Police chief tightens checkpoint rules
Crime report centres must be told of all roadside searches
published : 5 Feb 2023 at 04:53
newspaper section: News
writer: Wassayos Ngamkham
National police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas on Saturday issued new guidelines on conduct at police security checkpoints including a requirement that officers store footage from their body cameras for at least 20 days after recording.
The move followed two accusations of extortion involving police and a Taiwanese actress and her companions in Bangkok, and a Chinese tourist in Pattaya City.
Both cases involved a vaping device, which are illegal under the law but nonetheless widely available and seen as a potential bribes trap for unsuspecting tourists.
In the Jan 4 case of Charlene An, the Taiwanese actress, the police involved claimed bodycam footage had already been deleted by the time the investigation against them took place.
Pol Lt Gen Thiti Saengsawang, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB), however, insisted on Friday the memory cards weren't deleted or overwritten but were destroyed.
A special technique was then employed to retrieve the data storied in these destroyed memory cards and certain images have been recovered, said Pol Lt Gen Thiti, who refused to confirm if these images were of the stop and search in question.
The guidelines also require that the nearest police crime report centre be informed of all police security checkpoints set up, such as those in cases of a criminal suspect chase.
As for setting up a checkpoints for other reasons such as for unspecific crime suppression or traffic control purposes, permission from a commanding officer or a superior in higher rank would be required prior to checks on motorists commencing.
In case any such police checkpoint faces an allegation of money extortion or demanding a bribe, not only the police at the checkpoint will be investigated and punished but also their superiors who are responsible for approving the checkpoint, the guideline says.
As for the investigation into the police at Huai Khwang station, Pol Maj Gen Theeradet Thammasuthee, chief of the MPB's investigation department, said investigators had inspected the mobile phones of all 14 police at the centre of the controversy.
He said he couldn't reveal any findings obtained from the mobile phone inspection for the time being.
On Thursday, six policemen at Huai Khwang station were charged with taking bribes in connection with the alleged extortion of the Taiwanese actress, while another senior sergeant major who was assigned to the checkpoint was not charged because he was responding to another incident at the time.
The officers were earlier charged with dereliction of duty for failing to make an arrest over the Taiwanese actress group's illegal possession of vaping devices.
The bribery charge came after a Singaporean man who is a friend of Taiwanese actress Charlene An told reporters on Wednesday that he paid 27,000 baht to the officers at the checkpoint to prevent them from arresting the group.
In Pattaya, a senior sergeant major in the force has been transferred to an inactive post pending an investigation after he was alleged to have demanded 60,000 baht from a foreign tourist for possession of an e-cigarette.
The extortion allegedly occurred in Pattaya around Jan 28. His transfer came in the wake of a news report and associated photos that aired on Channel 3 on Tuesday. The incident occurred in Pattaya around Jan 28.
A Chinese tour guide was said to have sent a message to other guides in his group saying that a tourist under his care had been detained for possessing a vape by a policeman who demanded a fine of 60,000 baht.
After some bargaining among the group, the sum was reduced to 30,000 baht.