Commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau Police Lieutenant General Thiti Saengsawang issued an apology to the Thai public for the failure of officers to uphold the law and do their duty on January 4th last. The Superintendent of Huai Khwang Police Station has been moved to an inactive post as National Police Commissioner orders the book to be thrown at errant officers and their commanders over the affair.
Senior Thai police officers, on Monday, came out to admit that it appeared likely a bribe was paid by Taiwanese actress Charlene An to police officers on duty at a Bangkok checkpoint on January 4th last. This comes as Chuwit Kamolvisit, the former politician turned anti-corruption campaigner, has revealed that a clip of the bribe being paid to an officer is available and that he is to meet the Singaporean boyfriend of the movie star to confirm his story. In the meantime, metropolitan police officers in Bangkok have revealed that charges under Section 157 of the Criminal Code are being considered against the patrol involved in stopping Ms Charlene’s car. The senior officer made it clear that the actress should have faced arrest and detention for breaking the law in respect of an illegal e-cigarette or vaporiser that she was found to have been in possession of.
On Monday, at a press conference given by the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau Police Lieutenant General Thiti Saengsawang, he made it clear that police at the checkpoint should not have released the Taiwanese actress and movie star when she was found to have a vaporizer or artificial e-cigarette device on her person during a search of the four people travelling in a Grab taxi stopped at checkpoint including the actress and three male friends.
Such devices are illegal in Thailand and it is a criminal offence to either be in possession of e-cigarettes including all vaporising devices or to use them.
The law was introduced by the government in 2014 and aimed at preventing a new gateway to smoking for impressionable Thai young people.
Singaporean boyfriend, one of three men in the car with Taiwanese actress, who paid the bribe to police officers at the checkpoint on January 4th last
On Monday, it became clear that one of those men was the Singaporean boyfriend of the 32-year-old actress Charlene An or An Yu Qing as she is known to her fans in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Police Lieutenant General Thiti told reporters that CCTV footage shows clearly that Ms Charlene An was using such a device when stopped at a checkpoint near the Chinese Embassy on the Ratchadaphisek Road in the Thai capital in the early hours of Wednesday, January 4th last.
On Monday, the National Police Commissioner General Damrongsak Kittiprapat moved to transfer the Superintendent of Huai Khwang Police Station after it emerged that a bribe of ฿27,000 had been made to a policeman conducting the checkpoint near the Chinese Embassy.
Criminal charges for dereliction of duty under Section 157 of the Criminal Code against those involved now thought likely as bribe payment is confirmed
On this basis, the officers involved in the incident are facing both disciplinary proceedings with the case likely to be referred to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and also criminal charges under Section 157 of the Criminal Code in Thailand for failing to carry out their duty and causing harm or damage to others.
‘At first, it was discovered that they had neglected their responsibilities,’ Police Lieutenant General Thiti said.
Taxi man adamant Taiwanese star in extortion case was loud and drunk on the night concerned in Bangkok
He confirmed that police were now also pursuing the fact that a bribe of ฿27,000 is likely to have been paid to the officers to let the Taiwanese actress go free.
He said that subject to studying the evidence and following due process, all officers involved in wrongdoing will be facing swift and decisive disciplinary proceedings as well as criminal charges in this case.
‘Existing investigational findings concur with rumours in news reports. Witnesses are being sought to attest to the wrongdoing, the amount of money paid, the source of the bribe for the tourist’s release, and both the giver and the recipient of the bribe.’
Apology to the public expressed by Metropolitan Police Bureau commander as police chief orders Huai Khwang Station boss transferred to an inactive post
The top police officer apologised to the Thai public for the failure of the police involved to properly do their duty and uphold the law.
‘The MPB must apologise to the public for the police’s failure to strictly adhere to rules and laws. When new information about the case becomes available, the MPB will inform the public,’ the Metropolitan Police Bureau chief promised.
The transfer of the Huai Khwang Police Station boss to an inactive post was later confirmed by the national spokesman for the Royal Thai Police, Police Major General Achayon Kraithong.
The breakthrough in the case appears to have been associated with confidential information made public by Mr Chuwit Kamolvisit, the former massage parlour boss who has transformed himself in recent months into a hero activist leading the fight against corruption in Thailand, particularly concerning Chinese triad gangs.
Chuwit Kamolvisit linked to breakthrough in the case as he meets Charlene An’s Singaporean boyfriend and reveals a clip of the bribe being paid exists
He revealed on Monday that at his own expense, he was to meet the Singaporean boyfriend of the movie star who paid over the money to one of the police officers at the checkout in the early hours of January 4th last.
He also attests that a clip of this is to be made available to put the bribe payment beyond doubt although there are now indications that extra CCTV sources particularly from a public building in the vicinity of the checkpoint may also confirm this.
Mr Chuwit, on Monday, called for police authorities to pay back the money paid to secure the freedom of the actress although it is likely that any such money will be required as evidence of a crime and may also be subject to seizure due to its illicit nature as payment of an illegal bribe to evade the legal consequences of the actress being in possession of an illegal item.
Mr Chuwit also suggested that the checkpoint in question may have been undertaken by the officers involved on their own initiative and was not officially sanctioned.
In the meantime, an internal probe and criminal investigation is being pursued into the actions of the officers.
Video footage from the police operation deleted
In this respect, it has emerged that video footage from the helmets and body cams of officers at the scene of the checkpoint appears to have been deleted and this will be a key aspect of the inquiry.
Police Lieutenant General Thiti, on Monday, said that a forensic investigation will be able to determine if such footage was deleted manually.
The investigation at Huai Khwang Police Station is now being led by Deputy National Police Commissioner Police Major General Nitinan Petchborom who began his enquiries at the station on Monday.
He revealed that the checkpoint in question was in situ for just over 2 hours on January 4th last and that 5 of 14 police officers involved have been questioned so far.
He indicated that the police were taking seriously the information revealed by Mr Chuwit Kamolvisit and examining the testimony of all the officers involved.
He said he cannot reveal all the details at this stage but indicated the some officers continued to deny that a bribe was paid by the actress.
Plans to use penalty points system to make police use proper procedures and protocols at checkpoints
The top officer said that the police commissioner, General Damrongsak, has ordered that any officer found culpable in the matter must face both disciplinary procedures and criminal charges.
He has also ordered that accountability for the situation must extend to police commanders.
In the aftermath of the affair, the police chief has ordered the Metropolitan Police Bureau to tighten up procedures to ensure full transparency at all future road checkpoints established in the capital.
The police force is considering a penalty points system for police officers on duty which would punish failure to adhere to proper procedures and protocols designed to ensure that such abuses cannot occur in the future.
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.