BMA president hit with extortion charges

The BMA president has been accused of extorting protection money from vendors in front of Wat Hua Lamphong in Bang Rak district, charges he denies

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City Hall president Pipat Lappattana, who is accused of extorting money from Bang Rak vendors, is taken to Crime Suppression Division on Thursday afternoon. Photos by Patipat Janthong

City Hall president accused of extortion

Wassayos Ngamkham

The president of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has been accused of extorting protection money from vendors in front of Wat Hua Lamphong in Bang Rak district, but he claims someone is trying to discredit him because he tried to regulate illegal occupation of footpaths.

Pipat Lappattana was detained at 3am on Thursday and held at the 2nd Cavalry Division, King's Guard at Sanam Pao, for questioning. He was later taken to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) by Lt Col Burin Thongpraphai of the Judge Advocate-General's Department.

He will be held there for seven days under martial law pending investigation into the allegation filed against him by 17 street vendors near Wat Hua Lamphong and MRT Sam Yan Station, according to Pol Col Prasopchoke Prommoon, a deputy CSD chief. 

The vendors earlier lodged a complaint with soldiers alleging Mr Pipat and Prasert Prommi, said to be his advisor, demanded money from them daily and weekly in exchange for being allowed to erect their stalls on the footpath.  

They were charged 200 baht a day to occupy a square metre of public space and 20 baht a day for each light bulb used at their stalls. They had to pay an extra 100 baht per square metre on holidays or the days when important events were held at the monastery.

Orange juice vendor Kritchawat, or Supachai, Wongtheeranuparb, took charge of collecting money from all the vendors in the area and gave it to Mr Prasert, who would hand it over to Mr Pipat.

After receiving the complaint, soldiers and BMA officials went to talk to the vendors to verify the facts and gather evidence before taking Mr Pipat and Mr Prasert in for questioning. An initial investigation found the pair appeared to have exhibited behaviour that violated the National Council for Peace and Order's anti-corruption policy. Mr Prasert was arrested on Tuesday and is being detained at the CSD.

Pol Col Prasopchoke said police had not pressed any charges against the two men and would detain them for seven days under martial law. Soldiers were investigating the case and would inform CSD investigators later whether any charges should be filed. He added authorities would treat all parties fairly.

Mr Pipat denied all charges against him.

Mr Pipat, who is also a Bang Rak district councillor, denied the allegation, saying someone had tried to discredit him because he had been trying to move illegal street vendors off footpaths.

He claimed his attempt to reclaim public space for pedestrians may have upset a group of people who used to demand protection fees from the vendors and this prompted them to implicate him in the scandal.

“I’ve been a Bang Rak district councillor for four times in the past 16 years. So why would I have done this – there has never been any scandal about me before. If I’ve done this, I could not have been elected by the people,” Mr Pipat said.

Related search: Pipat Lappattana, BMA president, extortion, vendors, Wat Hua Lamphong

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