Police look to close ID theft escape route

Corrupt officials in North border areas helping major criminals evade justice

Aman named as Somchai Rakyodying on his ID card was arrested in Myanmar last August for smuggling cold and flu pills containing pseudoephedrine, a precursor drug for manufacturing methamphetamine.

His ID listed him as a local of Doi Saket district of Chiang Mai province _ but the man immediately denied being a Thai national.

In fact, "Somchai" is a Myanmar national, and the name and address on his ID were false, bought on the black market in Chiang Mai. Once his real identity was revealed, he could no longer be sent to Thailand for prosecution.

Earlier, drug kingpin Wei Hsueh-kang, wanted by police in Thailand and the United States, was nabbed with ID cards naming him as "Prasit Cheewinnitipanya", "Charnchai Nitipanya" and "Suchart Phanlertkul".

In another case, Pol Lt Col Sakda Changrua, a former deputy superintendent of Lumpini police station who was arrested for sexual abuse and rape of minors, tried to escape by having his name included in the list of people killed in the 2004 tsunami.

Somchai Khunploem, aka Kamnan Poh, who was on the run for six years evading convictions for murder and corruption, was registered as "Kim Sae Tang" at a hospital in Bangkok where he was seeking treatment. He was arrested on his way back from the hospital late last month.

These cases demonstrate the widespread use of fake identities by criminals to escape justice.

Pol Lt Col Pong-in Intrakaw, director of the Bureau of Security Crime at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), admits the use of fake identities is rampant.

On his visit to Mae Ai district in Chiang Mai he found the illegal practice of issuing Thai ID cards for foreigners exists at all levels of the government.

"Somchai Rakyodying" _ the name used by the Myanmar drug smuggler _ is actually the name of a disabled Thai man, he said.

"People use fake ID cards mostly for two purposes," Pol Lt Col Pong-in said.

"One is to commit crimes with ease, and the other is to escape an arrest warrant after committing the crime.

"The problem is rampant in border areas. State agencies, especially the Department of Provincial Administration, must urgently act to solve it."

Civil registration officials at the department said criminals can easily get their hands on fake ID cards if they are helped by state officials, ranging from low-ranking data input officials to high-ranking officials who have access to classified information.

Officials are tempted by the illicit business as the ID cards sell for 100,000-300,000 baht each. If they are being issued for a major criminal, the price can be as much as 1 million baht.

Corrupt officials can mine the databases of the Department of Provincial Administration to match criminals with missing persons with similar appearances and height.

The database contains records of fingerprints, and an alarm is set off if the new card-holder's fingerprints don't match the ones on record. But corrupt high-ranking officials can overrule the alarm and approve the fingerprints of the new ID card-owning criminals.

The new ID card gives fugitives the chance to start a new life with a new identity, to engage in financial transactions and apply for a new passport.

The Department of Provincial Administration and the DSI have found that the practice of issuing fake ID cards is particularly rampant in the North, and involves 7-8 major criminal organisations.

The DSI has started a probe in Wiang Haeng district of Chiang Mai, where as many as 19,000 stateless people have sought ID cards.

The flood of requests is the result of cabinet resolutions in 2005 and 2006 to allow stateless people who have been in Thailand from 1999 or earlier to be eligible for ID cards.

Pol Lt Col Pong-in said an initial investigation found that some of the foreigners who entered Thailand after 1999 were registered in the system, while some names were entered into the civil registration database without the consent of a registrar. Some registrations lacked an acknowledgement by a witness and were often incomplete.

Contact Crime Track: crimetrack@bangkokpost.co.th

About the author

Writer: King-oua Laohong
Position: Reporter