Visa runs for me are a blessing and a curse. On one hand they push me to see other amazing parts of Asia I might otherwise find excuses not to see, and on the other hand they often pop up at a time when I am too busy to travel or have just come back off of another trip. But hey, having a holiday every three months, even if it is just over the border to Laos for a few days, is a treat, and one of the necessities of having a yearly non-immigrant ‘O' visa.
Lately, though, I have run into a couple of guys who thought I was a little silly for complying with the rules at all, I quote, “Why don't you just pay for a stamp”. “Because I don't want the hassle of being an illegal alien and risking the chance of losing my Thailand life”, was my roundabout reply. For those that don't know, for a small fee, a dodgy agent will take your passport off somewhere, stamp it with the 3-month re-entry, and deliver it back to your point of contact.
I will be honest, this isn't the first time I'd heard of this activity. The first time was a year ago when a guy I knew got caught. Luckily for him, though, he was on an island, not on the mainland, so the local feds got to him first before any big player immigration bosses did. They took him out for a drink, scared him a bit and then asked for 300,000 Baht to destroy the passport and evidence of the dodgy visa. He managed to negotiate down to 200,000. Two other guys he knew weren't so lucky; they got banged up and readied for a court hearing.
So I ask myself, are people just stupid? I told these guys I met of the guy I knew who got caught, but still, the answer was, “Nah, it's cool”. For the sake of taking a one-day trip out of the country for a couple of thousand Baht, they would rather risk the wrath of the authorities. Furthermore, as far as I know, both of these guys have girlfriends, yet they don't seem to realise that one day that might just get pulled up leaving or coming back into Thailand, and never see their partners again. And that could be the least of their worries. a Thai visa is issued by The Royal Thai Consulate, which means if you defraud your visa you are effectively committing a crime against a Royal institution. I dread to think what the ramifications of this could be.
My advice is, don't be an idiot, just play by the rules. You might think you are in with “the mafia”, so to speak, but when that guy gets caught and is asked to give names to get himself off the hook, do you think he will think twice about giving up your name and any other farang he knows? Scams like this only run for as long as the necessary dodgy people are in their posts. Once they are caught and ousted, an investigation ensues and someone's head has to roll. And let me tell you, it won't be the guy taking your money, it will be the “stupid farang”.