Bangkok police admit to extorting 27,000 baht from Taiwanese actress
Police officers at a checkpoint in Bangkok’s Huay Kwang district admitted to extorting 27,000 baht from a Taiwanese actress in exchange for letting her off after allegedly finding a vaping device on her.
A Royal Thai Police (RTP) source said policemen manning a temporary checkpoint in front of the Chinese embassy in the early hours of January 5 admitted to extorting the money while being interrogated separately on Sunday.
Pol Lt-General Thiti Saengsawang, commissioner of the Metropolitan Bureau, confirmed on Monday the reported confessions but did not provide details on the number of police officers in question, their rank, position or names. He added that the investigation team led by him has yet to make a formal announcement of the findings.
The RTP, already reeling from a series of scandals, was hit again when Taiwanese actress Charlene An (An Yu-qing) posted a TikTok video earlier this month alleging that she and her friends were stopped at the checkpoint in the early hours of January 5 and police planted a vaping device on her before demanding 27,000 baht to let her go free.
Thailand bans the import and sale of e-cigarettes and the possession of vaping devices is unlawful.
An claimed she and her friends were held at the checkpoint for two hours and were only let go after they paid the bribe. However, footage from several security cameras in the area proved that her allegations were inaccurate, as she was seen holding and using the vaping device before being stopped by the police. CCTV footage also showed that she and her friends were held at the checkpoint for 47 minutes, not two hours.
While footage from security cameras appeared to contradict her account, whistleblowing former politician and massage parlour tycoon Chuwit Kamolvisit came to her rescue on Monday, saying he had a clip showing one of An’s friends paying the bribe to a plainclothes policeman.
Chuwit also alleged that Metropolitan Police Bureau had deleted some footage to cover up the extortion.
Thiti said on Monday that investigators have now shifted to filing charges under Section 157 of the Criminal Code, which bans officials from carrying out malfeasance or nonfeasance.
“Several police officers will be charged,” he said without elaborating. “I want to apologise to everybody for some police officers’ actions that have damaged the image of Thailand and Thai society.”
‘CCTV clips not doctored’
Thiti denied that he had instructed officers to delete any video clips. He added that the body cams of police officers at the checkpoint will be sent to the Police Scientific Crime Detection Division to restore all clips that may have been overwritten or deleted.
An RTP source said on Monday that the case had been discussed extensively at the police headquarters and the transfer screening panel was told that each involved police officer confessed to extorting the money while they were being interrogated separately.
The source, who had also attended the meeting, said the bribe had been paid by a Singaporean member of the Taiwanese actress’s group.
Huay Kwang police officers initially denied taking the bribe when An dropped the bombshell because they thought she was a foreigner and could do nothing. They also thought they could cover up the extortion because An did not file a police complaint against them.
The source added that the RTP has instructed the Metropolitan Police Bureau to re-check the backgrounds of the policemen in question to see if they had committed similar offences earlier. The source added that several complaints had been filed against Huay Kwang police officers of alleged extortion around the time of An’s incident.
The Taiwanese actress’s allegation has prompted National Police chief Pol General Damrongsak Kittiprapas to instruct the Metropolitan Police Bureau to have the Huay Kwang Police Station chief transferred to an inactive post immediately, RTP spokesman Archayon Kraithong said on Monday.
The spokesman also said that the police chief had instructed the Metropolitan Police Division 1 to set up a disciplinary panel to take both disciplinary and criminal action against the policemen in question.
The spokesman said the national police chief reminded all police stations to strictly follow regulations about setting up road checkpoints.
On Sunday, sources said the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s fact-finding committee spent all of Sunday reviewing the information and evidence and decided that:
• The checkpoint was not properly set up in line with Royal Thai Police regulations
• The police team at the checkpoint spent more than 40 minutes searching the group and did not find a vaping device, even though footage from several security cameras before and after the group was stopped showed the Taiwanese actress had a vaping device
• The police team did not report the seizure of the vaping device, nor did they file charges against the actress for having the vaping device in possession
As a result, the fact-finding panel concluded that the police team violated Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing dereliction of duty. The case will be handed over to the National Anti-Corruption Commission to launch a graft probe against the team.
Video shows Thai police did extort Taiwanese actress: Chuwit