These shady “businesspeople” have been allowed to operate a variety of illegal enterprises, including the trafficking of human beings, the trade in weapons, gambling, and money laundering.
Before the existence of these Chinese triads was made public last year, Thai society was mostly ignorant of the issue, let alone the scope of their shadowy operations there. The majority of people were unaware that networks of overseas Chinese, some of whom have acquired Thai citizenship, have profited on Thai territory while tainting the legal system.
Triad bosses allegedly made relationships with key military and police personnel before beginning operations in Thailand. Some of them have even bragged about having political ties in Thailand.
When an unauthorized Bangkok entertainment facility that catered primarily to Chinese nationals was raided in late October of last year, the tip of the iceberg was revealed. More than 100 of its customers tested positive for drugs. Other items seized during the operation included luxury cars, numerous party drugs, and gaming equipment.
The bar was connected to Chaiyanat Kornchayanant, also known as Tuhao, a Chinese-born businessman who became a naturalized Thai citizen more than 20 years ago. Later, he wed a police colonel who was Pracha Promnok’s niece, the former head of the national police.
Pracha served in Yingluck Shinawatra’s coalition government, which was run by the Pheu Thai Party, as both deputy prime minister and minister of justice.
Tuhao gave the ruling Palang Pracharath Party 3 million Baht in 2021.
According to deputy national police head Pol General Surachate Hakparn, his group is one of five Chinese gangs running nightclubs in Bangkok and Chonburi as fronts for illegal enterprises like drug trafficking, money laundering, and internet gambling activities.
When it appeared that police action against the triads was waning in November—key figures had been freed and accusations against others had been dropped—whistleblower Chuwit Kamolvisit came out with documents he said revealed widespread police corruption and cooperation with Chinese gangsters.
Because of public pressure brought on by Chuwit’s revelations, Tuhao was arrested by the police. On November 23, a Chinese-born Thai national who had become naturalized denied taking part in any criminal activity.
Five Bangkok police officers, the most senior of whom was a colonel, were later fired for allegedly accepting bribes. Colonel Wanthanaree Kornchayanant, Tuhao’s wife, was also fired from the police department while a probe into her possible role in money laundering was ongoing.
Several of the alleged triad leaders have been in Thailand for more than 30 years, according to recent revelations made by Chuwit and opposition MPs.
One of them was identified as Yu Xinqi, who is said to be the head of a dubious business network comparable to Tuhao’s. Over 7,000 Chinese nationals were allegedly brought into Thailand illegally, according to Move Forward Party Lawmaker Rangsiman Rome.
Yu created the illegal Shaanxi Association of Thailand, with headquarters in Bangkok, according to Rangsiman during a legislative debate in February, as a cover for triad operations.
About 7,000 Chinese were able to obtain student visas through the group for lengthy stays in Thailand. Chuwit asserted that under the guise of the foundation, criminal bosses had entered the nation.
Yu’s visa was then cancelled by police, who also accused him of engaging in illegal soliciting, breaking the Cyber Crime Act, and forming an association without a permit.
Surachate, who was given responsibility by the national police chief to oversee the triads investigation, submitted complaints against 110 immigration police personnel, among them three generals, for alleged misconduct and bribery in late February.
According to the police, dishonest immigration officials assisted numerous Chinese nationals in continuously renewing their student visas, allowing them to stay in Thailand for as long as 20 years in certain instances.
According to Assoc Prof Wasin Punyawuttakul of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Naresuan University, a wave of Chinese triads moved to Thailand around six years ago as a result of a crackdown on corruption in Beijing that drove numerous gray companies to Southeast Asia.
In reality, Chinese organized crime has been in Thailand since 2015. The Thai government might not have known about this or they might have chosen to ignore it, the academic said.
Since then, the triads have grown their empire to include a variety of companies, from legitimate tour operators, eateries, nightclubs, and hotels to illicit prostitution rings and gambling dens that mostly serve Chinese expats.
According to him, the disclosed triads are really “the tip of the iceberg” because a “far broader system of gray firms” is still hidden behind them.
The cash-flush triad bosses are suspected of using legitimate enterprises and real estate purchased through Thai nominees to launder their illicit funds. According to experts, this should raise concerns for all Thai people.
Foreign and security affairs expert Assoc Prof Panitan Wattanayagorn warned that if we do not handle this situation appropriately, Chinese capitalists will gradually take over Thailand’s islands.
The security of Thailand, according to Panitan, is now threatened by Chinese triads, and he called for a sweeping crackdown on them.
But China needs to work with us. This delicate topic might have an impact on relations between nations. China actually wants to act against these individuals, the speaker claimed.
The Chinese Embassy recently stated that Beijing backs Thai authorities’ efforts to prosecute Chinese nationals who engage in unlawful activity in Thailand.
“The law enforcement authorities of China and Thailand have worked closely together to tackle transnational crimes including fraud and internet gambling. The embassy commented on its official Facebook page, “It should be made clear that the alleged criminal acts are only undertaken by a tiny number of people and in no way represent the mainstream of Chinese nationals and enterprises in Thailand.
The embassy, however, asserted that “third-party elements” were attempting to “discredit China and destroy the cordial cooperation between China and Thailand” by using this matter. The third persons that were allegedly involved were not identified.
It is important to note that the following information is based on information from the United States Department of State.