Visa racket busted

The Nation, Published on Sep 13, 2003

Police yesterday charged a Bangkok tour operator with using fake immigration stamps to provide visa services for foreigners.

Immigration police chief Lt-General Charnwut Watcharapuk said that police raided the offices of Mama Tours on Khao San Road - a favourite area for foreign backpackers - and confiscated fake immigration stamps for Songkhla's Sadao checkpoint and Bangkok International Airport.

They arrested tour operator Rungnapa Rochanawongjarat.

Police were led to the office after they arrested three foreigners at Bangkok Airport with fake stamps in their passports. Investigators found that the foreigners, two from Britain and the other from the Netherlands, received the fake stamps at Mama Tours.

Rungnapa charged Bt2,000 for stamping passports with fake stamps.

Her tour company allegedly led foreigners to believe that they could provide them with re-entry stamps without having to leave the country.

According to immigration laws, foreigners have to leave Thailand to renew their visas. Charnwut said Mama Tours provided departure and arrival immigration stamps that led foreigners to believe that their visa process was complete.

"We are currently investigating a claim in the 'Lonely Planet' guidebook that a 'Mr J' can renew visas for tourists who do not want to leave the country," he said.