Friday, February 10, 2006

tourists treated like animals for one day visa overstay in Thailand

RANONG: -- Twelve foreign tourists were pulled off a “visa run” bus just 40 miles from Ranong and confined to a jail cell overnight for overstaying their visas.

The company that arranged the tour claims that the arresting officers, from the Tourist Police and Highway Police, demanded 5,000 baht from each of the overstayed tourists in exchange for letting them go. The police strenuously deny this.

Six officers waved over the well-known “Big Bus” run by Phenpat Co Ltd at about 11 am yesterday morning in Ranong’s Kapoe District. The officers inspected the passports of the 34 foreign passengers and found that 12 had overstayed their visas.

They separated the 12 from the others, who were allowed to continue on to Ranong. The 12 were taken off in a police truck and confined in the local police cells.

Jutarat Payonchart, an emplo yee of Phenpat Co Ltd, told the Gazette from the Ranong courthouse this afternoon that the police had overreacted by incarcerating the visa runners.

“Why did they have to keep them overnight in a cell? These aren’t illegal aliens trying to hide out in the country,” she asked, adding that most were just one- or two-day overstays. The maximum overstay was just 12 days, she added.

K. Jutharat said she was preparing to pay fines for those who had not brought along enough money to cover the unexpected expense – but by 5:30 pm the following day they were still at Ranong Provincial Court trying to pay the fines.

One of those arrested, a 31-year-old Australian man whose 30-day tourist visa expired the day before, told the Gazette: “It was terrible. I am so dirty now – I need to change my clothes. We didn’t have any information.

“It was crap. The pol ice are hospitable in a way, but they don’t give us any information. They say we broke the law and all this stuff.

“In my case, on Tuesday I went to [Phuket] Immigration and said, ‘This is the last day of my visa, it expires tomorrow, what should I do?’ and they said, ‘Go and do a visa run tomorrow and pay a 200 baht overstay.’

“That’s exactly what I [was doing], but then we get pulled over by the Tourist Police and Highway Police and they make a huge problem for us,” he said.

He added that he found it dangerous and embarrassing to be forced to squat in the back of a cramped, hot police truck, which transported the overstayers along the highway with a police escort, sirens blaring.

The unexpected delay had also caused him to missed his flight out of the country, he said.

Pol Maj Songproad Sirikul, the new head of the Ranong Tourist Po lice, told the Gazette that his office had received a report that a business was assisting illegal aliens by bringing them to Burma. He said he ordered his men to check into this and, when they did, it turned out to be true.

“The police arrested them because they broke the law,” he said.

He denied K. Jutarat’s claims that the officers asked for 5,000 baht from each tourist in exchange for letting them go.

“I think that’s impossible. I can guarantee that the Tourist Police officers did not ask for money because we are not in trouble [financially] and I constantly remind them to not do that.

“If the visa runners have any witnesses or other evidence as to which officer asked for money, they should contact me direct,” he said.

Source: The Phuket Gazette 2006-02-09

Interesting that the tourist was told to simply do a visa run and pay the overstay fine. I believe this as the same erroneous advice is often blithely handed out at Thai Immigration main in downtown Bangkok whereas they should simply follow their own rules and allow you to purchase a 10 day extension for 1,900 baht.

Thai Immigration will either not mention this option or tell you doing a visa run and getting stamped back in for another 30 days is cheaper. This is stupid as well as dangerous, of course, as any visa run from Bangkok to the border and back is going to cost at least 1,900 baht, before you even calculate the overstay fine of 200 baht / day, and getting caught with any overstay in your passport will guarantee a stay at the jail behind the very office that told you a short overstay for tourists was OK. Do not believe them.

Some spot-on follow up comments from others:

"Pol Maj Songproad Sirikul, the new head of the Ranong Tourist Police ... denied K. Jutarat’s claims that the officers asked for 5,000 baht from each tourist in exchange for letting them go.

'I think that’s impossible. I can guarantee that the Tourist Police officers did not ask for money because we are not in trouble [financially] and I constantly remind them to not do that.'


Two more candidates for a minister's seat in the Thaxin Cabinet of clowns and morons!
They have all required qualifications!"

"Be aware that you are in Thailand. Foreign people have less rights and have to pay much more than Thai people. They will throw you in the prison with others. 140 people in one room is normal and you spend time between killers, transvestites, aids patients etc.

Note it's hardly individuals who are too lazy or untogether to get their visa sorted, as Thai officials don't see it as a problem either.

So how would the average tourist know?

Amazing Thailand"

"I went to immigration in Chiang Mai to extend for 2 weeks or 10 days or whatever it is they give you. I was going to be pretty busy for just 6 days past the last day of the visa. They told me I should go to Mae Sai and pay 1200 baht in overstay fees instead as it would be cheaper for me.

Some of these guys were given the same advice, then they end up in jail for the night."

"I overstayed 5 months in Australia - unintentionally. Didn't even know about it before I was walking through passport control at Brisbane airport when they pulled me over. Nothing happened except I was told orally that I couldn't return to Oz for 3 years. No papers signed or anything, just a discussion of why it had happened.
(I was a student and extended my studies by one semester and forgot to extend the student visa - my mistake)"
[quite civilized way to handle it, actually-- strict yet humane]

"It sure seems like the powers that be don't want to have tourists visit this place. Everytime you turn around, there's a new story about tourists being murdered, abused, raped, thrown in jail, yada, yada, yada.

LOS - Laughing's Over Siam"

It gets worse, here's a followup:

Overstay 12 still in jail, face deportation

RANONG: A group of 12 foreign tourists arrested for overstaying their visas have spent their second night sleeping on the floor of a jail cell at Ranong Police Station.

Ranong Immigration Police, who have announced that they will deport the group, say they are only following “standard procedures” and will send the 12 to an Immigration detention center in Bangkok “soon”.

The group were arrested by a team of six Highway and Tourist Police officers at about 11 on Wednesday morning while on their way to Ranong and Burma for a “visa run” in the well-known “Big Bus”.

The bus was in Kapoe District, just 40 kilometers from the Ranong Immigration office, when it was stopped and the 12 were separated from the other passengers on board and placed in custody.

The most that any of the 12 had overstayed was six days.

Speaking from his prison cell, one of the detainees, a 31-year-old Australian man on his second trip to Thailand, told the Gazette:

“I can’t believe what has happened. The want to send us to the Bangkok Detention Center, from where they will deport us to our home countries – all because of a one-day overstay [in my case].

It was our second night sleeping on the dirty floor, with mosquitoes. I am black and brown from dirt.”

Some members of the group had contacted their embassies, he said, but been told, “Sorry. You are being deported – there is nothing we can do, it’s all part of ‘due process’.”

He said the group members had thought they would be released after paying 1,000-baht fines at Ranong Court yesterday. But they had been misled.

“The public prosecutor told us that if we just admitted to the Court what we did and paid a 1,000-baht fine, they would let us go to Immigration and we could complete our visa trip. We paid, but when we got to Immigration they fingerprinted us and said, ‘You’re being deported – immediately’.

Jutarat Payonchart, an employee of Phenpat Co Ltd, which runs the visa run service, told the Gazette from the Ranong courthouse this afternoon that the police had overreacted in incarcerating the visa runners.

“Why did they have to keep them overnight in a cell? These aren’t illegal aliens trying to hide out in the country,” she said, adding that most had overstayed by just one or two days.

Speaking from his prison cell, the Australian told the Gazette, “We sent money for the tsunami problem. We like the Thai people and want to visit – and then we got s**t on.

“We are part of one of their tours, where everyone makes money. We spend money in Phuket, we want to stay here. It’s good for the economy, good for everyone. And now we are just being s**t on.

“We’ve been treated like animals, sleeping on the ground. I’ve never been locked up before in all my life. It’s absolutely disgusting. You cannot trust the Tourist Police anymore. They are supposed to be on our side, helping us. But now they have gone against us and made a big problem for us.

“This is absolute crap, of course. They must have another agenda. Only they know what it is; I can only speculate. This is completely wrong. I have spoken to other tourist police and they say, ‘This is unbelievable.’ There are a few bad apples involved and they have created major, major problems.

“I’ve lost flights, lost my money … it’s ridiculous,” he said, adding that he did not want to give his name “at this stage” as it might jeopardize any remaining chance of regaining his freedom and avoiding deportation.

Those chances appear slim, however.

Pol Capt Weerachai Phugkesorn of the Ranong Immigration Office told the Gazette that all 12 foreigners were arrested because they had overstayed their visas.

Among those facing deportation were English, Korean, German, Vietnamese, French, Italian and Swedish nationals, none of who had overstayed by more than six days, he admitted.

He stressed that the arrest, confinement and deportation of the tourists did not reflect a change in Ranong Immigration’s long-standing and relaxed policy when it comes to overstays.

“It’s true that if people arrive at our office and have overstayed their visas we just fine them 200 baht per day of overstay. But it was [another police division] that arrested them, not us. If they hadn’t been arrested, we would have just fined them as usual.

“The case went to court, where the judge rendered a decision. They were sent to us by the police and we are just following the provisions of the Immigration Act by transferring them to Bangkok for deportation,” Capt Weerachai said.

Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, Assistant Director of TATs Region 4 Office in Phuket, said he believed the arrests would have no impact on tourism as long they were legal.

Foreign tourists would be more confident of their safety if they knew they the police were carrying out their duties strictly according to the law, he added.

Source: The Phuket Gazette 10-2-06

Imagine the stories they will tell back in Farangland - is this the image Thailand wants to give abroad? Don't forget that these people were coming from Phuket which is still trying to recover from the Tsunami.

Just to describe how bad it can get:

"Should you be stopped going to the airport with an overstay or before then thats when the problems start. Firstly if it is on a Friday YOU WILL FIND YOURSELF IN JAIL ALL WEEKEND AT BEST. Then once you have appeared before the authorities and they reach a decision you pay your fine and PROVE that you have a ticket to leave the country. If you missed your flight that ticket is not valid. Ensure that you have a good friend that will help you out should this happen. Until you show this ticket they will not release you Viscious circle then starts, no ticket, no release no release, how do you get a ticket?? Hence the need for a good "friend" to get you ticket

My advice is do not do it if you do, then use the airport and hope for the best never attempt to pay the overstay fine on a visa run using land border crossings. This is very bad advice avoid land crossings if you have overstayed."