Officials check visa service firm

PHUKET: The investigation into fake entry permits for foreigners took a halting step forward recently when Immigration officers visited a “visa service” company and seized 20 passports found on the premises. “We checked the company where, foreigners informed us, they had obtained stamps, and now we are waiting for further instructions,” Pol Capt Krissarat Nusen of the Phuket Provincial Immigration Office (PPIO) told the Gazette. “We found evidence there but we [have no proof of] what they were doing. We have to get more evidence before we can proceed against [the company]. “If we want to raid them, we need to have foreigners report officially to the police that they were cheated by this company, but so far no foreigners have made such reports to the police. Some have just given us information.” He said that the holders of some – but not all – of the passports had contacted the PPIO requesting the return of their travel documents. The reluctance of foreigners to make reports may be partly explained by the fact that police appear to be applying a narrow intrepretation of the rules. While those who contact the Immigration Office to report having fake stamps will not be charged with being accessories to forgery, they will be fined for overstaying their previous legitimate entry stamps at a rate of 200 baht a day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. Capt Krissarat said that after the Gazette published news that “victims” of the visa service company could present themselves at the PPIO and would not be charged with a crime, four or five people had come forward. “We have had many phone calls asking for more details about this, but no one seems to be brave enough to make an official complaint to the police. “I would suggest that victims contact their embassy because Immigration in Bangkok is already working with the embassies over the fake stamps,” Capt Krissarat added. Colonel Montri Kosiyasathit, Deputy Commander and official spokesman of Immigration Bureau 1 in Bangkok, said he felt that local officers were interpreting the law too narrowly. “I don’t think it’s right to fine them for overstaying – they are victims, and had no intention of overstaying. It is up to the judgment of individual officers, but most of those working in local [immigration] offices tend to interpret the law narrowly,” he added. He said that he would discuss the matter of the overstay fine with the Major General in charge of Immigration Police Region 3, which includes Phuket. “I will suggest that he instruct local offices not to impose the fines because [these people] did not intend to overstay – they were victims [of fraud].” He agreed that action could not be taken against the visa service company until foreigners are willing to make official reports complaining of fraud. “However, we can question the foreigners whose passports were found as to why their passports were left with the company,” he added. Col Montri also urged foreigners to call Bangkok if they came across an Immigration officer “cheating” or telling them to do something they knew to be illegal. They should call 02-2871740 during government office hours, he said, and be prepared to give the name of the offending officer, along with the date and time of the offense and the place where the officer works.

Phuket News
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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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