Malaysia puts harsh brakes on Thai drivers

KHUAN DON, THAILAND: In a move sure to bring frowns and grimaces to the Land of Smiles, Thailand’s neighbor to the south has introduced measures making it an almost hopeless enterprise for Thais to enter Malaysia by automobile. At the Khuan Don border (near Satun) this afternoon, Malaysian authorities in spiffy blue uniforms were handing out “Rules” flyers to scores of astonished Thai drivers in the immigration queue. Issued by the Department of Road Transport and bearing the greeting “Welcome to Malaysia”, the flyers advise the drivers that: – Their vehicle’s license plates must be Romanised; – Their vehicle’s registration certificate must be translated into Bahasa Malay or English; – The driver of the vehicle must have a driver’s license which has been translated into Bahasa Malay AND English; – Thai liability insurance is no longer acceptable – Malaysian insurance must be purchased; and – Vehicle window tint must not exceed 50%. Since all Thai license plates carry at least one letter from the Thai alphabet, there arises an immediate need for on-the-spot Romanisation. It was unclear how this would be accomplished. Thai driver’s licenses and vehicle registration certificates are issued in the Thai language only. A Malaysian official contacted at the border said that, despite the stipulations in the “Rules” leaflet, translation of only one of the documents would suffice. Translation should be obtained from the Thai motor vehicle office where the document was issued, he added. In the case of a driver’s license, translation into either Bahasa Malaysia or English – not both – would be “okay for a short visit”. Noting that many foreigners in Thailand do ‘visa turn-arounds’ by driving into Malaysia for a few minutes every 90 or 180 days, as needed to comply with Thai law, the Gazette asked an Immigration officer on the Thai side of the border whether the stiff Malaysian rules were being applied to foreigners other than Thais. “Yes,” he said. “Foreigners with a Thai driver’s license and a Thai-registered vehicle must get their licenses translated before arriving at the border. If they don’t know this in advance, they must turn back and go get it.” “But,” he noted from his vantage point less than 30 meters from the Malaysian immigration booth, “it seems that a lower percentage of Westerners in the queue are having to make U-turns than Thais.” With the Malaysian Embassy in Bangkok closed for public holidays today and tomorrow, the Gazette was unable to obtain clarifications or comment. The Malaysian Embassy in Bangkok can be reached at (02) 679 2190/5. The telephone numbers of the Phuket Motor Vehicle Department are (076) 211019 and (076) 211929.

Phuket News
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