‘Zero-dollar’ tourist operator nabbed over ID theft

Breaking News November 22, 2017 16:49

By Kornkamon Aksorndech
The Nation

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A female company executive has been arrested over allegations that she is a Chinese national who assumed a Thai citizen’s identity to work for a “zero-dollar” tour business network.



Tourist Police acting deputy commissioner Pol Maj-General Surachet Hakpal told a press conference on Wednesday that the woman supplied the network with Chinese tourists in exchange for a payment of Bt300 each. 

A zero-dollar tour is one where the customer pays unusually low tour package fee but is taken to shops and persuaded to buy goods at inflated prices.

The suspect in this case denied the identity theft accusation but admitted that she used to supply tourists to three companies under a zero-dollar tour business network. They said she had closed her business after the recent police crackdown on such operations.

Thai Tongmong International Travel Group executive Siripat Manae, 43, was nabbed in Khan Na Yow district in Bangkok on Tuesday morning following public complaints about suspected Thai identity theft.

Surachet said a police investigation found that she had submitted an application for a Thai ID card on September 10, 2002 in Phop Phra district in Tak under the name of a hill tribe woman, Nakham Manae. The information regarding year of birth was changed from BE2507 to BE2517 (1964 to 1974), Surachet said.

In 2003, she changed the name to “Siripat” in Bangkok. After this, she made several changes regarding household data, Surachet said.

The paper trail eventually led police to seek an arrest warrant for her on November 18. She faces charges of applying for a Thai ID card without having Thai nationality by presenting fraudulent evidence to officials.

Provincial Police Region 6 chief Pol Maj-General Chaiwat Chantharaworalak said police would ask the Interior Ministry to cancel Siripat’s Thai ID card. They would also contact the Commerce Ministry to cancel the licence for her company in Rama IX area and ask the Tourism Department to cancel her tour business licence.

Chaiwat said police couldn’t proceed with legal action against a district clerk involved in Siripat’s alleged identity theft as the statute of limitations on this offence had expired. Also no disciplinary action could be taken as the district clerk in question had already been fired and was serving time in jail for separate offences.

The damaged person, Nakham Manae or Kham Oh-sang, 53, bought a vase of flowers to thank police during the press conference. 

Surachet said police investigations into ID card information thieves linked to the tourism businesses had led to the arrest of about 50 people so far.

In two or three days, police would file charges against two Nakhon Sawan-based officials for alleged involvement in unrelated Thai ID card information theft cases, Surachet said.

Surachet also revealed that, although the heavy crackdown on “zero-dollar” tour businesses had meant Thailand was currently free from them, the network of people involved had reportedly moved on to another business.

He claimed they were buying condominium units in order to operate as accommodation businesses catering for foreign tourists without paying full taxes.

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