Monday, July 24, 2017

More Taiwanese fraud suspects bound for China?

A pigeon house sits above fish ponds in Fengyuan.

Local news organizations are reporting that Taiwanese fraud suspects in Thailand will be sent to China.
As earlier reports led to believe, Thailand on Sunday announced it was sending 25 Taiwanese phone fraud suspects to China, and not to Taiwan, as should have been the case.

It was reportedly the first time since the two countries concluded a bilateral judicial cooperation agreement concluded in 2013 that Thailand made a decision running counter to it, reports said. Pressure from China has widely been blamed for Thailand’s change of heart.
The Bangkok Post reports on the case in detail:
Among the suspects, 19 are from mainland China and 25 from Taiwan, but investigators believe there are Thais working for the gang who help find areas to carry out the scam, provide them with electronic equipment facilities, and offer to open bank accounts for them, Immigration Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said Sunday.


"At least five Thais may be involved," Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said.

His bureau is in the process of withdrawing the suspects' permission to stay in Thailand, which was granted to them when they entered the country as tourists, as they are a threat to the country.
The case bears many similarities to the Kenya deportations (my blog, The Diplomat). I expect that the gang flew out to Cambodia together from China, meaning that the Thai police can deport them to China with perfect legality, since revoking their visa sends them back to their most recent port of embarkation, which should be China. No extradition process necessary.

Thailand could even argue it is merely revoking the visas of the scammers, and thus the bilateral cooperation treaty is not an issue since it is not proactively sending them to China over Taiwan, but passively returning them to the place they came from last. China and Thailand also have a bilateral crime agreement.

The set up in Thailand was very similar to the one in Kenya, with sophisticated call centers and victims in many countries, but predominantly China. Under international law, as we have seen in other cases, the Chinese have the right to ask for the suspects since they are an offended party.

This is what happens when Taiwan didn't carry out its part of the bargain to prosecute scammers. It forced China to start pushing countries to hand over those fraudsters to China instead of sending them back to Taiwan. If only Taiwan had actually punished these men... and the scammers are well aware of what could happen if they are caught. Perhaps the prospect of being sent to China will deter Taiwanese from participating in phone scams abroad. Hopefully.

The case also shows the shifting geopolitics of SE Asia. Cambodia and Laos are fast becoming Chinese colonies/protectorates with massive Chinese influence. Indeed, this news comes as Cambodia is considering sending 7 Taiwanese suspected fraudsters to China. Thailand has to be feeling that same pressure.

Taiwan is the third largest investor in Thailand, and the Tsai government has suggested a free trade agreement with China. If it wants the economic benefits of interaction with Thailand, the Administration will likely make noises like "regrettable" for the benefit of its domestic audience, but do nothing. Recall that a pan-Blue poll found that 49% didn't mind the suspects being sent to China, so it appears that the Administration will suffer little blowback from letting China punish and pay for jail time for the Taiwan scammers.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You meant a free trade deal with Thailand (not China).