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Posts Tagged ‘Royal Thai Immigration Police’

3rd April 2019

In recent weeks, a major topic of conversation among the expat community has been the issue of address notification for foreign nationals staying in locations other than those noted on prior immigration documentation (e.g. prior application for extension of stay, or an address noted on a TM6 arrival card). In a recent article from the BuriRam Times the Head of Immigration, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn was noted for making comments regarding changes to the penalty system associated with landlords failing to report foreigners staying on their premises:

“Channel 7 said that in the past warnings to people such as hotel owners and condo owners for failing to report foreigners in their properties would now be replaced by fines.”

In order to provide further clarity on this topic it may be best to quote directly from the official site of Thai Immigration:

“According to section 38 of the 1979 immigration act, “House owners, heads of household, landlords or managers of hotels who accommodate foreign nationals on a temporary basis who stay in the kingdom legally, must notify the local immigration authorities within 24 hours from the time of arrival of the foreign national.” If there is no immigration office in the province or locality of the respective house or hotel, the notification is made to the local police station. In Bangkok the notification is made to the Immigration Bureau. The notification of residence of foreign nationals is made by the manager of licensed hotels according to the hotel act, owners of guesthouses, mansions, apartments and rented houses using the form TM. 30. The notification of residence of foreign nationals within 24 hours can be made in a number of ways…”

Clearly, landlords have an affirmative duty to report foreigners staying on their premises through use of the TM30 form. What some foreign nationals staying in Thailand are unaware of is the fact that the duty to notify Thai Immigration of a change in address does not fall exclusively upon the landlord of the location at which the foreigner is staying, but in fact the duty also falls upon the foreign national in question to also unilaterally notify Royal Thai Immigration Police of a change in location (if the duration of stay is longer than 24 hours) through use of the TM28 form. As the administration of this blog reads the relevant regulations, foreign nationals who are deemed to be temporarily staying in the Kingdom must submit the TM28 form if their address should change. What constitutes an address change? Any stay of 24 hours in a given location. In what type of visa status is a foreign national considered to be staying “temporarily” in Thailand? The regulations would seem to dictate that those staying in the Kingdom on a visa exemption stamp, visa on arrival, tourist visa, or any type of non-immigrant visa (including, but not limited to, categories: B, O, ED, or O-A retirement) are considered to be staying in the Kingdom temporarily (regardless of the total duration of stay) and therefore are required to comply with the rules associated with the TM28.

Immigration officials have noted that the Immigration regulations are likely to soon see amendment due to the fact that many of the protocols associated with Thai Immigration law are somewhat outdated. Actual amendment of the regulations remains to be seen, but we will update readers as soon as changes occur.

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29th July 2017

If there is one overriding notion that can be gleaned from the whole of this blog it should be this: over time the process of obtaining immigration and work authorization benefits (regardless of the nation in which such benefits are sought) tends to get more time consuming and difficult over time.

In Thailand, over the course of recent months there have been dramatic changes to both the Thai visa process as well as the process by which Thai work permit authorization is granted.

Initially, this trend began with the promulgation of the so-called “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” policy which was initiated by a newly appointed Thai Immigration Chief. At first, the program focused upon those who were clearly in Thailand with less-than-optimal intentions. In fact, the beginning of the sea change in immigration policy could be said to have occurred when there was a rather significant round-up of suspected criminals and over-stayers which culminated in significant numbers of deportations. Quickly thereafter it became clear that those wishing to effectively live in Thailand using things such as 30 day stamps and tourist visas would be a thing of the past as a clear cap was placed on issuance of 30 day visa exemption stamps and those with multiple tourist visas began to become the subject of enhanced scrutiny at border check points. This scrutiny has been recently evidenced by the fact that those entering Thailand on tourist visas with a history of multiple tourist visas are being asked to show that they have 20,000 baht in their possession at the time of entry into the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, recently promulgated legislation has created more severe penalties with respect to working illegally in Thailand. Enhanced civil and criminal penalties are at the forefront of the recent changes. As of the time of this writing a sort of moratorium has been placed upon the implementation of these new rules, but it has been made very clear by relevant authorities that these new provisions are set to come into effect as of January 1, 2018. It is this blogger’s opinion that the moratorium was only enacted to stem the exodus of migrant workers from neighboring countries and will effectively have no bearing upon foreign workers in Thailand from Western countries or countries further afield than those which border the Kingdom.

What can be taken from these developments? First, certain aspects of the immigration and work authorization regimes were outdated and needed to be upgraded. Meanwhile, Thai authorities have made it clear that they expect those who wish to live and work in Thailand to make appropriate efforts to obtain proper immigration and employment documentation. Where there was something of a lax attitude regarding these issues in the past such laxity cannot be expected to exist moving forward. Therefore those wishing to live and work in Thailand in the future are well advised to do substantial research before traveling to Thailand and after ascertaining the correct legal documentation, take necessary steps to only be physically present in Thailand on appropriate documentation.

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3rd October 2016

In recent postings on this blog we have tracked the increasingly prevalent theme of Royal Thai Immigration Officers zealously enforcing immigration laws and regulations. In a recent posting on the website Asian Correspondent it was noted that Immigration officials have apparently taken their duties on the road as they appear to be traveling to foreign nationals stated addresses in an effort to ascertain if the individual in question actually resides at said address and more. It may be best to quote directly from Asian Correspondent:

Three foreigners living in Thailand have complained of receiving visits by policemen asking them to furnish personal details…[They] were visited at home by the uniformed officials who asked them to provide details like their monthly income, height, weight, and even skin color…They claimed that they were asked to provide the details in the ‘Personal Information’ form from the ‘Transnational Crime Coordination Unit Region 5 (TCCU R5).

This and many other events which have occurred recently with respect to Immigration policy appears to stem from the rather recently promulgated “Good Guys in, Bad Guys Out” campaign. It has been clear for some time that Thai immigration officers are increasingly ardent in their efforts to scrutinize foreign nationals in order to ensure adherence with Immigration law. Until this point it appeared that such zealousness was only experienced when foreign nationals traveled to an immigration office to seek some form of benefit or undertake some activity in an effort to stay in compliance with regulations (visa extension, reentry permit, 90 day report, etc).

From the information imparted above it seems logical to assume that this more fervent scrutiny may result in occasional visits by Immigration personnel to foreign nationals’ residences in the future. This being stated, it is difficult to foresee whether these developments portend the possibility that this may become a routine occurrence in the future or if this situation is simply a “one-off” event stemming from a non-routine set of circumstances. It remains to be seen if circumstances similar to those noted above will play out again in the future.

It should be noted that this blogger has personally received anecdotal information describing situations similar to those noted above. It may be of interest to readers that in all such instances this blogger has personally become aware of, the foreign national in question was present in Thailand on a Marriage visa. As has been noted in previous postings, it appears Thai Immigration officials are taking steps to tighten up the regulations and enforcement protocols pertaining to Thai marriage visa holders. This is not to imply that holders of other visa categories have not been subjected to heightened scrutiny (which this blogger can attest has definitely occurred, especially in the context of business visa extensions), but it appears that presently Thai immigration officers are taking a keen interest in those present in Thailand on a Thai O category marriage visa.

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1st August 2016

In prior postings on this blog the issues of Thai immigration law and immigration enforcement have been discussed. In a rather recent posting it was noted that Thai immigration is placing increased scrutiny upon those seeking marriage visas (officially referred to as Thai O visas) in the Kingdom. It appears that after discovery of a spate of sham marriages perpetuated in order to obtain Thai immigration benefits, Thai immigration authorities began to subject Thai marriage visa applications to more intense scrutiny. This matter apparently remains a top priority of immigration officials in Thailand as a recent article in the Bangkok Post points out that high ranking officials with the Royal Thai Immigration Police have issued new directives with respect to this issue:

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn warned officers against dishonest acts as he listed the bureau’s action plans to screen foreigners in the country illegally…He ordered immigration officers to investigate if authorities colluded with foreigners to help enable sham marriages.

This news comes amidst the recent revelation that the so-called “border run” method of maintaining lawful immigration status in Thailand is coming to an end. In a recent posting on the Love Pattaya Thailand website it has been noted that as of August 13th 2016 the days of visa running to obtain a 15, 30, or even 60 day stamp is coming to an end. To quote directly from the aforementioned website:

The Immigration Bureau have already told the officials to refuse entry to foreigners on visa runs as a measure to stop the exploitation of tourist visas and visa exemptions to live or work here. Tourists wishing to extend their stay in Thailand must now need to exit the country and apply for a proper tourist visa

In the past, one could hope to obtain a new thirty day stamp at the airport in Thailand so long one was willing to fly out of the country and immediately get on a plane and fly back in. It appears that this is no longer feasible as so-called “fly-out/fly-in” visa runs will be discouraged following August 13th to the point where presumably such travelers will be turned away and not permitted to reenter the country without a duly issued visa from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Meanwhile, Japan just recently solidified her position as the number one tourist destination of people from Southeast Asia. Japan tops the list of most favored tourist destinations among Thai nationals. It appears that Thai tourism numbers in Japan has been on the upswing since the easing of visa rules for Thai nationals including 15 day visa free travel.

This news comes at the same time as news that Taiwan is allowing Thai tourists to travel visa free to that country starting August 1st. It will be interesting to see if this move has a positive impact upon the tourism sector in Taiwan.

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10th April 2016

In previous postings on this blog the recent policies of the Royal Thai Immigration Police regarding visa overstayers in Thailand have been noted. In follow up to those articles, it should be noted that Thai immigration officials have recorded a sharp decline in the number of people physically present in Thailand beyond the expiration date of their visa. In a recent Bangkok Post article, the drop in overstay was noted:

The more than 39% decline, from 810,522 in October last year to 486,947 in March, shows “our new measure is effective”, Immigration Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said on Friday.

While immigration officers chalk up a victory in the campaign to thwart overstaying foreigners it appears that a new issue has come to the forefront. In another article in a more recent edition of the Bangkok Post suspicious trends in Thai Marriage registration numbers were reported:

Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said several foreign nationals are believed to have resorted to sham marriages as a loophole to stay in the country…The [Royal Thai Immigration Police] received a tip-off from the Public Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) that at least 150 Thai women in one district of a northeastern province had married foreigners in the past few months.

Clearly, the recent spike in marriages and the recent change in immigration overstay policy cannot be assumed to be coincidental. However, the upshot of these developments is the very strong probability that all upcoming Thai marriage visa applications (otherwise referred to as O visa applications) will be more heavily scrutinized when compared to similar applications lodged in the past. This blogger can personally attest to the fact that since policy changes at Thai immigration in late 2015 the process of obtaining or renewing a Thai business visa has been a more intensive endeavor as Immigration officials scrutinize all business visa applications and supporting documentation extremely thoroughly. Therefore, this recent news regarding marriage scrutiny could easily lead one to infer that future marriage visa extension applications and renewal applications could require more documentation and the backlog for issuing such documents could become exacerbated as a result of the increased scrutiny and documentation requirements.

As a general rule, this blogger has advised those interested in remaining in Thailand to understand that the process of obtaining a long term Thai visa and/or a Thai work permit is becoming increasingly complex. As a result of this increased complexity, the notion that the Thai immigration process is something that is quick and easy is simply a fallacy. Thai immigration matters are arguably as complicated and time consuming as immigration issues arising in countries such as the USA or the UK. Those undertaking Thai immigration matters for the first time are strongly encouraged to retain the assistance of a competent professional.

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27th August 2013

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the procedures for obtaining a Thai visa extension on an expiring passport have changed. In order to provide further insight into these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the Royal Thai Immigration Police:

According to the New Regulation from August 13, 2013,
when submitting application for Visa Extension if the validity of passport of the applicant is not longer than one year left before expiry,
the extension of stay will be permitted not exceeding the expired date of passport.
After the renewal of your passport of obtaining a new passport,
you have to re-apply for Visa Extension by submitting required document and paying extension fee ( 1,900 Baht).
In case of overstay, the fine is 500 Baht per day.

Clearly, those who have a passport expiring shortly following their Thai visa extension deadline will want to take measures either to renew their passport prior to visa extension renewal or be prepared to possibly pay more visa extension fees following renewal of a passport subsequent to extension.

Thai visa extensions are common among the expatriate community in Thailand as those holding non-immigrant visas such as the Thai Business Visa (categorized by Thai Immigration as Non-immigrant category “B”), the Thai O visa (often used by those who are married to a Thai or maintain a family relationship with a Thai national [in some cases a Thai O visa may be obtained by those who simply fall into the "miscellaneous" immigration category, Thai condominium owners being the most notable case in point]), the Thai Education visa (categorized as the ED visa), or the Thai Retirement Visa (classified as a Thai O-A visa) must obtain extensions in order to maintain lawful presence.

Holders of the Thai Business visa often obtain a visa extension when maintaining long term employment in the Kingdom of Thailand. It should be noted that those employed in Thailand must also obtain a Thai work permit as well as a Thai business visa extension in order to remain in the Kingdom for a long period of time to undertake employment activities. Those remaining in Thailand on a retirement visa, while able to obtain visa extensions, are generally unable to obtain a work permit as employment activities are not permitted while present in the country on an O-A visa. Holders of a Thai ED visa may also be eligible for one or more visa extensions, but are generally not allowed to obtain a work permit, except under very narrowly defined circumstances. Thai O visa holders may be able to obtain a Thai work permit depending upon the reason for the visa’s issuance. Those married to Thais, or those granted an O visa based upon having a Thai child are often able to obtain a Thai work permit.

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30th March 2011

This blog routinely posts about issues related to Thailand visas and Thai Permanent Residence in an effort to provide some information on these issues to the general public. It would appear that there is some consternation among foreign nationals in Thailand who are awaiting the adjudication of Thai permanent residence applications at the Ministry of Interior.  To quote directly from a recent opinion piece on the website PhuketGazette.net:

PHUKET: It’s time for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to set up a special task force to begin fast-tracking the processing of the huge backlog of permanent residency (PR) applications it is now sitting on in silence.

Such a move would have multiple benefits for all parties involved, including, especially, foreign investors (potential and extant) and Thailand’s all-important tourism industry.

For reasons that have apprently never been divulged by the MoI, the stacks of stale PR applications, submitted in good faith and at great expense by law-abiding, long resident “visitors” to Thailand, continue to gather dust at the ministry.[sic]

Those reading this blog are highly encouraged to click upon the hyperlinks above to learn more about this issue.

Clearly, this is a significant issue for foreign nationals in Thailand, especially those who have been in Thailand for a long enough duration so as to be eligible to apply for Thailand Permanent Resident status. Those holding permanent resident status in Thailand are permitted to be placed upon a Tabien Baan (also referred to as a house registration booklet). This should not be confused with a Yellow Tabien Baan or Foreign Tabien Baan which allows foreign nationals, without Permanent Residence status, to obtain a house booklet under certain circumstances.

Unlike the United States Permanent Resident process, the Thai PR process can be quite long and cumbersome. Many have noted that there currently exists a substantial backlog of Thailand Permanent Resident status applications as there have yet to be any new Permanent Residence booklets issued for many years.

Those wishing to obtain Thailand Permanent Residence should note that this status is highly coveted amongst foreign nationals while simultaneously being difficult to obtain. Those seeking permanent residence in Thailand are only eligible after remaining in Thailand on Thai visa extensions for a period not less than 3 years. Also, most permanent residence applicants must also have maintained a Thai work permit for a significant period of time at a salary level which comports with relevant Thai Ministry regulations.

There is a common misconception about Thailand regarding the country’s immigration procedures. Many from so-called “Western” countries do not understand that Thais take immigration issues quite seriously and make rules and regulations which could be described as stringent. This is especially true in matters pertaining to Thai permanent residence as Thai PR applications are capped by a nationality quota and subjected to intense scrutiny by the Royal Thai Immigration Police and the Thai Ministry of Interior. Therefore, those thinking of applying for Thai permanent residence are well advised to conduct research into the issue and, in some cases, retain qualified counsel to assist in such an undertaking.

For related information please see: Thai Visa.

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31st October 2010

In recent weeks there seems to have been some confusion related to the issue of overstaying one’s visa in Thailand. It would appear that there was a certain amount of consternation being created as a result of postings on the internet discussing Thai Immigration policies regarding overstay. Apparently, Thai Immigration authorities are heavily scrutinizing departing foreigners’ visas to ensure that those leaving the Kingdom of Thailand remained in lawful status for the duration of their stay and those not in lawful status at the time of departure must face legal consequences in the form of fines and possible incarceration. Penalties for overstay in Thailand have always been prescribed by relevant Thai Immigration law, but confusion seems to have arisen as a result of a posting on the internet stating that Thai Immigration procedures would be changing. However, the Phuket Gazette website phuketgazette.net subsequently reported that such speculation was incorrect. To quote directly from the Phuket Gazette:

Col Panuwat today told the Gazette, “I contacted the legal department at Immigration Bureau Headquarters on Soi Suan Plu in Bangkok, the Phuket Airport Immigration Superintendent and other authorities as well.”

“All have assured me that they are still following all the terms of the Immigration Act 1979, enacted on February 29 that year,” he said.

Under the Act, “any alien who stays in the Kingdom without permission, or with permission expired or revoked, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding two years, or a fine not exceeding 20,000 baht, or both.”

Penalties for Immigration violators can be rather severe, but in many cases individuals find that they have overstayed their visa by a matter of days. In a situation similar to this it is reasonable to believe that Immigration officers are unlikely to impose more than a fine on the offending party as they depart Thailand of their own accord. However, as the duration of one’s unlawful presence increases so too could one assume that the potential penalties might increase as well. Bearing that in mind, those pondering the overstay issue are wise to note that Royal Thai Immigration Officers have significant discretion in matters involving visas, admission to Thailand, and overstay in Thailand. As the aforementioned posting went on to note:

The Phuket Gazette notes that Immigration officers at checkpoints have always had complete discretion on what punitive measures to take with overstays, as specified above.

They can also deny entry to anyone arriving at a border checkpoint for any reason, even if the person arriving is in possession of a valid visa.

In the United States, Immigration matters are generally dealt with under Congressional plenary power and Immigration officers at the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP) are empowered with the authority to place prospective entrants into expedited removal proceedings or to simply deny a foreign national, even if said individual has a valid visa, admission to the USA. Thailand’s immigration rules are different from those of the United States, but one thing remains constant: Immigration Officers at any checkpoint throughout Thailand retain a great deal of discretion in matters pertaining to overstay under Thai law. Therefore, foreign nationals in Thailand should expect for overstay matters to be handled on a cases by case basis as each case is unique and no one has a right to remain in the Kingdom of Thailand without being in lawful status.

For related information please see: Thailand visa or I-601 waiver.

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22nd June 2010

In the relatively recent past, there were some who felt that Thailand was something of a “safe haven” for those with a criminal record or a criminal warrant issued outside of the Kingdom. However, in recent years, this appellation would seem to be increasingly misapplied as Thai authorities take evermore stringent measures against criminals from other jurisdictions. For example, Pattaya One News recently reported the arrest of a Belgian National for falsification of official documents. The following is a direct quote from that story:

On Tuesday afternoon at the Chonburi Immigration Office located in Soi 5 off Jomtien Beach Road, Police Lieutenant Colonel Prapansuk, the Deputy Superintendant of Chonburi Immigration, held a press conference to announce the arrest of a Belgian man wanted by the Belgian Authorities. Mr. Justin Andre Cornelius Van Den Bussche aged 38, a part-owner of a bar here in Pattaya and a resident of 3 years, was arrested at his house within the Sabai Jai Village in Central Pattaya. According to information received by the Belgian Embassy in Bangkok, Mr. Van Den Bussche was recently sentenced to 1 year in prison by a Belgian Court in relation to a case involving the falsifying of official documents. He was able to flee to Thailand and Immigration Police were informed that his Belgian passport was going to be cancelled on 15th June. On 15th he was arrested and charged with not possessing a valid passport and will be deported to Belgium where authorities will be waiting for him.

Thai authorities in Pattaya are not the only law enforcement agents in Thailand who appear to be taking a firm line against foreign nationals committing crimes in Thailand. The following is a quote from the Pattaya Today blog:

An American man was arrested and alleged to have committed paedophilia, or having engaged in sex, with an underage child in this northern Thai province, according to provincial tourist police. Police found evidence that the man identified as Wilbert Willis Holley, 72, had sexually abused a ten-year-old female student at a local school in Chiang Mai’s provincial seat. The girl told officials that she had been sexually molested several times by Mr Holley at a local guesthouse. The suspect however denied the charge but the investigators are confidence that they have strong evidence to take legal action against him. Police brought Mr Holley to search his residence in order to find whether or not there was further evidence for human trafficking or any other offences.

Those who believe that Thailand is a “safe haven” for criminal elements would be wise to note Royal Thai Immigration’s recent efforts to integrate their database with that of the United States and other international criminal and terrorism databases. This would seem to indicate strong resolve on the part of the Thai government to both prosecute and/or commence extradition proceeding against foreign and domestic criminals in Thailand.

For related reading on arrest warrants and criminal matters please see: warrant for my arrest or American attorney.

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10th May 2010

In a recent posting on the popular website Thaivisa.com it was noted that the United States of America has honored an extradition request from Thai authorities that a suspect in a “drug gang” be extradited to the Kingdom of Thailand. The following is quoted from ThaiVisa.com:

BANGKOK: — Suwit “Cheng” Prasoprat, a member of the China-based “14K” drug gang, was handed over to Thai authorities on Sunday, nine years after a request for his extradition was filed, deputy attorney-general Thavorn Panichpan said yesterday.

Thavorn said members of the drug gang fled overseas after police investigators filed a case in February 2001 against Thaveewit Krairattanareuk, 46, plus Suwit and four others for having 3.6 tonnes of heroin destined for the US, and the attorney-general agreed to prosecute the gang.

Once it was discovered that Suwit was lying low in the US, Thai authorities filed an extradition request in March 2001, which was approved by an American court. However, Suwit appealed against the extradition in 2002, and though the Appeal Court upheld the lower court ruling, he appealed again to the Supreme Court. On April 19 this year, the US authorities notified Thailand that the extradition request had finally been approved and Suwit arrived in Bangkok on Sunday.

Lawyer Rewat Chanprasert said they previously extradited Boonsong Mekpongsathorn, 60, another suspect in the same case who also fled to the US.

Boonsong had been given the death sentence by the Thon Buri Criminal Court in January 2005, and the case was now with the Appeal Court. Thaveewit and another suspect, Komsak Kornjamrassakul, 50, were given life sentences in June 2001 and are now appealing their jail terms.

Narcotics Suppression Bureau chief Pol Lt-General Adithep Panjamanont said court permission would be sought to detain Suwit for a week pending further investigation, before the case was handed to prosecutors. He said the case stemmed from an arrest in 1998 over the possession of 126 kg of heroin on its way to the United States.

Police inquiries showed that Suwit, a Thai man with two nationalities and an address in the US, plus accomplices in China and Hong Kong known as the 14K gang, had carried out criminal activities in Thailand including arms deals, human trafficking and drug dealing.

Thai and US authorities worked together on the case until they had enough evidence for arrest warrants for Suwit and Boonsong in 2001, he said.

Adithep added that the police would extend the investigation to cover money-laundering and other criminal charges on Thai soil against Suwit, his accomplices and the 14K gang.

It was also reported that there are two other suspects in the same case – Suchat Rakraeng, who remains at large, and Kriengkrai Diewtrakul, who is in a Chiang Rai prison for another crime.

In an increasingly “globalized” world, cross-jurisdictional cooperation is becoming evermore commonplace. In the scenario described above, it is interesting to note that the subject is being extradited back to Thailand. There are some who speculate that as Thai authorities connect their computer systems to international warrant databases an increased number of foreign nationals residing in Thailand will be extradited to foreign jurisdictions as a result of increasing requests for extradition. Whether or not this will actually occur remains to be seen, but it is interesting to note the increasing trend of intergovernmental cooperation on an international level.

It should be noted that Royal Thai Immigration Police have begun integrating their system with warrant and criminal databases around the world. Therefore, there is reason to believe that this inter-connectivity could have a dramatic impact of Thai visa issuance and Immigration procedures in the future.

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