Bangkok metro police today admitted that it had indeed demanded money from Taiwanese actress Charlene An just as she alleged last week – and was originally denied Friday.
In a complete about-face from Friday’s forceful denial, the Metropolitan Police Bureau said an investigation was still underway into the incident, and it did not know how much money was solicited from the 32-year-old star. She said it was THB27,000.
The reversal came two days after the police originally denied any wrongdoing Friday in response to An’s public warning to her large following in Taiwan not to travel to Thailand because corrupt cops had demanded bribes from her while out late with friends.
The national police force originally said its officers arrested An and her Taiwanese companions because they were not carrying their passports and possessed e-cigarettes, which are illegal under a little-enforced ban.
They insisted that An and her friends were let go with only a warning and said they would prove her statements were false.
Police said that officers at the checkpoint where An and her group was stopped tried telling the Taipei native that vapes were illegal, but noted that there was a communication barrier as the group could not speak Thai or English.
Police chief Damrongsak Kittiprapas had claimed through a rep that CCTV footage contradicted An’s story. He said the footage showed An’s group talking at the checkpoint for a considerable time before getting into an orange taxi without forking over any money.
How they reached that original determination from low-quality footage filmed from far away was unclear.
No reason was given for today’s reversal.
Former politician and massage parlor owner Chuwit Kamolvisit this morning said that a Thai woman had video of the officers extorting the money from An, an encounter that has become an international incident and yet another embarrassing scandal for the police.
Chuwit, who has cultivated a media reputation as a maverick willing to take on corruption, said the woman’s Singaporean boyfriend had been drinking with An when the incident occurred. Chuwit, 61, provided no evidence to support his claims.
On Saturday, An had sharply refuted the police denial.
“Why the twisted truth and lies? I sincerely thank you all for your concern & encouragement. I have agreed to a final interview with the media,” she wrote in English on Instagram. “I will be sharing details on my traumatic experience in Thailand for the final time. Please allow me some time & space during this difficult time.”
The whole debacle began Tuesday when An posted a warning on social media for Taiwanese travelers to beware Thailand’s “bastard police.” She said that the police had extorted her and her friends for THB27,000 earlier this month while they were in the country.
“It happened to me on Wednesday, January 4,” she wrote. “My friends and I were traveling to our hotel by taxi at about 1am. The checkpoint police asked us to stop. They searched the car, our bags, and us.”
She said the cops were on a fishing expedition to demand bribes.
“They couldn’t find anything illegal on us, so they kept asking to check our visas. I gave them my visa, the VOA (visa on arrival), which was issued legally at the airport. The officers refused to let me pass, saying my visa was unacceptable. They said I had to carry the printed visa with a stamp from the official department only,” she said. “They tried every way to fake charges against me.”
An also said that her friends who filmed the encounter were ordered to delete it by the police.
There have been numerous anecdotal complaints in recent years of police stopping vehicles occupied by foreigners and shaking them down for money.
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