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Money-laundering grey list yet to hurt Thailand

Publication Date : 17-05-2012


Money is still transferable as usual, veterans in tourism and other businesses say.

They spoke after the Anti-Money -Laundering Office (AMLO) aired concerns that Thailand faces a high risk of being 'blacklisted' by global watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for lack of action in countering money-laundering.

AMLO secretary-general Sihanart Prayoonrat said at a press conference yesterday that being in the FATF "grey-list" for involvement in terrorist support and money laundering had already created problems for Thai tourism enterprises.

The FATF has reported its listing to many member states. Sihanart said this action had affected Thai tour companies as their money had been "rejected". And Thai people may soon face problems transferring funds to relatives or families overseas, or when travelling overseas. Their credit cards could be rejected, he said.

In order to solve the problem, he said Thailand should urgently enforce anti-money-laundering regulations and cut any support for terrorist acts.

He said the AMLO had already put these ideas to the Cabinet. But the moves needed to be implemented this year, otherwise Thai businesses would face serious problems on money transactions.

Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association, said there was no sign at present that overseas banks had rejected money transfers from travel agents from Thailand. Some 700 travel agents were members of the association and they had been working as usual. He insisted that no members were involved in money laundering.

"Today I had meetings with 4-5 travel associations, but nobody has raised this issue,'' he said.

But he acknowledged that the issue was a big concern. If such problems occurred, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport should play an important role in seeking a solution. The association would also have to meet members to discuss the situation.

Maiyarat Pheerayakoses, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, believed the issue would not hurt the tourism industry.

Operators were "clean" of money-laundering. And the financial system could prove this with documents of transfers to bank destinations when operators deal with firms overseas.

Paiboon Ponsuwanna, president of the National Shippers Council, said exporters and importers had not felt negative impacts from Thailand being put on the FATF "grey list". "However, it could create more costs for bankers in the future."

Vallop Vitanakorn, vice chairman to the Federation of Thai Industries, said businesses were not affected yet but he worried some importers could soon face difficulties in dealing with overseas traders, as they would be carefully checked on their credit and sources of fund.

He said some businesses may also cite the grey-list to create barriers for Thai businesses.


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