President of Thailand’s Udon Thani FC ‘Madam Wi’ accused of fraud

“Madam Wi,” the president of Thai League 2 team Udon Thani FC in northeast Thailand, has been accused of fraud after allegedly deceiving people into paying her money to find them work in South Korea.

Nine people filed a complaint at Mueang Udon Thani Police Station accusing 41 year old Arisara “Madam Wi” Chamun of fraud and violating the Employment Act.

The group claims that they paid 20,000 baht each for Madam Wi to find them work in South Korea. However, the work never materialised and they didn’t get their money back.

Madam Wi says it is a misunderstanding. She says she is just an intermediary between Thais looking for work and employers in South Korea.

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A victim, Watcharanai, said he is a welder and used to legally work in South Korea. After five years, his contract expired so he returned to Thailand and was unemployed.

On November 11, a friend informed Watcharanai that he could work in South Korea again with the help of Madam Wi, the owner of Udon Thani Football Club.

He said that he spoke to Madam Wi on the phone and she told him that the football team received an invitation letter to visit South Korea and that she could take him there with the football team and find him work.

Allegedly, Madam Wi told Watcharanai that he had to pay a fee of 20,000 baht. In total, more than 60 people were interested in taking up the opportunity and set up a LINE group to arrange a meeting at the football club.

Employers from South Korea came to the meeting, where several people paid the fee in exchange for contracts to work in South Korea.

The group brought receipts of money transfers, video clips from the meeting and chat messages spanning from November last year to January 6 this year.

Watcharanai claimed that another meeting took place on November 18 attended by Leo, a South Korean employer, as well as a translator.

In the meeting, he was told he could legally travel to South Korea with the football club’s invitation letter and gain a visa through the football club. They claimed there were agricultural jobs and factory work with proper contracts.

Watcharanai said that the potential employees were told to transfer the money by November 20.

The 20,000 baht fee covered accommodation and visa fees. They were also told that 500 baht would be deducted from their pay every day to further cover the fees.

Watcharanai said that they were told that if they were refused entry into South Korea then their money would be refunded.

On December 6, the group attended another meeting and people who were far away joined the meeting online. After the meeting, Watcharanai booked his trip to Korea.

The victims said they were told to apply for a K-ETA (Korea Electronic Travel Authorization) to enter the country. If their application was rejected then they would get a refund, they were told.

The first group of 15 people were set to fly to South Korea on December 23. However, when the time came, their K-ETAs had still not been approved.

So, the group were told to wait and fly with the second group on January 9. Still, January 9 came and not a single person flew to South Korea.

Everyone asked for their money back but never received a refund.

The victims explained that they were not “Little Ghosts” (Thais going to work illegally in Korea) but spoke directly with Korean employers through translators and acquired contracts.

The employers offered them work in kimchi factories and seaweed factories which they said were connected to Udon Thani FC.

They were told the process was legal which is why they all agreed to pay the 20,000 baht fee.

In the end, 25 people received their K-ETA but were told that they could enter the country but the job was no longer available. They were told they could enter Korea as “Little Ghosts” if they wished, said Watcharanai.

Only five people were interested in still making the move to South Korea but were told to pay an additional 8,000 baht each. Madam Wi took them to South Korea.

The nine people who filed a complaint said that Madam Wi said she would take the people who passed the K-ETA to Korea, but they did not trust her and asked for a refund.

Police are preparing an arrest warrant for Madam Wi under suspicion of violating Section 91 of the Employment Act by gaining money by deceiving others.

Udon Thani police said they investigating the case and if Madam Wi is found to be guilty she will be imprisoned for three to 10 years, pay a fine between 60,000 – 200,000 baht, or both.

Reporters spoke to Madam Wi on the phone, who said that she is just a mediator between Korean employers and budding Thai employees.

She said those who did not pass the K-ETA would receive a refund within 90 days. Ten people want refunds, she said.

However, then Madam Wi said she would have to deduct money from the refund to cover the airfare and registration fees.

Madam Wi said she is currently in Bangkok with her team for a football match. Once she returns to Udon Thani she will make a public statement on the matter, she said.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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