Thai police hit back over ‘drunk’ Taiwanese actress’s extortion claim
Thai police on Thursday denied a Taiwanese actress's claims of extortion, retorting that she was detained because she could not produce a passport.
Taiwanese actress Charlene An (An Yu-Qing) said she and her friends were victims of a police shakedown early this month while on holiday in Bangkok. Her claim has made national headlines in Taiwan, to the dismay of Thai tourism operators.
The actress said police stopped their taxi at a checkpoint close to the Chinese Embassy on Ratchadaphisek Road on the night of January 4 and detained the group for two hours. She said the police eventually released her and her friends in return for a payment of 27,000 baht.
Metropolitan Police Bureau's deputy commissioner Maj-Gen Samroeng Suanthong said he had discussed the incident with the six policemen involved at Huai Khwang Police Station.
He said the officers admitted they had challenged the Taiwanese actress’s group over their passports but insisted they had not taken cash from them. The checkpoint was part of routine traffic safety operations over New Year, he added.
Samroeng said the six policemen had difficulty communicating with the Taiwanese tourists and were forced to use English and hand gestures as the group spoke only Chinese.
"The actress appeared drunk and did not have a passport," he said, adding that the police officers eventually decided to release the group as they were not considered dangerous.
Samroeng said the officers also warned the actress that her electronic cigarette was illegal in Thailand, but did not fine her.
He said it would now be difficult to summon the Taiwanese actress to give her side of the story, but said police are still seeking clues from CCTV camera footage.
He also confirmed that the incident had damaged the reputation of the police but declined to say whether it had eroded confidence in Thai tourism.
Tourism operators say repeated scandals involving the Thai police have damaged the country’s reputation abroad.
Royal Thai Police spokesperson Archayon Kraithong doubled down by inssting that officers had taken no money from the Taiwanese actress’s group.
He added that the policemen had released the tourists after they became agitated.
He also denied that the officers had taken the Taiwanese group to a spot where there were no CCTV cameras.
"The police will check CCTV camera footage around the checkpoint to obtain clear evidence," he said.