Do you have a plan to fly from Bangkok? If yes and you depart from Suvarnabhum, you might see a new machine installed there, or you may even be asked to be in that machine, in the departure lounge since two days ago (Jan 25, 2010). Yes, it’s a full body scanner machine called Brijot Gen 2 which cost the authority 5 million baht (about 150,000 US dollar) each. Is it a good bye for pat-down style?
Well, this time, Airports of Thailand conducts a testing with the scanner for a month. As such the use of this military sounds name machine would be limited during the test run and then only on a “voluntary” basis. What does that mean?
All passengers would undergo the usual screening with metal detectors and X-ray machines first. Only passengers who are suspected of having concealed objects on their bodies under their clothes would be asked to choose: common manual pat-down screening or a “virtual pat-down” by the scanner. I prefer to call that as “virtual strip search”.
The installment of this machine is said to be the effort to boost security in line with other major gateways around the world. Thanks to the bomb attack trial on the Northwest 253 flight (London-Detroit) on last Dec 25, 2009, by a Nigerian man. This fail effort triggered strong reaction from Barack Obama and seemingly a new chapter of world’s port security has been born.
Now the world’s biggest airports are installing those full body scanners. Countries that have added and will add this facility in their airports are including the US, Russia, the UK, Holland, Canada, and Nigeria (sorry if I missed to mention your country). Thailand is in the list also now.
However, there are some critics following the technology. The controversies that are being debated now are whether this technology is safe for human health as it uses the microwaves and whether the technology is effective to find certain smuggled objects on the human body. It is currently known that the scanner can fail to detect bomb-making components.
Other discussions are going around the privacy issue. Some critics say – following the ‘vulgar’ body image gained by the scanner – that this system is an affront to passengers’ rights, invasion of privacy, assault on the human essential dignity, and unacceptable peepshow for security industries. The UK even discusses the possibility that the technology will violate the child pornography law.
This is of course also an important issue for Muslims, men and women. Some think that it cannot be accepted and they utter the preference of being manually patted-down (by the same gendered officer) rather than being stripped even ‘virtually’ on the screen. They cannot accept that people see their ‘naked’ figure even though the officers are in a different room and the machine can blur the face part image.
Despite the pro and cons, Thailand seems have no such heavy debate of the implementation of this security system. I can be wrong, of course, as they may have debated this issue hard enough in their internet and news forums and in their own language which I can most probably not understand a piece of it. Poor me. Have a nice trip!