Thai Police General Damrongsak Kittiprapas yesterday apologized over allegations that Thai police might have extorted money from a Taiwanese celebrity.
The apology came after Bangkok Police Chief Thiti Saengsawang on Monday said that Thai police officers might have extorted money from Taiwanese actress Charlene An (安于晴) after previously denying reports and accusations of such behavior last week.
“Witnesses are being called to confirm the wrongdoing, the amount of money given, the person who gave a bribe for the release of the tourist and the officer who took it,” Thiti was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post.
Photo courtesy of the Royal Thai Police Office via CNA
Thiti said police helmet recordings were erased, but that forensic investigators would have to determine if they were erased manually or expired automatically.
Kittiprapas “apologized to people who were affected by the actions of police on duty at the time,” the Post reported, adding that he had instructed Thiti to ascertain the facts of the case.
Seven of 14 police officers questioned over the allegation were transferred to inactive positions pending further investigation, the Post added.
The case came to light through an Instagram Story — a temporary video that automatically deletes after a short period — posted by An last month.
In it, An said she and her friends were extorted by Thai police on Jan. 4 while on vacation.
An said her party was flagged down at a checkpoint close to the Chinese embassy in Bangkok, and Thai police officers raised several issues to hold them and prevented them from using their phones to call for assistance.
Eventually, An said, after more than an hour of quibbling, the party figured out that the police officers were actually trying to extort them down for money, and they made it clear they were not regular officers, but were “more expensive.”
An said the ordeal concluded with her party handing over 27,000 baht (US$818) in an alley that could not be seen by surveillance cameras.
An’s Instagram post later garnered the attention of the Thai and Taiwanese media, which reported on her experience and accused members of the Thai police force of committing extortion.
On Thursday last week when speaking to Thai media, Royal Thai Police Office spokesman Major General Atchayon Kraithong said upon reviewing footage from three surveillance cameras around the area, the video evidence did not support An’s accusations, dismissing wrongdoing on the part of police.
At no time did anyone from An’s group enter an alley to pay off an officer, Atchayon said, citing the video footage.
However, following that news conference, several Thai media outlets published stories saying that the officers in question had admitted to an unnamed source that they did ask An’s group for money on the night in question.
The officers apparently told the unnamed source that An’s group was found to be carrying a prohibited vaporizer and that they used the opportunity to ask for money in exchange for letting An and other members of her party go free.
Former Thai politician Chuvit Kamolvisit on Monday was quoted by the Phuket News as saying that a Thai friend of An’s Singaporean companion had a video of the payment.
He also apologized to An on Facebook, saying that he hoped “Taiwanese will forgive [the incident] and continue to visit Thailand.”
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