Pattaya police officer accused of extorting 60,000 baht bribe from foreign tourist for e-cigarette
A Pattaya police senior sergeant has been suspended from duty pending an investigation into an extortion of 60,000 baht from a foreign tourist for possessing an electronic cigarette, the Bangkok Post reported.
The police officer accused of extortion was suspended from duty after a news report and photo display on the television program “Hone Krasae” aired on Channel 3 on Tuesday.
A Chinese tourist guide reportedly sent out a message to his colleagues that a tourist had been detained for an e-cigarette and demanded to pay a fine of 60,000 baht on the spot. After some haggling, the fine was reduced to 30,000 baht.
The incident allegedly took place in Pattaya on January 28 or 29 this year. Upon learning of this, Chonburi Police Chief Major General Kampol Lilaprapakorn sent an urgent letter to Pattaya Police Chief asking for an investigation.
The investigation revealed that the police officer in question in the report was Police Sgt. Maj. Noppakrit Pornwatanathanakij, a Pattaya Traffic Police officer. Major General Kampol transferred the sergeant from Pattaya to the operations center at Chonburi Police Headquarters.
A fact-finding committee has been set up to investigate the alleged bribe extortion. The committee is tasked with collecting and examining all evidence, including security camera footage from the area of the alleged extortion. The committee’s report will be used for trial if it finds grounds to charge the police officer.
Extortion in Bangkok – e-cigarette for 27,000 baht
The incident in Pattaya follows the high-profile case of Taiwanese actress Charlene Ahn, 33, who was extorted by police at a checkpoint near the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok. The actress is also said to have had an e-cigarette.
Through social media, Charlene said that after a search and long talks with the police, she learned she had to pay for her freedom and was released after paying the police 27,000 baht.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said Tuesday that all police officers involved in extorting money from the Taiwanese actress should be brought to justice.
“If there is clear evidence indicating that they committed offenses, they should be held both disciplinarily and legally accountable. Don’t let this problem tarnish the reputation of the entire police service. There are many decent police officers in Thailand, so we must get rid of the crooks,” said the prime minister.
Thailand’s national police chief, General Damrongsak Kittiprapas, also apologized to the public and tourists. The general promised to prosecute the police officers involved if the evidence is found.
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