BUKIT KAYU HITAM: For a ride of just a kilometre long, the fee you have to pay is a whopping RM350. But if you find yourself without a passport and need to cross the Malaysian-Thai border, that fee guarantees you a hassle-free entry into Thailand and vice versa.
That is the “covert” service offered by motorcyclists turned taximen at the Malaysia-Thailand checkpoint in Bukit Kayu Hitam. The motorcyclists, comprising Malaysians and Thais, offer the transport service to those wishing to cross from the Bukit Kayu Hitam Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security (CIQS) Complex to the Duty Free Complex or the Thai Immigration Complex for a fee of between RM5 and RM10, if you happen to have all the necessary travel documents.
Follow BangkokJack on Facebook for all Thailand/Asia related news
However, those without travel documents are charged RM350. The New Straits Times learnt that the “service” had been around for some time, but previously the taximen would charge between RM80 and RM200. The motorcycle taxi riders, commonly known as motoesai rap chang among the Thais, have been raking in huge profits, especially on weekends when the number of people crossing the border into Thailand is at its peak.
The NST team inquired about the services provided by the motorcyclists yesterday. One of them, a local in his 40s, guaranteed he could smuggle people across the Thai checkpoint without any travel documents. He approached this reporter, offering his services for RM10.
When told a second person wanted to cross the border but had forgotten to bring his passport, the man said he could make the necessary arrangements. “I can help but you have to pay more, of course. I’m charging RM350 per person but I can only send you as far as Danok.
“I will have to ‘pay’ those manning the Immigration counters on the other (Thai) side to get through. I promise you, as long as we pay them, you will have no problem crossing the border,” he said.
The man and his colleagues operate under canopies erected on both sides of the border checkpoints. During yesterday’s stake-out, there were 10 motorcycles and three cars, mostly bearing Thai-registration, parked near the makeshift counters.
Besides the motorcycle taxis, the men also offer group rides in cars to southern Thai towns, from Danok to Hatyai. However, those boarding the cars are required to carry travel documents, as they have to go through the check-points. It is learnt that some of the customers are those who are barred from leaving the country.
Malaysian consul-general in Songkhla, Mohd Afandi Abu Bakar, advised visitors to use proper travel documents to enter Thailand to avoid getting into trouble. He said the number of Malaysians caught for illegally entering Thailand was small.
However, he said, it would be wise for them to avoid taking such risks. “Offhand, I do not have the figures, but the number is small compared with those caught for criminal activities, such as drug offences. “We strongly advise Malaysians not to take risks… use proper travel documents to cross the border,” he told the NST yesterday.
It is understood that those caught for failing to produce valid travel documents in Thailand could be fined up to 2,000 baht (about RM250) or risk being detained until they can produce their passports.
-New Straits Times