The former chief of the Border Patrol Police Bureau replaces Pol Lt Gen Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn, a high-profile crime fighter who was mysteriously transferred from the IB to an inactive position early this month.
Pol Lt Gen Sompong insisted that even though his new job is different from his border patrol work, he will draw on his experience as an investigator with the Crime Suppression Division to boost the IB’s efficiency in screening foreign visitors to prevent transnational criminals from sneaking into the country.
“Although I came from the border patrol police, which is a different type of job, the IB already has a well-organised system, with foreign and legal affairs divisions and a coordination unit. The new surroundings here should not be a problem for me,”' he said.
He told the Bangkok Post the IB’s job mainly involves safeguarding national security and providing assistance to tourists.
“If we focus too much on security, services for tourists will be affected, but if we are lax about security, the country could become a hideout for transnational criminals,” Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.
It is necessary for the IB to collaborate and share information with Interpol and the immigration authorities of other countries to keep track of foreign criminal gangs, he said.
“We want to assist good tourists who have purchasing power. They bring income to the country. As for security arrangements, we focus on checking backgrounds of various people with Interpol and immigration authorities in other countries,” Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.
He also said he had recently instructed the IB’s investigation centre to work with other agencies to create a more connected system of logging foreign criminals.
The current priority is to crack down on pickpockets from neighbouring countries who target both Thais and foreign travellers during festivals and other key events, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said, adding authorities had also been told to remain on high alert along border areas with natural channels through which these criminals can pass unmonitored.
He also said the IB is ramping up the use of biometric technology at international airports to guard against transnational criminals. Biometric identification, such as retina scans, will play an increasingly important role in preventing the movement of criminals throughout the region.
On the issue of foreigners seeking asylum and resettlement in Thailand, Pol Lt Gen Sompong cited the recent case of a young Saudi woman who was stopped at Suvarnabhumi airport.
In January, Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunan, 18, had arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait, claiming her family subjected her to physical and psychological abuse. She planned to seek asylum in Australia and feared she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration police who stopped her at the airport. Later she was granted asylum by Canada.
Asked whether he will continue with the policies of his predecessor – Pol Lt Gen Surachate – who was transferred to the Prime Minister’s Office, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said: “We’ll continue the good things started by the former IB chief. But if there are still things that need to be changed, we’ll fix them for the benefit of the country.”
Addressing the issue of North Koreans trying to use Thailand as a waypoint to seek refuge in South Korea, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said all foreign nationals will be treated equally.
“We will handle the issue straightforwardly in compliance with rules and regulations. Any foreigners who are in Thailand must follow Thai laws,” he said.
Asked whether these North Korean refugees will be deported, he said that several aspects of their cases must be considered carefully before his agency decides on a final course of action.
“We have to come up with the best solution so that Thailand will not be affected. Our priority is to put the country’s benefits first,” Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.
“We will not try to please any particular country, or leave other countries upset. We must try to ensure any solutions are accepted by the international community while also complying with Thai laws.”
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