Report fake border stamps, expats told
BANGKOK: Some expat residents will be required to present a police document at Immigration border checkpoints in the continuing crackdown on illegally-obtained or forged entry-exit stamps in passports. Foreigners with passports containing fake stamps who do not report to police before leaving Thailand and are caught at the border may be arrested for conspiracy to commit forgery. The Gazette understands that dozens of foreigners have already been arrested on such charges, and some have been jailed. The Immigration Bureau in Bangkok has instructed all Immigration offices and border checkpoints not to prosecute foreigners with fake entry-exit stamps – provided that they first file a police report identifying themselves as victims of fraud. Pol Col Montri Kosiyasathit, Deputy Commander of Immigration Police Bureau 1, Visa Extension Division, is also warning foreigners not to turn their passports over to tour operators or other companies offering travel-free entry and exit stamps or visa extensions. All such services, he said, are illegal. Col Montri told the Gazette that these services had developed over time from legal companies providing group transportation for foreigners doing “visa runs”. Unscrupulous operators, together with corrupt Immigration officials, conspired to provide the necessary stamps without the passport holder actually leaving the country or being present at the time of issue, he added. Some con men had also produced their own fake rubber stamps. “I’m worried that some foreigners actually believed these services to be legal,” he said. “Newcomers to the country see these services advertised in newspapers, so they assume they are legitimate,” he said. “I have sent the letter to border and Immigration offices throughout Thailand so that fraud victims [holding fake stamps] will not be prosecuted, but they must first confirm that they were cheated by one of these companies. “I suggest they first report themselves as victims of fraud with the local police.” He advised them to ask a member of the local Immigration Office to accompany them to the police station to explain the situation to police. “After that, when they go to the border, they should take their copy of the police report with them,” he said. He also pointed out that foreigners making a report to the police should provide officers with any supporting evidence, such as receipts from the providers of the phony stamps. He urged the foreigners to be “brave” in helping police prosecute the providers. He said, however, that Immigration was aware that some foreigners who stayed in the country after their permit to stay had expired had been using illegal visa services as a way to remain in the country. “After we investigated in depth, we found some long-term foreign residents [who] knew that these services were illegal, yet continued to use them. In cases like this, they must be charged with conspiracy to forge government documents [along with the party that provided the visa],” he said. Col Montri admitted that corrupt Immigration officials had been involved. He told the Gazette, “We fired the Immigration officers involved and charged them with criminal offenses in accordance with the law. “We also use closed-circuit cameras surveillance systems at border Immigration offices to help us detect wrongdoings.” Asked why Immigration police did not close down tour operators and other companies that advertise travel-free visa services, he replied that Immigration did not have the authority to do so. He said they were only authorized to investigate the companies to ensure they were properly licensed. He also said that the number of forged stamps discovered so far was relatively small. Pol Col Paween Pongsirin, Superintendent of Phuket Town Police Station told the Gazette that he had not received any documents notifying him of this issue, but said that he intended to cooperate fully with the Phuket Immigration Office. For more information about the new instructions, call Phuket Immigration at 076-212108.
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