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PM Office minister denies ordering ‘siren service’ for Chinese TikTok influencer
SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 2023
A Cabinet member and the government spokesman denied on Sunday that they told police to provide VIP service to a Chinese TikTok influencer, including a police escort from Suvarnabhumi International Airport to her hotel in Pattaya during which a police vehicle used its siren to ensure swift transport.
The pair – PM’s Office Minister Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana and government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri – were responding to a media report that quoted Tourist Police spokesman Maj Gen Apichart Suriboonya implicating a PM’s Office minister.
Apichart was quoted in a report broadcast by Channel 7 saying that one of the policemen involved in the scandal claimed he had been contacted by the driver of a PM’s Office minister and told to escort a Chinese woman and her mother from the airport to their Pattaya hotel.
Apichart, however, said on Sunday that he had never told any media outlet that the policemen in the viral clip implicated a driver of a PM’s Office minister.
The scandal erupted after a video clip of the incident went viral on Chinese social media. The video was posted by an attractive young woman who boasted about receiving special service from the Thai police.
Money can buy anything from the Thai police, she says in the viral video clip.
She arrived at Suvarnabhumi International Airport at about 10.00pm on January 19 on a Hong Kong Airlines flight.
She said a team of Thai policemen escorted her and her mother from the plane, whisked them through Immigration and Customs, carried their luggage to a taxi, and even opened the vehicle’s door for them.
They behaved like hotel bellboys rather than police officers.
The young woman claimed a police motorcycle subsequently drove in front of her taxi and used its siren to ensure swift travel to Pattaya.
A motorcycle escort costs 6,000 baht, while a police car costs 7,000 baht, she told her Chinese viewers. The service allowed her to avoid traffic and arrive at her hotel in record time, she noted.
When she bought her tour service, its operator asked her if she wanted to use a police escort service or not, she claimed.
Thanakorn said he had checked with his driver and aides and they knew nothing of the VIP service given to the Chinese tourist and her mother.
He said he would fully cooperate with any investigation. Thanakorn said he has also checked with Anucha and the spokesman said no one on his team was involved in the scandal.
Apichart said the incident was still under investigation and the three policemen in the video clip had yet to give their official testimony.
“We have not yet summoned them to testify because we are still in the process of forming a fact-finding panel,” Apichart said.
Apichart said the three policemen in the clip were Capt Sompol, a deputy inspector of Tourist Police Division 3 in charge of the Suvarnabhumi Airport, and two traffic policemen of the Metropolitan Police Bureau: Sgt Thanakorn and Gen Thanawat.
Apichart said a preliminary probe found that the motorcycle used to escort the influencer was not an official police vehicle. It was too big to be a police bike, so it had to be a personal motorcycle, he said.
Apichart said the three policemen might not face criminal charges but would face a disciplinary probe for alleged improper behaviour.
Police have to take care of all tourists equally and should not provide special care to particular ones, he explained.
On Saturday, Maj Gen Archayon Kraithong, Royal Thai Police spokesman, said national police chief Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas had learned of the video clip and ordered a probe as it had severely damaged the image of Thailand’s finest.
Archayon said a Cabinet resolution dated September 25, 2001 allowed police motorcades to be provided only for national VIPs, politicians or guests of the government.
In other cases, traffic police have to request permission from the traffic police chief and this can be given on a case by case basis, the spokesman added.