The high profile controversy has once again raised the issue of illegally imported luxury cars as the car was handed over for police inspection on Thursday. These fears had begun to die down as an extensive police investigation and a crackdown led to a tightening of enforcement, the removal of shady operators and more confidence in the market. On Thursday, Jarin Tumwattana, the husband of the actress said he was confident of the car’s bona fides and provided full documentation to police.
A 39-year-old Thai TV star drove right into a controversy in her luxury Maserati car on Monday when stopped by a police officer and given a ticket for a range of offences. She later posted on social media both on Instagram and Facebook that she had been subject to what she considered a disguised shakedown by the road traffic officer sparking an internal police enquiry and an ongoing investigation into the status of her Maserati car.
High profile actress, Panita Tumwattana, has apologised to a traffic police officer after a controversy erupted following her social media post on Instagram on Monday which also extended into a Facebook debate.
Actress says she has learned from the affair
The 39-year old actress presented a basket of fruit to the road traffic officer at the centre of the incident on Thursday and accepted that her social media posts on Monday had negative consequences for her and were wrong. Frankly, she said that they had backfired. She told the police officer and other policemen in attendance that she had learned her lesson from the affair.
Ms Panita or ‘Ning’ admitted also that her fans had been disappointed by her statements and she had concluded firmly that he was at fault.
Actress’s illegal lane switch on Monday morning provoked a storm of controversy
At 7.26 am on Monday the actress who is known in Thailand for playing villainous characters on TV was stopped as she moved from one lane to another illegally. The officer who hailed down the 2011 Maserati Quattroporte V8 was Police Corporal Theerapong Khabchanthuek attached to Vibhavadi police station in Bangkok.
Officer discovered quite a few issues about the Maserati driver and her car when he hailed it down
While informing Ms Panita Tumwattana or ‘Ning’ of her road traffic violation, the policeman also asked her for her driving licence which she did not have. The officer radioed to check the licence plate of her car and found that it did not match its description in the database of the Land Transport department. The officer also found that the annual road tax was out of date and had not been paid.
The officer was also not familiar with the Maserati brand and walked from the front to the back of the car to check the branding and model number while asking Ms Panita to clarify the make and model of the car.
Policeman issued a ticket for a number of offences
At length, the policeman issued the actress with the traffic ticket which demanded that she pay the fine at the local police station. The policeman added additional charges based on his investigation while inspecting the vehicle.
Ms Panita took to social media
However, this was not the end of the matter. Ms Panita then took Instagram and Facebook to highlight the incident. She intimated that the officer was lingering while issuing the ticket to present an opportunity for her to pay a bribe.
‘One rotten fish spoils the whole creel’
‘I said to the officer, issue a traffic ticket to me. But the officer kept asking me questions and walking around. He even asked about the model of my car. This, I knew, meant he wanted money,’ she said in a long and winding post in which she suggested that while many people respect the police, many also do not. She ended her post with an old Thai adage similar to the western one about apples: ‘One rotten fish spoils the whole creel.’
Police internal enquiry found that Corporal Theerapong had acted with propriety in the matter
The post by the high profile actress led to a police internal enquiry into the actions of the police officer which found that Police Corporal Theerapong had acted in an entirely proper manner both in his conduct with the woman and his actions in issuing her with a traffic ticket for the offences detected.
Initial reports for defamation proceedings and prosecution under the Computer Crime Act
It was suggested before Thursday’s apparent rapprochement between the actress and the police officer that proceedings for defamation may have been considered or even prosecution under the draconian Computer Crime Act, given the social media statement by the actress which she subsequently withdrew. The actress then unreservedly apologised for her actions.
Police officer accepted the actress’s gift and said he forgave her over the incident
On Thursday, accepting the actress’s gift in front of other policemen, the police corporal said he forgave Ms Panita for her comments. He said he had acted in his professional capacity and did not take the matter personally.
Senior officers also confirm that the force was happy to forgive the actress and learn from the experience which may serve to help the public appreciate the difficult job road traffic police officers do.
Still an investigation into the Maserati
However, there is still an ongoing investigation into the status of the Maserati car. The enquiry into the incident revealed that the vehicle in question was owned by a steel company linked with Ms Panita’s husband. The number plates suggested it was a luxury BMW 740 vehicle and had only been registered on October 17th.
Officers to check if it may be linked to Thailand’s past problem with illegally imported luxury cars
Senior police have ordered an escalation of the investigation into the car. Officers need to check if it is linked to an ongoing and controversial investigation in Thailand going back nearly a decade into the illegal importation of luxury cars. This was something that was found to be rife in previous years.
The problem with legally imported cars had been thought of as somewhat overcome as police investigations led to corrupt operators taken out of the highly lucrative trade as well as tighter and more effective enforcement procedures.
This year, sales of luxury cars are up substantially despite the poor economy as Thailand’s elite are reported to have confidence again in the market.
Actress and husband met senior police officers on Thursday morning at Vibhavadi Police Station
On Thursday at 8.45 am, the actress and her husband met top officers including Major General Jirasan Kaewsang-ek, the Deputy Commander of Vibhavadi Police Station. The couple brought all the documentation for the Maserati car and handed the vehicle over to the police for a thorough inspection.
Licence plate was fixed as a temporary measure
Ms Panita’s husband Jarin Tumwattana has explained to police that the licence plates on the car were a temporary measure and was confident that the Maserati had been acquired legally and was bona fide.
Police took the vehicle to a garage where it was examined underneath and evidence was taken to detect if the vehicle engine numbers and chassis numbers match its documentation.
Initial reports suggest that some numbers looked to be in order but everything will be subject to forensic examination. Police will also be checking to ensure that the proper duty was paid on the luxury car when it was imported into Thailand.
Ongoing investigation into illegal luxury car imports has left unwitting buyers with unusable cars
In such cases which have come to light where luxury cars have been illegally brought into Thailand, police have brought charges against the importers.
Many of the luxury cars were subsequently bought by unsuspecting buyers. The car owners have been left in a position where although they have not broken the law, the cars they have purchased are unable to be licenced for use on Thailand’s roads.
On Thursday, Mr Jarin said he did not think this would be the case with the Maserati car as it would have come to light when he purchased it.