Bogus marriages are about to come under the microscope of the Thai immigration department in a bid to combat the numbers of foreign criminals residing in the country.
It’s thought that international criminals could be using Thailand as a place to hide from crimes they have committed elsewhere. By marrying Thai nationals, they are entitled to stay here long term with minimal oversight from immigration authorities – just a visa renewal once a year, according to the Bangkok Post.
It is thought that some may be engaging in ‘marriage for hire’ in order to best take advantage of this.
The crackdown has come about as it was found that 150 Thai women in just one district of a northeastern province had recorded marriages to foreign men in the last few months alone. The high number alerted the Public Anti-Corruption Commission, who duly alerted the Immigration Bureau.
Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn Prousoontorn, chief of the bureau, commented that, “The number is unusually high, and it triggers suspicion about marriage ‘for hire'”.
Of course, proving whether a marriage is bogus or not is tricky business and there’s no word on whether a crackdown would affect the large number of genuine Thai-foreigner marriages.
The bureau’s first steps will include liaison with Interpol and other foreign criminal databases to check criminal records and bogus identities.
If a foreigner is found to have hired a Thai national for marriage, they face a re-entry ban of up to ten years.
This isn’t the first time that sham marriages have come under the spotlight in Thailand. In 2014 it was revealed that hundreds of false marriages between Thai women and foreign men had been registered in Khon Kaen between 2011 and 2013, reports The Nation.
That was attributed to a corrupt official who had sold the names of local women to foreign men in order for them to register a marriage and presumably benefit from the advantages incurred by a marriage visa.
The latest crackdown comes in the wake of increased punishment and oversight of foreigners who overstay the terms of their visas under the new immigration mantra of “Good guys in, bad guys out.”