500 visa stickers disappear from Thai consulate in Lao PDR
August 28, 2013
BANGKOK, Aug 28 – Five hundred visa stickers have been missing from the Thai consulate in the Lao PDR province of Savannakhet since 2008, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official.
Nuttavudh Photisaro, deputy permanent secretary, said the Foreign Ministry investigated the disappearance being alerted by the Immigration Bureau in Nong Khai which recently arrested two foreigners who produced passports containing the missing visa stickers at a Thai-Lao border checkpoint.
The Thai consulate in Savannakhet, however, denied that it issued the two visas and asked the Thai police to take legal action against the two foreign passport holders.
Mr Nuttavudh said the Thai consulate in Savannakhet reviewed records to 2008 and found that 500 visa stickers had disappeared.
He said the sticker theft involved fraud rackets in Thailand and abroad and investigation in the case has yet to finish.
A total of 800 visa stickers were missing from the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur and the Thai consulate in Savannakhet, said Mr Nuttawut who added that similar cases have been reported in other countries.
Thai visas are currently issued at 93 Thai embassies and consulates, and 140 honorary Thai consulates worldwide.
He said the Foreign Ministry has instructed all embassies and consulates to strictly follow the regulations to prevent visa sticker theft. State officials implicated in the missing stickers would be punished accordingly, he warned.
Regarding the disappearance of 2,000 visa stickers in a diplomatic pouch destined for the Thai embassy in The Hague, the Netherlands, Mr Nuttavudh said he was informed that diplomatic pouches occasionally went missing and were sometimes found a few weeks later since there are no direct flight between Bangkok and The Hague.
The pouch with 2,000 stickers remains missing leading the Foreign Ministry to cancel them all as well as informing the Immigration Department of the disappearance.
The airline which carried the pouch paid a Bt26,000 damages compensation for the lost bag, Mr Nuttawut said, confirming that the missing stickers bound for The Hague were unrelated to the lost visas in Kuala Lumpur and Savannakhet.
The Foreign Ministry has coordinated with security agencies to keep a close watch on possible visa fraud while Thai embassies and consulates worldwide were instructed to check their inventories and the authenticity of visa stickers, he said.
Mr Nuttavudh said the Foreign Ministry planned to introduce an E-visa system, online collection of applicant data, on October 1 next year to resolve the problem of visa fraud in the long run but stickers would still be required in countries in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa to prevent counterfeiting. (MCOT online news)