At the 27th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur in December, the ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 with 290 action plans. In the next 10 years, the member countries would be occupied trying to implement all of them.
Under the effort to promote awareness of people-oriented and people-centered community, there are 7 action plans that all members must take up in the near future.
One of them is the efficient implementation of ASEAN Lane at international airports in all member countries. So far, only Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have set up the "ASEAN Lane” at international airports in their capitals.
Although Thailand was the first country to establish ASEAN Lane back in 1995 for two and half years when it first chaired the 5th ASEAN Summit. Unfortunately, the special lane was not utilized by the passport holders from ASEAN countries. Most of the users were from European and Asian countries. This was partly due to the lack of publicity and awareness among the visitors from ASEAN.
Today, Suvarnnabhumi International Airport has three ASEAN lanes which still are underutilized by ASEAN visitors. The Thai Immigration Bureau need a public relation campaign to educate those officials at the check-in area about the importance of ASEAN Lane as they still have no idea about the purpose of such exclusive lane.
Former secretary general of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, said that the ASEAN Lane is the most tangible step that would make the ASEAN citizens proud of their ASEAN Community. He said that Thailand should be the first country to implement the ASEAN Lane permanently.
"In the future, there will be just "ASEAN Lane” and "Non-ASEAN Lane” just like we normally see at airports in EU with "EU Lane” and "Non-EU Lane”.
Beginning December, the Malaysian immigration officials have strictly enforced the ASEAN lanes. Travelers from ASEAN members are urged to use the ASEAN lanes. Those from ASEAN lining up at "Foreigner” lanes have been asked to switch to the "ASEAN Lanes”.
The notion of having ASEAN Lane was considered as part of the effort to increase people-to-people through facilitating the travelers from ASEAN. When former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva initiated the ASEAN connectivity in2010, he envisaged the ASEAN Lane as part of the overall plans to promote links to all countries and their peoples within the grouping.
Vietnam is another country that has taken seriously the ASEAN Lane, which as established over a year ago. Indonesia is also experimenting with such lane at the Hatta International Airport.
Other ASEAN members such as Cambodia and the Philippines are pondering how best to do the ASEAN lane in their international airport.
In addition, ASEAN must also consider ways and means to promote an ASEAN common visa for non-ASEAN nationals. At the moment, only Thailand and Cambodia have a common visa to promote tourism in their countries. Other members could join in the pool in the future.