First signs of concern about visa exempt mass tourists

Senior police say they are perturbed by criminal behaviour by foreigners. (File Photo shows two New Zealanders assaulting a traffic police officer and tried to grab his gun and then tried to bribe the police officers in Phuket.)

A top national policeman has raised the alarm about foreign tourists breaking the law and behaving disgracefully. Police general Roy Ingpairoj, deputy police chief, has ordered the immigration bureau to toughen up law enforcement.

In recent months, there have been alarming reports about foreigners attacking Thai nationals, gambling in illegal casinos and working without authorized permits. Equally worrying to law enforcers is the apparently widespread practice of owning real estate or establishing business enterprises via use of Thai nominees which is an illegal practice.

The latest concerns appear to be a result of tourists from more and more countries being allowed to enter Thailand without a visa. The Thai government has recently extended the privilege of visa exempt status to China, Russia, India and several smaller nations. Between 85 and 90 percent of arriving foreign tourists no longer require prior documentation.

The deputy police chief has mandated the immigration bureau to look for foreigners with mafia-like connections, those staying or overstaying here for no good reason and persons who bring shame on Thailand by their behaviour. In such cases, cancellation of visas or formal charging in court should be the order of the day.

Thai commentators on social media say that there is a contradiction between Thailand wanting to expand seamless travel, come what may, to boost income on a grandiose scale with a traditional approach to law and order. Moreover, there is now a wad of evidence to show that much cash-based abuse by foreigners is made possible by police corruption or favouritism.