PHUKET: Foreign teachers will continue to be the target of Immigration crackdowns, Thai Immigration Chief Pol Lt Gen Suwat Tumrongsiskul confirmed during his recent visit to Phuket on Monday.
His agency, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education (MoE), will continue to conduct strict background checks on all foreigners applying for teaching jobs in the Kingdom.
Gen Suwat said Immigration agreed with the MoE that such a crackdown was necessary to prevent crime and to protect students from the unqualified foreign teachers and those with deviant sexual behavior that could put children at risk.
Gen Suwat, in Phuket to attend a ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the new Phuket Immigration Office, confirmed that the new measures stemmed from the deportation last year of American John Mark Karr, a former suspect in the 1996 murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado.
Karr, a confessed pedophile who falsely confessed to the Ramsey murder, was teaching at a school in Bangkok. He was deported under personal escort by Gen Suwat, who told reporters in the US that he sang the Bee Gees song Words to Karr to lift his spirits during the trip stateside.
On a more serious note, Gen Suwat told Phuket reporters said that random checks of 1,000 foreigners teachers had turned up 65 whose academic credentials had been forged.
“This convinced us of the need to be more strict in checking teachers’ qualifications. We don’t want unqualified teachers or sexual deviants teaching Thai children. This crackdown will help us to better screen the backgrounds of people coming here to teach,” he said.
Gen Suwat admitted that it is difficult to ascertain a person’s sexual proclivities though such checks, but said that police could gain valuable information about applicants by checking to see if they had criminal records back in their home countries.
On October 1, Immigration began enforcing a measure limiting to 90 days [over any 180-day period] the length of stay of tourists entering the country on successive “visas-on-arrival”. When asked if the new regulation had caused confusion and delays at Immigration checkpoints, Gen Suwat said the counting process was “no problem” for his officers, who could use a computer to help them count up the days.
He defended the new measure by saying it had little impact on legitimate long-stay tourists but was an effective way to prevent foreigners from using the free visas to stay in the country and work illegally.
“The 30-day tourist visa allows enough time for a tourist to travel around the country. If people want to work here, they should apply for a [non-immigrant] visa from the Thai embassy in their home country before coming,” he said.
Gen Suwat added that Immigration will continue to seek out and deport foreigners who overstay their visas and stay in the country working illegally, adding that nationals of China, India and Pakistan were among the most common offenders.
Regarding reports of long delays at Immigration checkpoints at Phuket International Airport, Gen Suwat said the situation has been improved by an increase in the number of Immigration officers posted there.
Additional officers could also be assigned there temporarily from other Immigration offices in the region if the need arises, he said.
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