August 13, 2014 01:00
By Piyanut Tumnukasetchai
The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) will propose stricter laws to allow any cash over the legal limit of US$20,000 (Bt642,000) that is brought into the country and not declared to be seized and forfeited to the state.
Secretary general Seehanat Prayoonrat said yesterday that his office would seek amendments by the National Legislative Assembly of three laws on money laundering to bring them up to international standard and prevent money laundering and terrorism more effectively.
According to customs regulations, people who fail to declare cash in excess of the statutory level only have to pay a Bt20,000 fine to get their money back. But under the proposed changes, offenders would be taken to court and all money confiscated by the state.
“Thailand might be a small country in terms of size. But we are a money centre in Asean. The international community sees Thailand taking a strategic role in the suppression of money laundering and terrorism. If we have strong measures to inspect, we could increase the strength of the region too,” Seehanat said.
“In 2015-16, the Financial Action Task Force will assess Thailand again after it has adjusted the evaluation criteria,” he said.
If Thailand fails again, it would have to face financial sanctions like it did in 2012. This would have more of an impact than the US’ Trafficking in Persons report, as it would be difficult for Thailand to conduct financial transactions with foreign countries.
FATF is the global standard-setting body for combating money laundering and the funding of terrorism. It usually identifies nations that have strategic deficiencies and works with them to address those problems that pose a risk to the global financial system.
On March 12 last year, the president of FATF submitted a letter to the justice minister informing him that Thailand had been removed from its listing in February 2012, that categorised the country as a jurisdiction with insufficient progress in addressing the deficiencies of its Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Strategy.
Publication of the FATF statement aims to warn member states to increase their scrutiny when engaging in financial transactions originating from or flowing to countries that it lists.
In June, the US State Department downgraded Thailand to Tier 3, the lowest rank in its Trafficking in Persons report. Thai officials insisted it did not deserve to be in Tier 3 because it had made progress in this area.The report caused fear of negative impacts on the fishing sector and other industries.