Phuket Immigration Deputy Chief Lt Col Nareuwat Putthawiro confirmed to The Phuket News today (Nov 6) that the two foreigners were taken into custody at the Palm House International School on Wednesday.
The two Brits have been handed over to the Chalong Police, who have been asked to investigate whether any charges should be pressed against the operators of the school, Lt Col Nareuwat said.
“The two teachers were arrested for working without a work permit. Once processed, they will be deported out of the country. Meanwhile, the owner of the school will be investigated too,” Lt Col Nareuwat added.
The raid followed a tip-off that foreigners were working illegally at the school, Lt Col Nareuwat noted.
“Both [foreigners] are British nationals,” Lt Col Nareuwat confirmed, but he declined to identify the two by name or age.
The two had originally entered the country on ‘visa exemption’ status, allowing them to stay in Thailand for 30 days.
“Their visa status does not allow them to work or perform any form of business. They were arrested as they are suspected of working without a work permit,” he repeated.
“Right now, they are being investigated and questioned by Chalong Police. Next, their case will be soon submitted to the Phuket Provincial Court. If the judge finds them guilty, they will be deported,” Lt Col Nareuwat said.
“Meanwhile, we have already asked the Chalong Police to investigate the school owner over this issue, because the school accepted foreigners to work illegally,” he added.
The penalties for illegally hiring foreigners to work became much harsher under an Emergency Decree issued in 2017.
Pitool Dumsakorn, Chief of the Phuket Employment Office at the time, warned of the new penalties, and urged employers to not breach the employment law regarding the hiring of foreigners.
“For example, deceiving that one can bring a foreigner to work without a work permit can incur a fine from B600,000 up to B1 million and from three to 10 years in prison, or both, for each foreign worker deceived,” he said.
Further, a foreigner caught working without a work permit or working in a position prohibited to foreigners may be fined B2,000-100,000, or imprisoned up to five years, or both, Mr Pitool warned.
The school posted a notice on its Facebook page yesterday, announcing:
A short note to our parents.
It is important to both myself and the school that you as parents are aware of the recent disruptions to the school and not be subject to wild rumours.
As you have no doubt heard we had a visit from immigration on Wednesday, unfortunately, this led to two of our teachers being interviewed for visa reasons. With all the Covid disruptions to border control and a misunderstanding regarding visas, this brought about a hiccup in our records. However, we are interviewing a potential new director on Friday, who will ensure that this type of misunderstanding never occurs again.
Yes, it has been a disruptive couple of days for both students and teachers which is truly unfortunate, these types of incidents are a part of life and we will deal with them.
Moving forward we will grow and strengthen our wonderful school, this includes opening the PIP preschool for 3-5 year olds
Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to furnishing your children with the quality education they deserve, the education we can provide.
The Phuket News has received allegations that the school never applied for work permits for the teachers, and that several teachers are owed substantial amounts in pay.
The Phuket News has contacted Nicholas Parker-Smith, the director of the school, and is awaiting any further comment on the raids and the arrests.
Lt Col Nareuwat confirmed today that Phuket Immigration is still accepting applications for foreigners to change their visas status to allow the foreigner to work.
However, he said he was not aware of any application filed for the two foreigners arrested.
Lt Col Nareuwat did note,“Please note that the existing visa must have at least 15 days left before it expires for us to accept the application. This is because the application is sent to Hat Yai [the regional immigration head office] for processing.”