The Thai immigration authorities are once again stepping up their crackdown on visa overstayers in the wake of the brutal murder and dismemberment of Spanish businessman David Bernat, whose body parts washed up in the Chao Phraya river recently.
The prime suspect in the crime, fellow Spaniard Artur Segarra Princep, had reportedly overstayed his current visa since December and had entered Thailand over 200 times in the past ten years, reports the Bangkok Post.
Recognising the apparent link between crimes committed in the Kingdom by foreigners and significant visa overstays, the Immigration Bureau will be asking hotels to continue cooperating with the authorities by proactively reporting information about foreign guests. The Central Investigation Bureau, meanwhile, will be investigating foreign criminal gangs thought to be operating in Thailand.
In a bid to attract so-called quality tourists, the Thai authorities have recently been developing new punishments for visa overstays, operating on the mantra of “good guys in, bad guys out.”
Under the new rules, due to be enacted from 20 March onwards, people overstaying the terms of their visa may be banned from re-entering the Kingdom for between one and ten years, depending on the length of time they’ve overstayed and whether they have been arrested and duly prosecuted.
The banning punishments will be enacted on those overstaying for over 90 days so are focusing on foreigners seemingly knowingly indulging in lengthy overstays.
Up until now, punishments for visa overstays have been minimal, with a maximum fine of just ฿20,000 (US$560) levied. Visa overstayers who hand themselves in prior to the 20 March crackdown will be dealt with more leniently and so it is hoped that many .
In the particular case of Segarra Princep, he denies his involvement in the murder of David Bernat although has admitted that he did know the victim. He was arrested in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, last week after fleeing Thailand through the Chong Chom border checkpoint in Surin province, where he had departed to from Bangkok with his Thai girlfriend.
Regardless of Segarra Princep’s claims, police are apparently confident that they now have enough evidence to prove his guilt in the heinous crime, according to the Nation.
Featured image is of Artur Segarra Princep upon his arrest in Sihanoukville; via Huy Bunleng / Preah Sihanouk Police