Police probe claims of tourist searches

Police probe claims of tourist searches

Police are probing a report by an Australian newspaper that some Bangkok police officers have been extorting bribes from foreigners on Sukhumvit Road, spokesman for the Royal Thai Police Office said Tuesday.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut Thawornsiri was responding to an article published by The Sydney Morning Herald on Dec 12, which said a growing number of foreign tourists are being stopped, searched and harassed by Thai officials on busy Sukhumvit Road.

Similar claims - including those that some foreigners have been subjected to on-the-spot urine tests for drugs -- have become increasingly frequent, with the Bangkok Post having received three letters to the editor about the alleged scams and other media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal highlighting them in the past month.

Mark Kent, British ambassador to Thailand, brought up the subject of the tourist-searches with Ministry of Tourism and Sports officials who claimed there was no organized campaign targeting tourists and that they would investigate claims of random searches.

The Australian newspaper report said officials for months have been stopping foreigners and demanding to see their passports in an attempt to extort brines. The "officials" referred to police officers and city inspectors.

Pol Lt Gen Prawut told ASTV Manager that the RTPO is examining the facts to see if the alleged extortion targeting foreigners occurred and if fake or real policemen were involved. 

He said if the probe found no evidence as claimed the RTPO will submit a written clarification to the Australian embassy in Bangkok. He said the alleged incidents of extortion by Thai authorities in the Australian paper really damaged the image of Thailand.

Pol Maj Gen Apichai Thi-amart, chief of the Tourist Police Division, said he had not been made aware of the incident but ordered an investigation into the matter.

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