Thailand immigrant crackdown eyes ‘dark-skinned people’

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This photo taken on October 11, 2018 shows police checking for the passport of a foreigner held for investigation in Bangkok's Nana district during a police operation called "X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner". (AFP)
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This photo taken on October 18, 2018 shows police inspecting the passport of a foreigner in Bangkok's Patpong district during a police operation called "X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner". (AFP)
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This photo taken on October 11, 2018 shows police holding a group of foreigners for investigation in Bangkok's Nana district during a police operation called "X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner". (AFP)
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This photo taken on October 18, 2018 shows Thai immigration bureau chief and police Major General Surachate Hakparn speaking to foreigners held for investigation in Bangkok's Patpong district during a police operation called "X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner". (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2018
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Thailand immigrant crackdown eyes ‘dark-skinned people’

  • Thailand’s reputation as a place to disappear and reinvent yourself combined with lax visa rules can be a headache for law enforcement
  • Thailand is not a party to the UN convention recognizing refugees and made headlines in 2015 for deporting more than 100 Uighurs back to China

BANGKOK: Allegedly aimed at busting visa abusers and illegal migrants, a Thai police operation called “X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner” has raised questions about racial profiling and fears for asylum-seekers caught in its web.
Tens of millions of tourists come to Thailand each year for the cheap living and postcard-perfect beaches, with some seeking out the seedier thrills of a bustling sex industry.
But as weak law enforcement, porous borders and corruption help make the country a hub for transnational crime, Thai authorities are intensifying Operation X-Ray — a program that started about a year ago — with more than 1,000 people arrested in recent weeks, most for overstaying their visa.
Although the vast majority caught in the dragnet are migrants from nearby countries, the racial overtones of the campaign have sparked concerns about profiling based on skin color.
“Our job is to classify who are the good dark-skinned people and who are the ones likely to commit crimes,” said immigration bureau chief Surachate Hakparn.
He told AFP that the operation was aimed at weeding out visa overstayers and nabbing criminals — especially “romance scammers” who lure lonely locals online to defraud them of cash.
He insisted that the romance scammers are often Nigerian or Ugandan.

At the start of one night time operation witnessed by AFP in Bangkok’s rowdy Nana district earlier this month, about 75 Thai police officers stood in rows at a briefing.
“The suspicious targets are the dark-skinned people,” shouted an officer. “First, we search their bodies, then we search their passports.”
Soon they began stopping suspects, including three people from Mali who were tested for drugs on the spot.
By 11:55 pm, almost 30 individuals — about half of whom were black — had been rounded up.
Only one was Caucasian, a Frenchman caught smoking marijuana.
Surachate’s staff said details on the breakdown of nationalities was “confidential.”
But in the first two weeks of October, police arrested a Korean citizen wanted by Interpol for sexual assault, and busted a team of four Nigerians and 16 Thais allegedly involved in romance scams, according to authorities.
They also found a Laos national who had overstayed his visa by more than 11 years.

Thailand’s reputation as a place to disappear and reinvent yourself combined with lax visa rules can be a headache for law enforcement.
The junta that seized power in 2014 justified its power grab by promising stability amid street protests and political upheaval.
But rights groups warn that refugees and asylum seekers who transit through Bangkok en route to a third country for resettlement are also being ensnared in the latest police operation as they lack legal protections.
According to rough estimates from the non-profit Fortify Rights, there are about 100 adults and 30 children who fit this description, mainly from Pakistan but also from Syria and Somalia.
“Thailand’s immigration crackdown has swept up refugees and asylum seekers, sent young children into horrid, prison-like conditions, and appears to have clear aspects of racial profiling against South Asians and Africans,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Thailand is not a party to the UN convention recognizing refugees and made headlines in 2015 for deporting more than 100 Uighurs back to China.
More than 70 Pakistani Christians were rounded up and detained this month by police under charges of illegal entry and overstay even though they were assumed to be in transit and escaping religious persecution in their Muslim-majority homeland.
But the authorities remain unapologetic.
According to immigration chief Surachate’s count, Thailand is home to more than 6,000 people who ought to have left the country already.
“In order to clean house, we need to bring in the good people and deport the bad people so that the country will have sustained stability,” he said.


Israel touts air defense system to South Korea

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, lieft, speaks to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, during their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, July 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 47 sec ago
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Israel touts air defense system to South Korea

  • South Korea and Israel established diplomatic ties in 1962 and the latter opened an embassy in Seoul in 1992

SEOUL: President Reuven Rivlin extolled the virtues of Israeli air defense missile systems during a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul on Monday at the presidential Blue House, citing the need to defend the country against its nuclear-armed northern neighbor.
Rivlin noted “big similarities” between the two countries, both having survived conflicts to become global economic powers.
“Both South Korea and Israel faced catastrophic events after World War II, but we have built great nations and people, rising from the ashes of war,” the Israeli president said in a statement ahead of his talks with Moon.
“We didn’t have powers to defend ourselves in 1948, but we have our own defense powers now.”
While stressing the importance of efforts to build trust with neighboring countries, Rivlin warned countries “should not be naive” in dealing with military threats.
“In the past, the threat of missiles existed only on the frontlines of battlefields, but now civilians have become the subject of such threats,” the Israeli leader said.
“We should protect our people with missile defense systems capable of intercepting enemy missiles that could threaten the lives of our people.”
Rivlin did not specify the name of the system he described, but local experts believe the Israeli head of state was referring to the country’s Irone Dome air defense system.
“Iron Dome is a wish list item of the South Korean military to help thwart the threats of North Korea’s long-range artillery deployed near the border,” Kim Dae-young, a weapons analyst at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told Arab News.
“Israeli forces operate the air defense systems to defend against rockets fired by Hamas. The system is considered a useful option to thwart North Korea’s artillery attacks, especially against targets in the metropolitan area.”
South Korea has already deployed key Israeli-built weapons systems in the field in bids to complement its theater air and missile defense system (KAMD), which consists of US Patriot missile interceptors, as well as locally-built medium and long-range interceptors. To detect and track incoming missiles, KAMD operates Israel’s ground-based EL/M-2080 missile defense radar equipment.

BACKGROUND

South Korea has already deployed key Israeli-built weapons systems in the field in bids to complement its theater air and missile defense system (KAMD)

But Israel’s potential arms pitch would not kick in yet, Kim said, since Moon’s administration was prioritizing engagement with Pyongyang.
The leaders of the divided Korean Peninsula have met four times since the inauguration of Moon’s administration in May 2017, making substantial progress in reducing military tensions. 
Still, the North’s artillery batteries, deployed near the border, pose significant threats to the South, as the weaponry is capable of hitting Seoul and surrounding areas.
According to the latest South Korean defense white paper, published in 2016, the North Korean military has about 14,000 artillery weapons, including 5,500 multiple rocket launchers, the majority of which have been deployed near the border.
On the economic front, Moon and Rivlin agreed to sign a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) to expand cooperation in investment, services and technology.
“The two countries have a mutually supplementary economic cooperation structure and share the common goal of nurturing future and cutting-edge industries,” Moon said. Bilateral trade between the two hit a record high of $2.7 billion last year.
Seoul and Jerusalem started FTA talks in May 2015 and have had several rounds of negotiations.
Moon expressed hope that Israel would share its experience in nurturing high-tech startups, which could foster substantive partnerships in sectors like the hydrogen economy, artificial intelligence and 5G wireless communication networks.
The two leaders also signed memorandums of understanding to promote cooperation in hydrogen energy and higher education exchanges.
Rivlin is accompanied by two delegations from Israel’s business and academic sectors, led by Adiv Baruch, chair of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, and Professor Yaffa Zilbershats, chair of the Council for Higher Education Planning and Budgeting Committee.
South Korea and Israel established diplomatic ties in 1962 and the latter opened an embassy in Seoul in 1992.