Thailand passes first reading of anti-money laundering bills

Thailand passes first reading of anti-money laundering bills

THE National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday approved in principle three bills on the anti-money laundering agency, which will see the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) moved from the Justice Ministry and put directly under the prime minister.

The three bills passed the NLA' first reading with a vast majority of "yes" votes and a 21-member panel has been set up to further scrutinise the bill.

One of the bills makes it easier to fight acts of terrorism in line with international crime-fighting protocol. Evaluation of member countries' commitment to this protocol will begin next year.

The bill on the structure of AMLO would authorise its agents to carry weapons and will be granted greater authority to investigate and gather evidence.

The last bill covers more acts of crime under which violators would be subject to the freezing or seizure of ill-gotten assets. It will also allow greater protection of witnesses or informants who provided information leading to the arrest of wrongdoers or the seizure of their assets.

Under the new bills, AMLO will be put directly under the premier, who will then select its secretary-general, whose term will be extended from the current four years to six.

However, the bills specify that the chairman of AMLO's board of directors will not be a politician - a move that aims to stop the agency being used against political rivals.

NLA members have been debating the condition for AMLO to be put under the direct supervision of the prime minister, and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has successfully defended the idea, by saying it would make for quicker operations, with less steps to coordinate with relevant agencies and trust by the international communit

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