Police on Friday said they will target all Nigerians in Thailand for investigation in a move a top human rights official warns could amount to illegal and discriminatory policing.
Tourist Police chief Maj. Gen. Surachet Hakpal made the announcement while displaying people rounded up in the latest mass arrests of 72 foreign nationals from 75 locations nationwide, including Khaosan Road. He said arrests were also made at 18 schools.
Eleven foreigners were arrested for overstaying their visas, 46 for illegal entry and 15 for petty crimes. Among them were Russians, Indians, Laotians, Ugandans and Nigerians.
Surachet said the campaign has seen more than 2,000 foreigners permanently banned from entering Thailand.
Originally called Operation Black Eagle, it has resulted in weekly photos of mostly black suspects under arrest. Surachet acknowledged the effort has been targeting Nigerians, saying they have gone after suspects in so-called romance scams, where someone creates a fake online identity to engage in a romantic relationship with Thai women who are then pressured to transfer them money. Police say most of the scammers are Nigerian.
“This doesn’t mean all Nigerians are bad people,” he said. “Our crackdown so far is to separate the bad guys from the good ones.”
He said the roughly 1,400 Nigerians currently residing in Thailand will be investigated next week to prevent further crimes committed by foreigners.
A member of the National Human Rights Commission warned that indiscriminately investigating all Nigerians without evidence of wrongdoing or probable cause could be against the law.
“They should not randomly investigate people just because they’re Nigerians, because it will become a discrimination against their race,” Angkhana Neelaphaijit said, adding that those arrested have the right to legal defense and to file a complaint if their rights have been violated.