Seehanat Prayoonrat: Compliance is our key role

ACAMS Today had the opportunity to speak with Police Colonel Seehanat Prayoonrat, PhD (Law), secretary-general of Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), Thailand's FIU. Khun Prayoonrat has held the position of head of AMLO since March 2012. Prior to this position, he was appointed as a member of the Drafting Committee on Anti-Money Laundering Law/Terrorist Financing Law and has served in various capacities with parliamentary and governmental bodies. Consequently, he wrote a monograph titled An Overview of the Legal Framework of Thailand's AML/CFT Activities, published in December 2006 by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). He has also presented numerous papers in English at international seminars including a paper on Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Corruption Matters in 25 Asian Pacific Countries at the 2006 March seminar sponsored by ADB/OECD Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia and the Pacific held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was appointed by Asia/Pacific Group as honorary advisor for Thailand. He served as director, AMLO Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), senior specialist, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of AMLO. He was acting secretary-general from October 2008-2012. He is also chairman of the AML/CFT Working Group in Thailand.

ACAMS Today: What is the current AML regime in Thailand in terms of practical implementation? What are the next critical steps?

Seehanat Prayoonrat: On 14 January 2013 and 17 January 2013, the Senate and the House of Representatives respectively gave a final confirmation to the Anti-Money Laundering (AMLA) (No. 4) and FOT Act drafts. Both laws will be submitted for royal signature and gazettal in a few days. I believe that in a few months, Thailand will be mostly in compliance with the FATF standards and obligations. Meanwhile, we expect to see all reporting entities observe the rules as we will impose more stringent supervision and regulation on them.

AT: What is your vision for AMLO's development and its role in money-laundering prevention and financial crime investigations?

SP: This year and in past years, the Thai Government has rendered strong support to AMLO. We have restructured the work units to include, among others, a Financial Intelligence Division, a Supervision Division and an International Cooperation Division. The government also allocated more budgets and personnel for compliance. I am confident that our action in money laundering prevention and suppression as well as the countering of terrorist financing will be in full swing starting this year.

AT: What are some of the critical AML challenges facing Thailand and Asia? What advice would you give on how to best deal with these challenges?

SP: AML is new to many sectors in our country. How to make the financial, non-financial and civil sectors understand that AML is everyone's duty and is good for the sake of society both domestically and internationally is extremely challenging. But we will continue to talk with them through various media and I believe everyone will gain a better understanding. The AMLO on its part will also exercise our supervisory power to make sure that everyone is compliant with the AML laws.

AT: In the last five years, what would you say are the most memorable AML/CFT lessons learned by compliance professionals?

SP: In the past, some financial institutions failed to fully implement the AML laws and the KYC/CDD regulations, making Thailand vulnerable to be used as a safe haven for money laundering and other financial crimes. Today, we still see people were lured into making bank transfers to the fraudulent gangsters. We still see human traffickers wiring their money overseas. These are some of the lessons that the FIs need to make note of and help the authorities to get rid of these culprits.

It is time to get rid of the concept that AML is costly and non-profitable

AT: What counsel would you give to financial institutions on how to build a solid compliance program?

SP: I would encourage all managers of a bank and non-bank business to view anti-money laundering as their core business. They must place the greatest importance on this matter and instruct their staff to act accordingly. It is time to get rid of the concept that AML is costly and non-profitable. Cost on society is much higher if you neglect AML compliance duties.

AT: What is your vision for AML development in Thailand in the near future?

SP: From now and into the near future, supervision and regulation on AML compliance is our key role. We are ready to increase the number of staff as well as their efficiency. I am determined to reduce financial crimes that use financial institutions as a tool for committing crimes.

Interviewed by Hue Dang, CAMS, head of Asia, ACAMS, Hong Kong, China,

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