One of the country’s top officials has made it a matter of important national security to ferret out foreigners overstaying their Thai visas.
Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan met with the country’s military and other national security agencies to tell them to crack down after data emerged that there are 100,000 foreigners living in Thailand on expired visas, reported The Nation.
Not only is this illegal, but Gen. Prawit believes that the reason these people don’t have legit visas is because they may be criminals involved in shady business in the country, or on the run from police in other countries.
Some of the crimes that foreigners on visa overstays have committed in Thailand include drug dealing, weapon trading, human trafficking, prostitution, forgery, diamond sales (both real and fake), gambling and scams involving call centers and online dating.
Officials will be looking to check the visas for foreigners they have deemed influential and those that might be part of transnational crime syndicates posing as retirees, backpackers, or tourists.
Following the new report on overstayers, Gen. Prawit asked police to thoroughly check the visas for incoming and outgoing visitors and punish those overstaying to the full extent of the law.
A related issue to the crackdown on foreigners on overstay, especially those considered wealthy or influential, is that some of them may be bribing police officers monthly to allow them to remain in the country without visas.
The crackdown has already begun in Phuket, where police are searching for 142 foreigners believed to be bribing various officials as much as THB100 million (US$3 million) per month over visa issues.
In that investigation, one deputy police commander and a deputy superintendent from Phuket have already been transferred off the island under suspicion of corruption, reported Bangkok Post.
It was announced Friday that deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul requested the transfer and investigation, stating that there were foreigners known to be on overstay and had even been arrested for that transgression but the cases were not forwarded to the immigration police, a scenario that implies corruption.
As many as 15 Phuket cops are under investigation for not forwarding overstay arrests to immigration police while a few others have already been dismissed for wrongdoings.
Phuket has long been a haven for rich Europeans of various backgrounds that occupy the many seaside villas and yachts the dot the edges of the island.
So far, the police are just trying to round up the 142 foreigners in Phuket suspected of being on overstay for questioning. There are not yet arrest warrants, and the named parties are not yet blacklisted, but officers want to know if they are still in Thailand and why they did not renew their visas.
Though police are not yet aware of such widespread issues in Chonburi or Chiang Mai, where many foreigners live, it is likely that the crackdown will soon be extended there.