The theft of 300 visa labels from the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur has nothing to do with insurgency in the southern provinces, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul says.
ONE MONTH LATER: Nigerian tourist Nnamdi Igbolekwe, 23, after tourist police arrested him yesterday on Soi Nana.
Mr Surapong yesterday spoke to dispel the widely-accepted public theory linking acts of terrorism in the deep South and the visa label theft, after 12 people from countries considered terrorist threats to Thailand were arrested for allegedly using stolen visa labels last week.
Those arrested came from countries including Pakistan and Iran.
Mr Surapong said the Foreign Ministry's initial probe found some Malaysian staff who were employed by the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur were allegedly involved in the theft of the visa labels.
He added that no more visa labels had been stolen.
The ministry has issued an order for all Thai embassies worldwide to examine the current number of their Thai visa labels.
Mr Surapong said the ministry will ask for cooperation from hotel and resort operators to help register the visa number of foreign tourists and send them back to the ministry for verification.
Police in Bangkok and Nong Khai yesterday arrested three more suspects who allegedly used the stolen visa labels to enter Thailand.
Pol Col Archayon Kraithong, deputy commander of the Tourist Police Division, said police arrested a Nigerian tourist identified as Nnamdi Igbolekwe, 23, with stolen visa label no. A 5801948 at Soi Nana.
Police say Mr Igbolekwe told them he never entered Malaysia, but instead hired a Nigerian agent to forge a travel document for 120,000 baht in May and entered Thailand last month.
Pol Col Archayon said 259 foreigners have entered the country using the stolen visa labels, and 55 of those remain in Thailand. Police are still searching for the remaining 43 foreigners, whose names have been sent to security units nationwide. Police have said they will prioritise capturing those involved in drugs and transnational crime.
Nong Khai police on Friday arrested a Burundian businessman, Barut Wanayo, 42, and a Ghanaian football player, Philemon Sottie, 23, both caught with the stolen visa labels.
Mr Wanayo denied the accusation, saying that he was a garment exporter from Bangkok to Africa and has lived in Thailand for four years with legal documentation.
He said that in November, however, he accepted an Indian agent's offer to obtain a visa for him for 10,000 baht.
He said he obtained the visa at the Thai embassy in Vientiane, Laos before going back to Thailand via the Nong Khai border checkpoint.
Mr Sottie said he has lived in Thailand for more than two years to play football for the Surin FC team, and that he received a legal visa for residing in the country from the Thai consulate-general in Laos' Savannakhet province.
Pol Lt Col Pariwat Satjaphan, an inspector for the Nong Khai immigration police, said that Mr Wanayo's visa belonged to the group of lost visa labels from the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
He added that Mr Sottie's visa was unusual, because it did not include the capital 'A' in front of the visa number and the signature of the Thai consulate-general.
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