BANGKOK — Nearly 500 foreigners were arrested this week on visa violations in the latest raid police said early Friday morning will benefit tourism.
Immigration Bureau police commander Lt. Gen. Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn paraded the newly arrested foreigners at 1am on Friday through the parking lot of Bangkok’s Montien Riverside hotel starting, announcing that they had netted a total of 490 foreigners overnight.
“We’ve been working through the new year,” Surachate said. “As of now, in the entire land, there are zero overstays.”
He said the raids would be a boon to Thai tourism.
“We are confident that tourism will improve due to our continuous and decisive raids and operations,” he said. “People who stay here have to do so legally.”
Friday’s operation was the 42nd episode of a crackdown that began in 2017 as “Operation Black Eagle” before being rebranded to the less racially charged “X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner.”
Police say the raids have hit 6,252 locations and seen 6,468 people arrested.
Most of the 249 foreigners scooped up in the latest raid were arrested for illegal entry: 113 Burmese, 71 Laotians, 64 Cambodians and one Pakistani. Those arrested for various crimes numbered 220, while 21 were arrested for overstaying their visas: four each from India, Laos and Burma, two each from Germany, Sweden and Vietnam and one each from America, Russia and Italy.
Surachate said the crackdowns were crucial since tourist arrivals will increase. In 2018, he said a total of 38 million tourists visited, 11 million of them Chinese.
He predicted that, within two years, the numbers would jump to 60 million per year – almost equaling the entire national population. However, he said he was confident the increased number of arrivals would mostly be independent travelers rather than those on cheap tours.
“[Independent] tourists are quality tourists. They come and spend money in Thailand, not just in kick-back areas,” he said. “These raids have erased almost all of these tours.”