'No vice grilling' of Thai women

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 March, 1999, 12:00am

The director of immigration is to tell the Thai consul-general that first-time Thai women visitors are not being quizzed on whether they are involved in the vice trade.

Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong was responding yesterday to questions from legislators on the issue. 'I can assure you that nothing as such has ever happened,' Mr Lee told the special Finance Committee meeting.

The South China Morning Post revealed on Monday that immigration officers had been ordered to stop all first-time Thai women travellers aged between 18 and 40 at the airport, question them and search their baggage.

Some Thai tourists reportedly said that they were being stripped to their underwear for a thorough body search at the airport. Mr Lee denied this. The Post's story did not claim that body searches were being carried out.

Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said that body searches or strip searches were not the duty of Customs officers but were handled by police.

Mr Lee said: 'After the news broke, the Thai consul-general asked to see me. I will truthfully tell him that no discrimination has ever taken place.' A Thai community group yesterday branded as discriminatory the questioning of the women.

A spokesman for Friends of Thai in Hong Kong said it was worried the policy, codenamed Operation Hoover, would deter Thais from visiting Hong Kong.

It had received six complaints since last year on the issue.

About 120,000 Thais visited Hong Kong last year.