Thailand’s Tricky Extraditions
Image Credit: Gabriel White

Thailand’s Tricky Extraditions


Extraditing a wanted man out of Thailand can be a diplomatic nightmare. Nobody knows this more than Bangkok’s top ally, the United States, as evidenced by the likes of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Bout was finally extradited in 2010 after more than two years of legal wrangling.

Extradition treaties are a recent advent in Thailand, and fraught with difficulties. But occasionally the wrangling comes together.

Such was the case with Maksym Shynkarenko, a 33-year-old Ukrainian from Kharkiv who has been charged with 32 counts for allegedly operating a Ukraine-based hardcore child porn site.

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He apparently worked with three others in establishing the most extensive child porn distribution network ever prosecuted in the U.S. He has pleaded not guilty. The Ukrainian government is supporting him, while his mother insists it’s a case of mistaken identity.

Shynkarenko was on holiday in 2009 in Thailand when he was arrested and has been fighting extradition to the United States ever since, losing his legal battle a week ago. He was whisked to New Jersey and charged.

The child porn sites were allegedly based out of the Ukraine, however, the government there says no evidence had been found to substantiate the allegation. But U.S. prosecutors for their part say Shynkarenko sold access to the sites to clients worldwide under false names while warning customers to lie and say their credit cards had been stolen if questioned by police.

U.S. attorney for New Jersey – where the sites were initially accessed by the police – Paul Fishman has said 560 customers from 47 U.S. states have been linked to the sites and convicted so far.

For decades, Thailand had resisted signing onto extradition treaties. Perhaps the authorities had thought they were protecting themselves or fellow Thais from unwanted foreign overtures. But this has come back to haunt them in the form of Thaksin Shinawatra.

The former leader, ousted in a 2006 coup, has been able to wander the planet with virtual impunity despite convictions at home for gross corruption.

Hong Kong, London, even nearby Phnom Penh have provided Thaksin with a comfortable place to rest and work, from where he was able to outlast his political opponents in government. Now Yingluck, his sister, is in charge, which could result in his return.

A Thai extradition treaty with the U.S. was updated in 2009 with several more signed with the Philippines, South Korea, Bangladesh and Indonesia in the same year. The list of treaties grew to 14 countries the following year, but this number, given Thailand’s place in the world, remains paltry.

Thailand’s foreign policy has been described as awkward. Its supporters would argue this is a complicated legacy stemming from its historical ability to retain its independence and fend off advances from occupying colonial powers of neighboring countries.

Such arguments aren’t without merit, but a successful prosecution of Bout and Shynkarenko while Thaksin continues to flaunt his freedoms should encourage wiser heads to take a closer look at widening Thailand’s extradition process.

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