Military denies bribery after video goes viral
Representatives of the Fourth Army Region filed a police complaint with Phuket’s Patong Police Station on Monday over a video clip showing three military officers meeting a Phuket hotel executive on March 27, while an investigation has been launched into the actions of two police officers seen guarding the executive.
The clip, which has been circulating on social media, has been described as depicting the military officers’ alleged attempt to demand a bribe from Patong Paragon Hotel executive Visith Eiumvirojrit. The clip shows three Army officers accusing Visith of violating the law and acting as an “influential figure” and engaging in a verbal argument.
Many social media users have speculated that the officers were pressuring the man in order to then demand a bribe from him. Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 4 staff have claimed the clip was doctored to deceive the public with the intent to tarnish the image of military officers and the Fourth Army Region.
Phuket police chief Maj-General Theerapol Thipcharoen said he had told Patong police superintendent to conduct an investigation into whether there had been inappropriate acts committed by two police officers seen guarding Visith in the four-minute clip.
There are allegations that the officers were inappropriately providing services to a man whom the Fourth Army Region aimed to probe whether he were a dark influential figure. The investigation is supposed to conclude within seven days.
National police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda separately affirmed that the two police officers – whom Provincial Police Region 8 chief Pol Lt-General Sorasak Yenprem had already transferred to inactive posts pending a fact-finding probe result – would face disciplinary action if found guilty.
Isoc Region 4 spokesman Colonel Pramote Phrom-in told a press conference that the three military officers seen on the clip were performing their duties under Article 44 and the National Council for Peace and Order orders regarding a crackdown on “influential figures”. Article 44, which is enshrined in the interim charter, gives Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha near-absolute powers.
Pramote said the military officers, led by Second Lieutenant Wattanachai Khlongpradit of the 25th Infantry Regiment, had contacted the hotel executive to tell him that a special taskforce of the Fourth Army Region, led by Lt-Colonel Surasak Peungyaem, would investigate a staff member’s complaint.
The employee allegedly had told authorities that Visith and others had threatened him and pressured him to quit his job.
Pramote said the executive had told officers he would provide an explanation backed with documentary evidence later on Monday.
“Officers just performed their duties and did not assault [the man], use force or demand any bribes nor benefits,” he said.