Visa marriage crackdown targets police
Police officers are the latest target in the Immigration Bureau's crackdown on transnational criminals in Thailand.
Months after the bureau's tougher measures against crooked foreigners, including those who "lawfully" marry Thai women to stay in the country longer, its chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn has become increasingly aware that keeping a lookout for foreign suspects is not enough. He has to look more closely inside his agency, finding flaws that may hinder the crackdown.
In his latest order on Thursday to his subordinates nationwide, Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn warned officers against dishonest acts as he listed the bureau's action plans to screen foreigners in the country illegally.
Though he did not identify specific rogue officers, the order suggests he became concerned after inspecting procedures to check foreigners' travel to and from Thailand and for arresting foreign suspects.
Foreign travellers are, in some cases, required to pay immigration fees, but "if officers demand 'extra fees', they will be subject to both disciplinary and criminal punishments", Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said in the order.
He also stressed he would consider extending the punishments to cover the officers' commanders.
One part of his order also emphasises officers' operations to deal with foreigners suspected of having illegal status. Officers who "round up an unusually high number of suspects in one operation" or are dishonest must be transferred.
In short, all behaviour that violates the bureau's strict policy to ensure transparency must be eradicated, reads the order.
Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn has raised doubts about state agencies since his bureau in April unveiled a plan to crack down on fake marriages, following the marriage of an alleged South Korean criminal and a Thai woman.
He ordered immigration officers to investigate if authorities colluded with foreigners to help enable sham marriages.
The South Korean, identified as Jung Hyuneseok, married a Thai woman last year and has been on the run from South Korean and Interpol officers accusing him of running a drug trafficking business.
Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn suspected the 47-year-old businessman might have used his marriage to the woman as a way to stay in Thailand.
Another criminal suspect, a Japanese man named Shuhei Yoshizawa, is also believed to have married a Thai woman so he could remain in hiding in Thailand.
The man, who was arrested on May 1, was allegedly a key member of the Yakuza transnational crime syndicate.
An initial investigation by the Immigration Bureau found some Thai women agreed to marry foreigners as a front in return for "rewards worth only a few thousand baht", Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said. "But this can eventually affect national security."
In Bangkok and neighbouring provinces, authorities last year granted long-term stay rights in Thailand to 7,770 foreign men following their marriages to Thai women. But, he said, 819 cases were later found to have irregularities.
Bogus marriages are bad enough and things will get worse if authorities are complicit. Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn is aware that he must clear up possible irregularities, related to marriages and illegal immigration, by first looking at his own agency.
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