Bangkok Post Wednesday February 13, 2008
Akha claim to be victims of a gang of ID card forgers
Chiang Mai _ Akha people have asked police to stop hounding them after 35 families were arrested in Chiang Mai’s Mae Taeng district and charged with forging their identity cards. They say they are victims of a gang of forgers.
The Network of Akha Hilltribes in the North yesterday accompanied 20 Akha villagers who lodged a petition with Pol Lt-Gen Theerasak Chookitkhun, chief of Provincial Police Region 5.
The highlanders asked police to stop raiding Huay Pong village and said they wanted a full investigation into the fraud.
Their petition followed the recent arrests of four Akha people for forging ID cards.
So far, 35 hilltribe families have been rounded up, most of them Akha.
Network representative Manoon Tainurak said most villagers had no idea the ID cards they thought had been issued by the district office were fake.
But some villagers admitted they had paid the gang up to 20,000 baht each for the cards.
The villagers said while some of them might have been party to the fraud, it was unfair to hold the entire village to account.
The village is home to about 400 Akha people.
The district office has classified the Huay Pong villagers as people taking temporary refuge in Thailand.
One of the villagers, Liba Mayoe, produced a bogus card and insisted he had been misled into believing it was genuine.
The card does not contain the authentication prints and the letters are blurry and can be rubbed off.
”No one dares carry an ID card these days because they are afraid of being booked for having a fake card,” he said.
Mr Manoon said the villagers had been living in fear since the Department of Special Investigation estimated that more than 5,000 hilltribe people in the area might be carrying fake IDs, which means they could be liable for criminal charges if they are caught with them.