UPDATE: Malaysian drivers bewildered by Thailand Pass, as southern border reopens
THOU SHALL NOT PASS. That’s the message some northern-bound Malaysian travelers received when they attempted to drive their cars into Thailand on yesterday morning, only to find they’d forgotten the most important thing: you STILL need to register for Thailand Pass. In advance.
Thailand finally reopened its land border with Malaysia on April 1 for travelers by private transportation. But it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for those who forgot that the beleaguered Thailand Pass system is still in place — and you’re required to register before entering the country. Apparently, not many people got the memo. Little more than a hundred Malaysians had registered before the Sadao crossing in Songkhla province opened at 5 o’clock this morning, the Bangkok Post reported.
Bewilderment at the Border
A boarder town across from the Malaysian state of Kedah, Sadao is home to the primary land crossing with Malaysia, which had been closed for two years due to the pandemic. Local police, as well as soldiers, were ready to provide assistance to customs officials today, in case things got out of hand. Probably, they were prepared to arrest anyone who attempted to gun it across the border when they realized they didn’t have a stupid QR code and all that ridiculous paperwork, including a Covid-19 vaccination certificate and proof of reservation/booking for a SHA extra plus hotel, whatever the heck that is.
According to local officials, some northern-bound Malaysians were confused to find that they couldn’t enter Thailand with simply a passport and proof of vaccination, like they could enter Singapore at their southern border starting the same day. Thailand customs officials reportedly turned away would-be travellers who had failed to sign up for the Thailand Pass system. In total, only 107 travel-ready Malaysians had jumped through all the right hoops to enter the Land of Smiles.
The Fortunate Few
Those Malaysians travelers who had all their paperwork ready were allowed to enter Thailand under the Test & Go scheme, where they were required to take an RT-PCR test, then wait at their SHA extra plus hotel for about five hours for the results. According to officials, those who test negative will be free to roam the country. But the incoming foreigners mustn’t forget the law of the land — to always wear a mask in public and wash your hands often. Anyone who tests positive for the virus will be “treated” — i.e. quarantined at one Sadao’s 7 SHA extra plus certified hotels.
Ryan Lih was one of the fortunate few who entered Thailand at the Sadao crossing yesterday via Test & Go with the first batch of drivers from Malaysia. He said he had applied for Thailand Pass seven days in advance and received his QR code the same day…. “There’s no fooling anyone. Many Malaysians are either not internet savvy enough to read/follow the news about the requirements [or] just assumed the old processes, by which they find out the hard way.”
Local officials say they’ve set up a coordination centre to assist the incoming visitors, yesterday most of whom have families or businesses in Thailand, the Bangkok Post reported. Meanwhile, other checkpoints in provinces along Thailand’s southern border are also scheduled to reopen today, the Bangkok Post reported.
Local officials pointed out that more foreign travellers could now enter the country using the Thailand Pass system since the the government has already relied the Covid-19 travel requirements under the Test & Go scheme. However, that was clearly not the case for those who mistakenly thought they could get in with just a Malaysian passport and nothing more. Indeed, that used to be the case. Welcome to the new normal.
A Better Way
The situation along Thailand’s southern border presents a stark contrast to Malaysia’s southern border with Singapore, which also repoened yesterday for the first time since two years of pandemic — without the pandemic-era requirements of Covid-19 testing and quarantine. Now fully-vaccinated travellers can freely cross the land boarder on the southern end of the Malay peninsula with only a valid passport and proof of vaccination. Children up to age 12 who aren’t fully vaccinated must be accompanied by a fully-vaccinated adult.
Lines of cars, motorcycles and people on foot began forming at border crossings before midnight and had successfully crossed over by 1am, CNA reported. As of 7am, more than 11 thousand travellers had passed through the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints, according to the the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, which had set up new automated lanes to accommodated the anticipated influx of travellers.
At the Woodlands Checkpoints, about a hundred people lined up to board the cross-border shuttle buses early in the morning and vehicles honked as they crossed over to the other side, CNA reported… “People cheered and waved their hands as they approached the barricades.”
The border reopening follows bilateral agreements from Singapore and Malaysia to ease their pandemic-era travel restrictions, as the two nations embrace living-with-covid strategies in an effort to end the pandemic restore normal rhythms of life among their populations in Southeast Asia.
Last week, Singapore and Malaysia health ministers said that their nations were working together to fully resume air and land travel for vaccinated travellers. In the pre-pandemic era, the two countries shared one of the busiest land crossings in the world.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post | CNA
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