Illegal vendors in protection racket

Illegal vendors in protection racket

Cops sell stickers in labour scam

Rogue police are selling Doraemon stickers to foreign street vendors as "insurance" that they won't be arrested for their illegal activities, police say.

Vendors whose carts are emblazoned with images of Doraemon, a Japanese manga series popular among Thais, are allowed to rove around certain areas of the city without fear of arrest despite being illegal migrants.

Authorities refer to them as "suai stickers" and believe they are a new criminal tool.

The practice has prompted a clampdown on foreigners working illegally here and a probe into the behaviour of some rogue police accused of handing out the stickers.

Crooked police run a protection racket for illegal migrants across Bangkok, where this 'suai sticker' of Doraemon assures they will not be arrested. (Bangkok Post photo)

In modern Thai, suai is often referred to kickbacks and, in this particular context, refers to money which illegal foreign vendors give to the officers in exchange for protection from legal action.

Labour officials who have rounded up some of the vendors say many vendors had small stickers with different pictures which they say they were told to buy if they wanted to avoid arrest.

Sources said some vendors were nabbed by police but later released after they were told to "pay suai to three police units".

The officers then gave them stickers to grant them safe passage to continue with their illegal activities.

One type of Doraemon sticker is valued at 500 baht. Another type is a cloth sticker which is priced at 300 baht.

Each month, vendors have to pay up to 1,000 baht each to authorities who on some occasions came in their full police uniforms to collect the money, the sellers claimed.

"The police involved work in teams with the help of state officials and police in their areas of their supervision," said Immigration Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn.

He denied his agency was involved in suai stickers, insisting the bureau has been walking the right track to crack down on illegal entry of workers from neighbouring countries.

The Department of Employment is also helping the bureau look out for illegal workers. The department found many foreigners illegally working as food sellers in busy parts of Bangkok including Huai Khwang, Ratchathewi, Saphan Kwai and areas near the MBK shopping centre.

"They are stealing careers from Thais," Surasak Kaisit, chief of the department's foreign worker inspection section said.

Most of them are Vietnamese, who sell coconut ice cream, followed by Cambodians and Lao who usually sell fruit on pushcarts, he said.

It was often not easy to arrest the illegal traders because many disguise their true identities as they speak good Thai, Mr Surasak said.

Some foreigners start businesses and employ Thais as their "nominees" to avoid authorities' attention, Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said.

Some may end up committing more serious crimes as they are here illegally, he warned.

According to the department, only about 1.5 million foreign workers have registered with authorities.

The situation has prompted the Immigration Bureau to keep a watch on illegal labourers.

Its latest eight-day operation, which ended on May 25, bore some success as officers arrested more than 7,800 suspects, mostly Myanmar nationals, followed by Lao and Cambodians, according to Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn.

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