Some of the foreigners have been waiting for more than three months, reported Kim Shanti, of Shanti’s Lodge in Chalong, who has been assisting the foreigners with their claims as a “co-ordinator”.
Many of the foreigners have now filed complaints with Phuket City Police.
Fearful of their immigration status, some of the foreigners have been reluctant to report their predicament to immigration, Ms Shanti said.
Ms Shanti, who has lived in Phuket for decades, explained that many of the foreigners were initially stuck in Phuket due to the pandemic and had turned to using the visa service company to help them obtain their visa extensions.
However, many of them are now left with no immigration stamps confirming that they may continue to stay in the country. Many of them still have not had their passports returned.
Ms Shanti has been instrumental in helping the foreigners understand local legal processes. “Some of the people who reported this to police were not aware that the officer only recorded their statements in the daily record log,” she explained.
As far as the police were concerned a formal complaint had yet to be filed, Ms Shanti added.
Ms Shanti appealed to the media to highlight the issue, as now formal complaints have been filed, but still, no action has been taken against the visa agency.
“Thailand is open, and tourists are ready to travel to Thailand. But there are some people who do bad things like this. I don’t think it’s okay,” she said.
Phuket City Police Chief Col Sarawut Chuprasit told The Phuket News that police were aware of the incident and that he had contacted Phuket Immigration about the visa agency.
“We have done a preliminary check and coordinated with the Phuket Immigration Chief about this case. We have held discussions with the relevant departments and commanding officers, and the conclusion is that tourists must apply for a visa extension at the immigration office in person,” he said.
“Ensuring that your visa is current and valid is a responsibility that every tourist should know. In the event that the visa or extension is about to expire, you must hurry to contact the immigration office to submit your application to extend your stay," he added.
“In the event that a tourist has claimed to have been deceived, the police will conduct an investigation. If a tourist has been scammed, we will prosecute the agency and ensure that the tourist recovers any monies paid as well,” Col Sarawut said.
“However, I would like to emphasise that tourists must be aware of how long they are allowed to stay in Thailand, and when their visa is about to expire they have to go to Immigration in person and apply to have their visa extended,” he repeated.
Phuket Immigration last night issued a notice urging any foreigners affected by a visa broker or visa renewal agency, by taking their passports, and their money, but failing to have their visa stays extended on their behalf to contact the Phuket Immigration Help Center at 086-4077763 or 076-221905 ext 10.
The notice asks foreigners to have the following documents prepared before contacting the Help Center:
- Passport or copy of passport
- Evidence of action against the company/agent about the visa
- Evidence of legal proceedings such as documents, reports etc (if any)
- Other related information
Foreigners may file a formal complaint through the hotline or make an appointment to receive assistance.
Additional reporting by Chutharat Plerin