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After reportedly aiding hundreds of Chinese immigrants enter Thailand illegally to establish criminal enterprises, more than 100 Thai immigration officers are anticipated to face bribery-related charges in the upcoming weeks.
Thailand has long been a destination for Chinese tourists, investors, and entrepreneurs. However, along with the legal businesses and legitimate economic activities, there are also many illegal Chinese businesses operating in the country. These businesses engage in activities ranging from gambling, prostitution, and human trafficking to counterfeit goods, drug trafficking, and money laundering.
Senior police officer charged with bribery
On March 9, Deputy National Police Chief General Surachet Hakparn told reporters that cases had been prepared against the officers, at least one of whom held the senior rank of police general. Their files have been given to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which will use them to file charges related to a number of claims of misconduct in public service, including bribery.
Chinese people linked to the triads have operated illegal or “gray” companies in Thailand for decades, but they have avoided prosecution mostly with the assistance of dishonest government employees, particularly those in the police force.
Recent information obtained by opposition MPs reveals that some of the suspected triad leaders have resided in Thailand for over three decades. With the assistance of dishonest immigration officials, they were able to repeatedly renew their visas, which in some cases allowed them to remain in Thailand for more than 20 years.
The case was triggered when a Bangkok entertainment establishment serving primarily Chinese people without a license was raided in late October of last year. More than 100 of its customers had drug tests that were positive. Several party drugs, expensive cars, and gambling equipment were also seized during the operation.
Dubious visa services offered by Thai immigration
The inquiry revealed that Chinese people have established unlawful business empires in Thailand using shady front firms. According to the authorities, this was made feasible by dubious visa services provided by Thai immigration officers to individuals who later formed “gray firms” in the kingdom.
The cash-flush triad bosses are also suspected of using legitimate enterprises and real estate purchased through Thai nominees to launder their illicit funds.
One of them, known as Tuhao, was given citizenship and changed his name to Chaiyanat Kornchayanant after being married to a Thai police officer. When he turned himself in last November to avoid an arrest warrant on drug-related charges, authorities seized real estate, expensive automobiles, a private jet, and cash worth about $90 million.
Following those revelations, many commentators and public figures voiced concerns about the potential long-term harm illegal Chinese activities could cause to Thai businesses and power structures if it is not contained.