A Pattaya police officer suspended for allegedly conspiring to extort 30,000 baht from Chinese tourists insisted he was innocent.
In a Feb. 1 telephone interview. Pol. Snr. Sgt. Maj. Noppakrit Bhonwattanakit, a traffic squad leader, denied any wrong-doing despite a preliminary investigation that found enough evidence to merit further inquiry.
Noppakrit on Tuesday was suspended – “transferred to an inactive post” in police jargon – by Chonburi Police commander Maj. Gen. Kampol Leelapraphaporn for forcing a group of Chinese tourists to pay the hefty bribe to avoid being charged with possession of e-cigarette devices.
The incident follows the high-profile scandal that erupted after seven Bangkok officers were accused of extorting 27,000 baht from a Taiwanese actress in exchange for not charging her for carrying a vaping device. Six of those officers on Thursday were charged with bribery.
Noppakrit said he is ready to fight the charges that are being investigated by the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission.
The Professional Tourist Guides Association of Thailand exposed the latest vaping-bribe scandal on the Hone-Krasae TV program claiming Noppakrit originally demanded 60,000 baht and negotiated the bribe down to half that amount on Jan. 31.
Wijittra Jamnansiri, director of Office of Anti-Corruption in Public Sector Area 2, said an investigation into Pattaya police conduct will be launched and expected that new guidelines will be issued on how police should handle such circumstances.
Newly appointed Pattaya police chief Pol. Col. Thanapong Phothi, on the job for only a day, promised full cooperation.
He noted that the same officer twice in the past month was lauded for honest behavior, including returning lost cash to a tourist and helping another tourist locate lost luggage.