Malaysian-owned buses have operated openly between Malaysian cities and Hat Yai for years. (Screen grab YouTube/Shaan Uday)

Songkhla: Authorities have been urged to issue clear guidelines on the use of foreign-registered buses in the southern province of Songkhla following the recent seizure of Malaysian buses in Hat Yai.

The call for a clear policy came at a meeting hosted on Sunday by the 4th Army Region to address the business operators’ concerns after security agencies stepped up a crime suppression campaign in tourist destinations.

The crackdown is threatening the local tourism industry, especially in Hat Yai where several foreign-registered buses from Malaysia were seized in the past weeks. According to reports, Thai authorities impounded seven Malaysian-owned express buses for entering the country illegally in November last year. Several Malaysian nationals were also arrested for lack of valid travel documents and work permits.

Hat Yai is a popular destination for Malaysian nationals, who cross the border using chartered bus services. Provincial authorities have allowed foreign-registered buses in for years to boost tourism, but the law-enforcement agencies deem the practice illegal.

At Sunday’s meeting, attended by local businesses including hoteliers and tour guides, police, local administrators and transport officials were warned the crackdown would backfire on the tourism industry, which relies heavily on tourists from Malaysia and Singapore.

The state officials said there was no formal agreement between Thailand and Malaysia on allowing vehicles from the two countries to provide cross border services and that the provincial authorities had “relaxed” the rules for years for tourism’s sake.

A proposal was also tabled to upgrade Hat Yai railway station, enabling it to take more tourists from Malaysia. Hat Yai expects an increase in tourist arrivals following the introduction of electric train services from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar, which borders Songkhla’s Sadao district.

News Reporter

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