Customs quells concerns over travel declaration

The Customs Department has eased concerns about its two new notifications, including the one requiring travellers declare watches, video cameras, cameras and computer notebooks before leaving the country.

The No.60/2561 notification, effective Feb 26, has been widely shared on social media by people who are worried they would have to declare such items every time they leave the country.

Department spokesman Chaiyuth Khankun said on Thursday the regulation aimed to facilitate travellers who had to take with them several of such items for exhibitions or other purposes and would bring them back to Thailand later.

“It helps if they declare them when they leave the country so the process will be easier when they bring them back,” he said.

Mr Chaiyuth stressed the measure was not compulsory and travellers could choose whether to do so.

As for the other much-criticised notification, which involves items brought into the country, Mr Chaiyuth said customs officials would assess risks and focus mainly on those with records or suspicious behaviours.

“For other travellers, we assume they would not act illegitimately,” he said.

Mr Chaiyuth reiterated the restrictions on most common taxable items brought with owners from abroad: exemption on total value up to 20,000 baht, up to one litre for liquor and alcoholic beverages and 200 cigarettes.

He explained further that there was nothing new in the content of the two notifications. In fact they have been in effect for a long time but had to be re-issued because the 1926 Customs Act on which the old notifications were based was replaced by the 2017 customs law.

The 20,000-baht exemption limit, put in place a few years ago from 10,000 baht earlier, was considered high among Asean countries, he added.

Boontium Chokewiwat, director of the Customs Bureau at Suvarnabhumi airport, said since mid-2017, only 82 travellers had declared items before leaving the country, or fewer than 10 a month on average.

But for items beyond the limits allowed to be brought into the country, at least one person is prosecuted each day and most of the goods are brand-name products such as handbags, watches, clothes and shoes. “In the last auction, we earned 40 million baht from selling such products,” he said.

Mr Boontium added the 20,000-baht duty exemption in fact applied to personal effects which had already been opened or used.

“So far, we’ve been flexible and focused on whether the goods are intended for sale. If they aren’t, we usually allow them to be kept.”