Driving out the gangs

Driving out the gangs

Interview: Police flag visa law changes to help deter menace

Police arrest German national Olaf Thorsten Brinkmann, the prime suspect among the four arrested for their alleged involvement in the murder of Hans Peter Walter Mack. The arrest occurred in Bangkok on July 11. (Police photo)
Police arrest German national Olaf Thorsten Brinkmann, the prime suspect among the four arrested for their alleged involvement in the murder of Hans Peter Walter Mack. The arrest occurred in Bangkok on July 11. (Police photo)

The Royal Thai Police (RTP) will now look into five major biker gangs based in the country after arresting the leader, an Austrian national, and some members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club in Pattaya on July 21.

The arrest of gang leader "Mr Thomas" follows an incident in which a gang member, Olaf Thorsten Brinkmann, was involved in the murder of Hans Peter Walter Mack, 62, a German property broker in Nong Prue district, Chon Buri, in June.

For the murder case, police also arrested three other suspects: Petra Christl Grundgreif, 54, Nicole Frevel, 52, and Shahrukh Karim Uddin, 27.

Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, deputy national police chief, told the Bangkok Post that police are still working to eradicate crimes conducted by foreigners living on Thai soil.

"Five major gangs are on our radar," he said, adding they are the Outlaws Motorcycle Club or Outlaws MC, Hells Angels Motorcycle Club or Hells Angels, the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, which is also known as the Bandido Nation, the Mongols Motorcycle Club or the Mongol Brotherhood, and the Vagos Motorcycle Club, which is also known as the Green Nation.

The Outlaws also have their networks in Phuket and Koh Samui in Surat Thani, he said, adding the other gangs live in other parts of the country, mainly tourist destinations.

The gang members tend to ride big bikes like Harley-Davidson motorcycles, have tattoos and are involved in narcotic drug distribution and other criminal activities, including assault, extortion, theft, loan-sharking, fraud, money laundering, attempted murder or murder.

Most of the gangs in Thailand are run by Australian nationals, he said, adding they are international outlaw motorcycle clubs that have members in many countries around the world.

Some members come to Thailand and live in places that attract foreign tourists, such as Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui.

Their targets are foreigners. They demand protection fees from foreigners who want to run businesses in cities where the gang exists or even abduct them for money.

"They do not harm Thais because they know they will get into trouble easier than doing it to foreigners who will soon fly back to their home countries," he said.

Amending the law

Pol Gen Surachate said the lack of strict law enforcement and corrupt officials are other reasons the gang members chose to base themselves in Thailand.

He cited the Immigration Act as an example. He said the 1979 law is outdated and needs to be amended.

For example, re­quirements for obtaining a retirement visa are easy, he said, adding the law requires any foreigner aged at least 50 years old to have at least 800,000 baht in their bank account or an income certificate with a monthly salary not less than 65,000 baht. That requirement is too low and does not help screen quality applicants.

A lack of inspection of bank statements by Immigration Bureau (IB) officers also leaves room for some foreigners to window-dress their bank accounts.

Some even get help from visa agencies or IB officers, such as the case in which 107 immigration officers helped more than 3,000 Chinese nationals involved in "grey" businesses obtain visas in February, he said.

Stronger visa criteria could help prevent gang members or those on international criminal blacklists from entering the country.

"When mafia gangs still exist, foreigners do not feel safe. They may not want to travel to Pattaya or invest in the Eastern Seaboard. This causes huge damage to the country," he added.

Building up confidence

Pol Gen Surachate said police need to build trust among locals and foreigners. They need to enforce laws and ensure safety for international visitors.

"We will eradicate bad guys not only among gangs but also among police officials and agencies involved with foreigners. We need to make our foreign visitors feel safe when they come to Thailand," he said.

He cited an incident where a 22-year-old Chinese student was kidnapped for a ransom of 500,000 yuan (2.3 million baht) from her family living in China as another example.

The student was found tortured and murdered, with her corpse dumped in a ditch in Nonthaburi in April. The kidnappers were arrested in China.

News of the incident spread like wildfire, scaring many Chinese visitors who decided not to come to the kingdom.

Another incident was in March when police arrested three Chinese nationals for abducting a compatriot in Bangkok and extorting about 3.2 million baht from her.

He said the Chinese embassy also posted warning messages to its citizens about scams and frauds to prevent them from falling victim. The incidents show that Chinese visitors are concerned about their safety in Thailand.

"If we cannot suppress crimes happening to foreigners, it is not only the Chinese visitors who will not come, visitors from other countries like those in Europe will also avoid the place," he said.

Once a new government is in place, he will propose through the police chief that the new cabinet amend the immigration law, especially for visa extensions.

"We will make the law tough to screen out bad people, but the law will also be a tool to help foreigners, especially investors who can obtain a five-year visa without the need to be checked every year," he said.

For biker gangs, he said the Outlaws gang now has been rooted out from Pattaya. The police are now extending their investigation of the gang to Phuket and Koh Samui.

"When police strictly enforce the law, there will be no such crime gangs. But when we slack off or are comfortable taking bribes, those international criminal organisations will smell it and will come to Thailand and cause trouble. We must prevent that from happening for the safety of all people," he said.

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (108)