Cops just chose 'wrong shop'
Ang pao is Thai tradition, Chalerm says, but shop-owner was IndianDeputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung yesterday played down the case of three police who demanded ang pao from a suit shop, saying there was nothing wrong with people giving ang pao.
Chalerm, who supervises the Royal Thai Police, said it was impossible to prevent police from receiving ang pao or gift-money from Chinese businessmen on the occasion of the Chinese New Year. Businessmen or shop owners, he said, were willing to offer the gifts.
Chalerm said the case of three police from Bang Rak station, who made headlines because they went to beg for gift money, just involved the "wrong shop" - as it had an Indian owner, not a Chinese.
On Sunday, the three police were caught on a security camera in the suit shop demanding ang pao from the shop owner in front of a Nation television journalist.
"They shouldn't have asked for it. They asked for it at the wrong place. Chinese New Year is a celebration for Chinese people - but they asked for ang pao from an Indian shop owner. They were not smart. It became an issue because they went to the wrong place," Chalerm said.
The deputy PM said the three officers would have been regarded as having committed wrongdoing if they had extorted the money or forced the shop owner to pay them.
"In that case, action would have been taken against them - and if their action warranted firing, they would not be spared," Chalerm said.
The three police walked away without receiving the money after the shop owner told them that a reporter was present.
Chalerm said he was not defending the three police but he would never be able to do away with the practice of police receiving ang pao money from Chinese businessmen or shop owners.
"This is a social norm. They always give gift money on the occasion of Chinese New Year," Chalerm said.
The deputy prime minister said he did not believe the three officers were collecting the money for their boss but simply making a claim to ask for money.
"It's just a specific case for these officers. So, please don't play it up," Chalerm said.
Asked if he would reform the Royal Thai Police following a series of scandals involving police - including charges that a senior officer hunted with poachers in a national park - Chalerm said it was normal to have a small number of bad cops among the good ones.
"There are a lot of police officers, so some are bad. The wrongdoers must be punished while the ones with good performances must receive rewards," Chalerm said.
"There's no need to overhaul the Royal Thai Police. Police are now enjoying a good image. Only some low-ranking officers are bad and they need to be punished."
The Metropolitan Police have increased the penalties on the three police - a crime suppression inspector and two police senior sergeant majors.
Pol Maj General Wallop Prathummuang, the commander of Metropolitan Police Division 6, said a fact-finding panel from his division decided to increase the detention penalty against Pol Lt Col Pongsak Subindee, an inspector of the Bang Rak police, from three days to seven. He will also be seconded to an inactive position at the Metropolitan Police head office for 180 days.
Wallop said Pol Sen Sgt Maj Prasarn Koeimuang and Pol Sen Sgt Maj Anuchit Muenyuth would also see their detention penalty increased. They will also be seconded to inactive positions at Metropolitan Police Division 6.
Wallop said Metropolitan Police Commissioner Pol Lt General Khamronwit Thoopkrajang had approved the increased penalties.
Royal Thai Police spokeman Pol Maj General Piya Uthayo said police would provide protection for the suit shop owner.
Wallop said the disciplinary probes and actions against the three were over now that they had been disciplined.
He said Bang Rak station chief Pol Col Ratchapol Bunnag had testified to the investigative panel that he did not order his subordinates to demand the money, so he would not face any investigation.