An investigation found that seven Bangkok police officers allegedly extorted Taiwanese actor Charlene An while she visited Thailand’s capital in early January.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, national Police Chief Damrongsak Kittiprapas said officers found guilty in the case would face punishment.
There are still many good police. We must encourage the good ones and deal with the bad ones. I would like to stress that our city has lots of visitors coming. Immigration police, tourist police and local police must take the best care of tourists. And for the incident that happened, if there is wrongdoing, as the head of the organization, I apologize to the victims affected by what happened.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha reiterated the police chief’s statement, saying, “This problem is deep-rooted. We need to separate the good [police] from the bad [police], and true offenders must face punishment.”
The incident occurred at a checkpoint in Bangkok’s Huai Khwang district near the Chinese embassy at around 1 a.m. on Jan. 4, An reportedly wrote on her now-deleted Instagram Stories. Recounting the incident, the 32-year-old actor said she was traveling with friends in a Grab taxi when Bangkok police stopped them and searched their bodies, bags and vehicles for drugs and other illegal items. The officers also allegedly noted how much money they had at the time, An told Taiwanese media after returning from Thailand.
She also said that the officers did not accept her visa on arrival, which was issued to her at the airport, as credentials, allegedly insisting that it lacked certification.
In her statement, An said they were detained at 2:25 a.m. on Jan. 4. She wanted to “secretly record” the incident, but the officers made her delete the footage she managed to capture.
An said she and her group were later taken to the police station, where they tried to speak to the officers for two to three hours.
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They were discouraged from making a phone call for help unless they wanted their charges increased, An recounted.
They demanded an apology from us. We did everything we could to apologise, even saying it in Thai — the only thing we didn’t do was kneel down and beg. After I finished apologizing, I was still angry… I really felt very helpless and aggrieved.
An and her group were allegedly taken to a dark alley, away from surveillance cameras, where they were instructed to “pay 27,000 baht” (approximately $820) for their freedom. The actor noted five other South Korean women were also being held at the station when they arrived.
New reports also said that An claimed the officers put a vaping device in her hand and charged her for it — even though she did not know what it was at the time. Possessing vaping devices or e-cigarettes is illegal in Thailand and can result in up to 10 years in jail.
After launching an investigation on Thursday, it was found that seven officers — two captains, two senior sergeant majors and three sergeants — stationed at the checkpoint had been accused of “committing malfeasance or nonfeasance to cause damage against a particular person or committing dereliction of duty with dishonest intention.”
Some of the officers involved also reportedly confessed to the bribery accusation, the Bangkok Post reported, citing a police source.
Chuvit Kamolvisit, a former politician-turned-massage parlor tycoon, also claimed that evidence against the officers had been deleted, such as surveillance footage from the checkpoint and the memory cards installed in their helmet cameras.
Kamolvisit also accused the officers of coercing the Grab taxi driver into telling the media that An was drunk at the time of the incident and that the duration of the incident was far shorter than it was.
The seven police officers have been charged with dereliction of duty and have been transferred to inactive positions while the investigation is ongoing.
Following the news on Monday, An thanked fans and Taiwanese media for their support in an Instagram post.
Thank you BBC and all participating media from Taiwan for taking your precious time to listen and to share the truth. Thank you to all for your words of encouragement, support and care to help me walk through this moment of traumatic ‘darkness.’