PM warns bad cops 'must go'
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PM warns bad cops 'must go'

Taiwan actress case sparks more scrutiny

Charlene An (photo from her Instagram account)
Charlene An (photo from her Instagram account)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted that any police officers involved in extorting money from a Taiwanese actress during her trip to Thailand early this month must face legal action.

Commenting about the impact on the tourism industry, Gen Prayut said any problem involving police extorting money from tourists must be fixed and rogue officers punished.

"If there is clear evidence pointing to them committing offences, they must face both disciplinary and legal action. Don't let the issue ruin the reputation of the whole police organisation.

"There are still a lot of decent police officers, but we must get rid of rogue ones,'' the prime minister said.

The actress, Charlene An, complained via social media that she was stopped by police near the Chinese embassy at about 1am on Jan 4. She claimed she was kept there for two hours, but police later countered the claim, saying footage from security cameras showed she was there for 47 minutes.

According to her complaint, the officers told her that her visa on arrival was unacceptable and must be printed on her passport with an official emblem.

Prayut: Get rid of ‘rogue’ officers

After being searched and having long conversations with police, and asking what she did wrong, the 33-year-old finally learned she had to pay for her freedom. She said she paid 27,000 baht and was freed.

The national police chief, Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, said he apologised to people affected by the actions of police on duty at the time, adding most police are decent people dedicated to serving the public.

He had ordered the Metropolitan Police Bureau chief to find out the facts of the case as soon as possible.

Police investigators may go to Taiwan and Singapore to question people involved, but they would also be willing to listen to them through various channels, Pol Gen Damrongsak said, adding people might like to share their information with Interpol instead.

He said police involved in the alleged extortion admitted only to dereliction of duty for their failure to charge the actress for illegal possession of a vaping device. However, the officers denied they extorted 27,000 baht in exchange for her freedom at their early morning checkpoint on Jan 4.

A source said 14 officers were questioned over the case on Monday, and all denied taking bribes.

The national police chief said an investigative committee was still looking into the case. Pol Gen Damrongsak said the chief and senior officers of the Huai Khwang station would have to take responsibility for the case.

The Bangkok police chief should not be held responsible, he noted.

He said most police were out to serve and protect. He had ordered all units, including tourist and immigration police, to perform their duties transparently.

"I would like everyone, including tourists, to have confidence in the police," Pol Gen Damrongsak said.

Pol Maj Gen Atthaporn Wongsiripreeda, commander of the Metropolitan Police Division 1, said investigators still needed more information from those involved in the case.

They can contact him to arrange a video call to be questioned remotely, he said.

Seven officers at Huai Khwang station were transferred to inactive posts at the operations centre of the Metropolitan Police Division 1 pending further investigation over the alleged extortion of the Taiwanese actress on Tuesday.

She posted on her Instagram account on Tuesday, expressing her gratitude to those who had given her encouragement, support and care "to help me walk through this moment of traumatic darkness".

"Thailand, your culture, people, food, will always be special to me. I look forward to a better experience on my future visits," she wrote.

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