Send the triads packing

Send the triads packing

The latest crackdowns against accused members of Chinese triads are not just cops routinely chasing after baddies. The much-reported case of Chaiyanat "Tuhao" Kornchayanant, an alleged leader of a Chinese crime syndicate who turned himself in to the police, shows these suspects are not small-time but are well-connected and powerful people.

His case is a glaring example. The 40-year-old Chinese businessman, who runs many businesses, was wanted on an arrest warrant issued by the Bangkok South Criminal Court for illicit drug-related charges. After turning himself in, the court last week denied him bail. Meanwhile, his assets, including a small private jet and luxury cars, have been frozen.

Before last week, the suspect led a luxurious life living in a 200-million-baht mansion in Bangkok while holding Thai nationality after marrying a Thai policewoman, who is reported to be a niece of a former national police chief and a former justice minister in the previous civilian-elected government. As a Thai citizen, Tuhao also donated three million baht to the Palang Pracharath Party.

The Chinese-born businessman came to Thailand over 20 years ago with a clean record. The only known spot on his record while in Thailand was that he was charged as the mastermind behind the torching of a snake zoo in Phuket in 2012, which he was acquitted later after the public prosecutor decided not to send his case to court. The case was much reported on as a hired thug severely beat a security guard to the extent that the guard was left paralysed. Despite this, Tuhao was granted Thai nationality in 2015.

So big questions have arisen. How can such foreigners stay on Thai soil, and how can they get legal papers such as a Thai ID?

Information revealed so far by deputy national police chief Surachate Hakparn has been shocking. Many Chinese triads fled Cambodia after the government there launched a crackdown targetting them a few years ago. Once in Thailand, they opened online gambling networks, bars, and gambling dens to cater to Chinese people -- most of such venues also sell drugs.

According to police, many of these suspects entered Thailand by using student visas issued by schools and foundations opened by Chinese people. It's been reported that one school guaranteed several hundred student visas to Chinese people -- many of these students, according to Pol Gen Surachate, are aged over 50. These details are perfect for a movie script, but sadly, they prove the reality of corruption in Thailand.

The government, especially PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, who declared war against corruption, needs to do more than pay lip service to these matters. The government comprises the Palang Pracharath Party, which received a 3-million-baht donation from Tuhao, yet it has been quiet.

Gen Prayut needs to order responsible ministries to probe officials responsible for immigration and the issuing of citizenship and legal status to such suspects. Officials must monitor Chinese-invested schools and foundations in Thailand. Moreover, without policy support from the government, this case could end up in limbo, like the case of Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, princeling of the Red Bull energy drink family.

Above all, the government must withdraw Thai citizenship given to suspects instead of letting them stay in Thailand. For those who are proven guilty and serve jail terms, they must be sent back to China to face further justice, another penalty these triad members fear.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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