BANGKOK – Thailand’s Immigration and Tourist Police are set to press charges next week against a number of International and Language schools with falsifying visa documents on behalf of foreigners to acquire student visas.
Previous police crackdowns found a number of foreign criminals in possession of education visas, which police believe were illegally obtained in order to allow suspects to remain in Thailand longer than on tourist visas.
The schools set to be charged allegedly colluded with Thai brokers and a group of immigration police officers to offer student visas to individuals who were known not to have any intention of studying during their stay in the country, Tourist Police Bureau deputy chief Surachate Hakparn told the Bangkok Post yesterday.
“We now know who the brokers and police officers are and are going to act against the schools,” he said.
The move followed the arrest of 64 foreign suspects in 125 locations, including international schools.
“Students” holding non-immigrant visas known as “ED” visas are allowed to live in the country on a yearly basis, he said.
The latest arrests, conducted under the “X-Ray Outlaw Foreigners” campaign, involve two suspects from Nigeria, one from Ghana and one from Sierra Leone who are facing charges including illegal entry into Thailand.
African tourists have been under close surveillance after investigators found members of some criminal gangs from Africa enrolled as students at language schools.
In an earlier operation, officers who nabbed the so-called “romance scammers”, who swindled single Thai women out of money, found they held student visas, according to Pol Maj Gen Surachate.
According to investigators, many only enrolled in those schools as a front and rarely, if ever, actually attended classes.
However, police are now well aware of this practice and have warned schools against advertising as “visa changing sites”, said Pol Maj Gen Surachate.
His agency is preparing to meet education officials to discuss ways to prevent foreigners from exploiting legal loopholes in order to remain in the country illegally.
Tourist police have carried out operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigners for over a year and so far arrested 1,088 suspects.