Thailand Pass needs fixing

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Hours after Digital Economy and Society Minister, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, assured the public that every bug that crippled the Thailand Pass system had been fixed, several prospective travellers still found themselves frustrated with the process.

The Thailand Pass is designed to enable air travellers — Thai and foreign — from 63 eligible countries/territories to enter Thailand without the mandatory 14-day quarantine. All they need is a one-night stay at a designated hotel while awaiting their RT-PCR test results under the “test and go” scheme. The pass is also offered to those travelling under the sandbox plan and others seeking an alternative quarantine scheme.

Launched on Nov 1, the system which replaced the Certificate of Entry (CEO) scheme — that required travellers to submit necessary travel documents online, such as vaccination logs, receipts of accommodation and RT-PCR payments and their US$50,000 health insurance coverage policy (for foreigners) — gives travellers access to a QR code. However, the “test and go” system collapsed on day one, prompting travellers to air their grievances on social media. In turn, the red-faced government promised a quick solution.

Mr Chaiwut, who inspected Suvarnabhumi airport on Wednesday, was confident that Thailand Pass is now fully functional. He said travellers will no longer need to show certain documents as they arrive as “all are now 100% digital”.

He was apparently responding to a netizen who had complained that the Thailand Pass QR code was useless as authorities had still demanded physical documents, causing a long queue at the airport. A photo of people queuing to have documents checked was uploaded online.

Many prospective travellers are not convinced by Mr Chaiwut’s assurances. They found the system wasn’t working well; some even complained and sought help from fellow netizens.

Others have technical issues. One user noted that the online system seems only compatible with Gmail. Those reportedly using Outlook and Hotmail were left frustrated. Some have questioned whether the system is a good idea for Thailand, citing the frequent glitches with state online registration schemes.

While the system requires applicants to register at least seven working days prior to departure, they can’t track the progress of their application or make changes to their documents. This leaves applicants feeling anxious as they wait. A few even said they dreaded the approval time, especially when the process is slow.

It must be noted that the registration system causes headaches for people on business trips and those staying abroad for more than a few days. They have to wait at least seven days for their Thailand Pass approval. If anything goes wrong, it could be disastrous for them.

The authorities have to look into this problem and provide an alternative process. Perhaps bringing back the COE system on a case-by-case basis is not a bad idea.

Such glitches in the Thailand Pass system hamper the government’s reopening plan, and a quick and efficient solution is needed. The government should review the system and develop an alternative to let people travel.

Such a centralised, hands-on bureaucratic system may no longer suit the needs of people. How about allowing airlines that already examine visas to do the job? They could also check travel documents before allowing passengers on board. This could also ensure low-risk travel amid a pandemic without causing big headaches.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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