PATTAYA (AFP) – A senior security official has slammed Thailand’s lenient tourism policies for allowing international crime syndicates to enter the country and wreak havoc at will. “More and more international crime syndicates are basing themselves in Thailand because of the ease with which they can enter the country due to tourism policies,” said Khachadpai Buruspatana, secretary general of the National Security Council (NSC), at a seminar on transnational crime yesterday. “Crime syndicates are coming in waves and are engaging in prostitution, trafficking in women and children, and drug dealing,” he said. The majority of the crime syndicates come from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, he added. Khachadpai said that Thai immigration policies, designed to encourage tourism, allow foreigners to move through customs too quickly and that customs officials at airports do not possess sophisticated enough technology to track organized criminals. Thailand’s tourism industry posted robust growth of 10.5 percent in 1999, bringing much-needed foreign currency to the country’s recovering economy. Nationals from 96 countries can obtain a visa on arrival in Thailand and pass through customs in less than five minutes. Thailand recently decided to allow mainland Chinese to obtain visas on arrival. Khachadpai’s complaint echoes similar ones made by senior Thai police officers in the past, provoking a response from Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Pradech Phayakvichien that blaming visa policies for rising transnational crime is unfair and is simply an effort to pass the buck. “The fact is, getting a visa on arrival is no different from getting a visa at an embassy or consulate,” he said. “If you are on the black-list you get caught; if not, then you don’t.”
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