CHIANG RAI – It seems more and more we are hearing about more criminal cases involving foreign expatriates in Thailand. Thai Authorities need to get tougher on foreign criminals and the corrupt police officers who protect them.
Recently, the skeleton of a Hungarian billionaire was found on Samui Island. The man was believed to be a victim of a Hungarian-Israeli businessman being detained at Phuket Prison for the murder of another Hungarian earlier this year. The detained businessman, who went by another name in Hungary, is wanted in his own country, having fled after being sentenced to seven years in jail for fraud.
The Kingdom has become a haven – even a “heaven” in some cases – for foreign criminals escaping the hand of the law in their homelands. They include drug traffickers, murderers, sex offenders, con men and thieves.
Tourist centers like Phuket, Pattaya, Samui and Chiang Mai have become popular with foreign criminals and gangsters. While some of them are still directly involved in crime, others run legitimate businesses as fronts for illegal activities. Some extort their compatriots for protection money while others are involved in serious crimes such as murder, human smuggling, illicit drugs and other underground businesses.
Some foreign nationals who are wanted by the police in their home countries or by Interpol have been arrested in Thailand. They include Italian mafia boss Vito Roberto Palazzolo, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout and several sex offenders.
Some of these foreign men with criminal backgrounds choose to marry Thai women in order to bypass the law that prevents foreigners from owning property here. This helps them them to set up and run their own businesses in Thailand.
Foreigners routinely contribute to Thailand in creative and helpful ways. Some have set up projects that benefit the poor, the less privileged, and others who need assistance in our society, while at the same time many wealthy and powerful Thais get ever more selfish and greedy, to the detriment of their less-fortunate compatriots.
However, there are now more and more foreigners – many with criminal backgrounds in their own countries – who take advantage of Thailand’s relatively generous immigration policy, particularly toward nationals from wealthier countries.
Visas on arrival can be obtained easily. While this is convenient for tourists, foreign criminals find this satisfactory too, since the background check is not as tough as when applying for a visa at an embassy or a consulate.
When in Thailand, it is not difficult for foreign criminals to obtain false documents. Thailand is still known as a source of good-quality fake passports.
Good connections with local officials, particularly the police, also prove helpful for foreign criminals, allowing them to operate and stay undetected for a long period in their new home somewhere in Thailand. Regular bribes allow corrupt police officers to turn a blind eye to them and their questionable activities. Criminals such as German swindler Wolfgang Uelrich and Danish drug trafficker Rene Larsen were known to have close connections with the Pattaya police while they were residents in the resort city, before their separate arrests and eventual extradition to their respective countries.
A more efficient system should be developed to screen out foreigners with criminal records, particularly at the country’s airports. The immigration authorities should set up more branches of the Transnational Crime Data Center, like the one at their Pattaya office, in other tourist centers to help track down nefarious expatriates.
Corruption within the police force, again, is to blame for the prosperity of foreign gangsters. Good ties with the local police provide protection from the law. Police supervisors should be more serious about this and make sure no foreign criminals go undetected because of collusion on the part of their subordinates