Pattaya cop allegedly extorted foreign tourist over e-cigarette

Pattaya cop allegedly extorted foreign tourist over e-cigarette

A security camera recording purportedly shows a Pattaya police officer extorting a Chinese tourist in Pattaya on Jan 28. (Photo supplied)
A security camera recording purportedly shows a Pattaya police officer extorting a Chinese tourist in Pattaya on Jan 28. (Photo supplied)

CHON BURI: A police senior sergeant major has been transferred to an inactive post pending investigation after he was alleged to have demanded 60,000 baht from a foreign tourist for possession of an e-cigarette.

His transfer came after a news report and pictures on the "Hone Krasae" television programme aired on Channel 3 on Tuesday.

A Chinese tour guide was said to have sent a message to other guides in his group saying that a tourist under his care was detained for having an e-cigarette by a policeman who demanded a fine of 60,000 baht. After some bargaining, the sum was reduced to 30,000 baht. Vaping devices are prohibited goods.

This allegedly happened in Pattaya on Jan 28 or 29 this year.

After hearing about the report, Pol Maj Gen Kampol Leelaprapakorn, the Chon Buri police superintendent, sent an urgent letter telling the chief of Pattaya police to investigate the matter.

The investigation found that the policeman referred to in the report was Pol Sen Sgt Maj Noppakrit Pornwatanathanakij, a traffic officer at Pattaya police station. 

Pol Maj Gen Kampol on Tuesday transferred the officer away from Pattaya, to assist at the operations centre at Chon Buri police headquarters.

A fact-finding committee has been set up to look into the alleged soliciting of a bribe. The committee was tasked with compiling all evidence, including examining recordings from surveillance cameras in the area where the alleged extortion occurred.

Its report will be used for legal proceedings if there are grounds against the policeman.

Pol Sen Sgt Maj Noppakrit reported to the Chon Buri police chief on Wednesday, as ordered. In a phone interview, he denied extorting money from ta Chinese tourist. He said he was ready to be investigated.

The Pattaya incident follows the high-profile case of Taiwanese actress Charlene An, 33, being extorted by police at a checkpoint near the Chinese embassy in Bangkok about 1am on Jan 4. The actress was said to have an e-cigarette in her possession.

She claimed via social media that after being searched and long conversations with the police, she learned she had to pay for her freedom. She was freed after 27,000 baht was paid to the police.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday any police officers involved in extorting money from the Taiwanese actress must face legal action.

"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 service.

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

Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, the national police chief, also apologised to the people on Tuesday. He promised to take legal against police officers involved if there was evidence against them.

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