Thailand has failed to convince the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) to support its removal from a list of “high risk” countries for money laundering.
Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) chief Seehanat Prayoonrat recently met APG officials in Australia to clarify Thailand’s attempts to tackle money-laundering and financing of terrorism.
The APG is a regional body of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which in February downgraded Thailand to its “grey list” for failing to carry out laws to curb financial misconduct.
“The APG commented that we haven’t done enough [to combat money laundering],” Pol Col Seehanat said yesterday.
“This means Thailand is still listed as a high-risk nation for money laundering,” he said.
The Amlo chief said he told the APG that a new ministerial regulation requiring commercial banks to thoroughly check the backgrounds of people who open bank accounts would come into force on August 21.
The APG was also informed that two bills on anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism are being deliberated by legislators, he said.
But the APG said it believed these measures are still insufficient to prove the country can effectively deal with financial misconduct, Pol Col Seehanat said.
The APG also pointed out that the Amlo had not yet drawn up a restructuring plan to better crack down on money laundering, he added.
For example, the agency should set up intelligence and investigation units on illegal financial activities as well as an international cooperation division to work with international bodies on anti-money laundering and terrorism financing, the Amlo chief said.
Amlo also lacks the manpower to scrutinise hundreds of thousands of accounts in financial institutions.
Pol Col Seehanat stressed the need for parliament, which will convene its next session tomorrow, to speed up passage of the two measures on anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing.
The sooner the two bills become law, the better chance Thailand would have of being removed from the grey list, he said.
He said he hoped the bills will come into force before the next meeting of the FATF in February, when the body will revise its list.
If Thailand stays on the list, investors will face troubles ranging from difficulties in making financial transactions to foreign countries, to paying higher fees for financial activities, the Amlo chief said.