysia has proposed the crossing remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Jahor Baru-Singapore crossing already operates around the clock.

Songkhla Chamber of Commerce chairman Kawitpong Sirithananonsakul said growing trade and tourism in Southeast Asia makes it inevitable the two countries will open up their border.

"Overall the tourism sector will benefit most (for Thailand), followed by transport," he said.

Still, Mr Kawitpong cautioned there could be some downside for the tourism sector once Malaysians could come and go at any time. "A concern for tourism operators is that Malaysian tourists would not need to stay overnight in Thailand," he said.

Hat Yai city is the main destination for Malaysians visiting southern Thailand.


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