A breeze to get into Thailand but Malaysia tightens up

A breeze to get into Thailand but Malaysia tightens up
The camp sites in Wang Burma at the Malaysia-Thailand border outside Wang Kelian.
PHOTO: Harian Metro

PADANG BESAR - Entry into Malaysia from Thailand via the Wang Kelian checkpoint in Perlis has been tightened, especially after the gruesome discovery of mass graves and campsites last year.

While it was easy to just "wave and go" to get into Wang Prachan town of the Satun province in Thailand, getting into Malaysia was tougher with stringent checks by the authorities.

I tried driving into Wang Prachan and was surprised at how easy it was to just enter without having my passport checked.

A Thai immigration official asked: "Mau pergi mana? (Where do you want to go?)" and then signalled for me to go ahead when I told him that I wanted to go to Wang Prachan.

Getting out of Thailand was easier without even having to stop my car for any inspection.

However, getting into Malaysia was a different story.

Passports had to be scanned and stamped (for non-Malaysians) and vehicles were thoroughly screened.

A Malaysian Immigration Depart-ment officer at the Wang Kelian checkpoint was curious as to why my passport was not stamped when I entered Thailand.

"Next time, please ask them to have your passport stamped. If you go further and get caught by the Thai police or army, it'll be very troublesome," he said.

After that, my car was inspected by a Customs officer. A further 1.5km down the road, there was a check by the Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP).

There have been reports that the old "wave and go" culture was still prevalent although the practice of allowing border crossing within the 1km radius on weekends without documents, was rescinded last April.

I returned to the Wang Kelian checkpoint the next day for a three-hour observation.

Some 40 Thais walked over to Wang Kelian and all had their passports checked and stamped at the Immigration Department counter.

Cars, pickup trucks and motorcycles were also stringently checked by the Customs personnel on duty.

The only Thai cars that were allowed to "wave and pass" without being inspected were those of Thai police and immigration personnel.

Some 20km away at a UPP post in Padang Besar, vehicles especially pickup trucks and lorries were stringently screened. Documents of drivers and passengers were checked while some drivers had to alight to have their cars checked.

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