Police continue to investigate the incident as a direct conflict appears to have developed between the version of events of the Taiwanese actress and serving officers from Huai Khwang Police Station who manned a police checkpoint on January 4th last which stopped a Grab taxi containing Ms Charlene An and three male companions travelling back to her hotel from a well-known nightclub near Bangkapi in Bangkok.
A Thai taxi driver who picked up a Taiwanese actress who has made extortion allegations against the Royal Thai Police, on Friday, insisted that the star was highly intoxicated and aggressive on the night in question directly contradicting the star’s insistence that she had not consumed alcohol. The development comes as the police at Huai Khwang Police Station in Bangkok are conducting a rigorous inquiry into the claims made by the movie star amid increasing concern from tourism industry leaders of damage being caused by the incident and another scandal earlier in the week over VIP services being provided to incoming Chinese tourists by serving police officers at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Thailand’s tourism bigwigs warned the government on Friday that recent scandals related to the tourism industry were seriously undermining the kingdom’s reputation abroad.
The scandals linked with operations of the Royal Thai Police have dominated the news headlines, first over a VIP service for hire exposé which outraged the Thai public and secondly, claims by a Taiwanese movie actress that she was extorted out of ฿27,000 by Thai police on checkpoint duty on January 4th last.
Officers at the checkpoint strenuously deny claims made by the Taiwanese movie star against them
The police have strenuously denied the latest claims which are being investigated by Police Major General Achayon Kraithong who is also coordinating the response to the tourist VIP service scandal.
Senior officers at Huai Khwang Police Station in whose jurisdiction the checkpoint happened have just interviewed the taxi driver who chauffeured the actress on the night in question. He claims that she was both aggressive and drunk at the time of the incident.
The story has been covered extensively by media outlets in Taiwan with social media pronouncements by the actress refuting reports and updates from the police in Thailand as ‘nonsense’ while calling for the CCTV footage of the scene to be examined.
Star, say police, found with an illegal vaporizer on her person after they searched the occupants of the taxi on its way from a nightclub to a Huai Khwang hotel
Police sources say the actress was found to be in possession of an illegal vaporizer and that she also appeared to be highly intoxicated when interacting with police officers but that no action was taken against her.
They also suggest that the woman did not present her passport and that the delay in waiting for her passport resulted in a tense standoff that frayed the nerves of both police and the occupants of the taxi at the scene.
Police say it was resolved when officers simply let the actress and her party leave the scene.
The actress, in her original claims, told a social media outlet that she and the party she was with, reportedly three men, were stopped at the police checkpoint and she was questioned at length about her visa status which she says was a visa on arrival stamp.
Actress cited a problem with a visa stamp
The actress insisted that police told her that this was unacceptable and that what was required was a full visa stamped on her passport with an emblem and on that basis, she was detained.
She said police said they required this before they could let her go on her way resulting in a standoff which was eventually resolved after some time by the payment of ฿27,000.
The actress claimed that, in all, she was held for 2 hours.
Well-known movie star in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong used social media to warn visitors off Thailand
Charline An or An Yu-Qing, is a well-known movie star in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Over the last few days, she has taken to her social media accounts including Instagram to warn potential tourists against visiting Thailand.
Lately, she has also challenged reports from the Royal Thai Police who have interviewed her taxi driver on the night of the incident who claims she was loud, aggressive and intoxicated even before the police checkpoint when he collected her by arrangement via the Grab app.
‘Wow, that’s not true at all’ the star said on an Instagram Chat post relating to the counter-narrative to her claims now emanating from Thailand where senior police officers at Huai Khwang Police Station have launched an inquiry into what happened.
Strong response from the foreign tourism industry as key leaders warn of further damage to the country’s image and reputation which is already suffering
The scandal has drawn a strong response from respected figures in the tourism industry such as Mr Thanet Supornsahasrungsi of the Tourism Council of Chonburi who pleaded with police authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter.
He urged them, if they find abuses occurred, to act swiftly to deter such incidents in the future.
‘As Chinese and Taiwanese tourists return to Thailand, this will affect the country’s image,’ Mr Thanet stressed.
Mr Thanet explained that approximately 2,000 people in Taiwan apply for tourist visas to visit Thailand daily and are granted a 30-day visa on arrival stamp by authorities.
Latest controversies are costing tourism jobs
The tourist chief said Thailand has a poor reputation because of scams and vulnerable tourists being taken advantage of. He said the problem is impacting all tourist hot spots in the country and is costing jobs.
Ms Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, the President of the Thai Hotels Association, drew attention to the fact that Thailand now only ranks 92nd for tourist safety in an index published by the World Economic Forum.
She said this compared unfavourably to Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, which were ranked 33rd, 58th and 59th respectively in the same survey.
She said it was obvious that Thailand has a lot of work to do to catch up with its peers in this respect.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) boss says offices in Taiwan and China are working on both this latest incident and the controversy over VIP services
Meanwhile, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), through its governor Yuthasak Supasorn, has confirmed its offices in both Taiwan and mainland China are making enquiries related to recent controversies.
Police officers involved in the checkpoint, however, stoutly refute the claims made by the tourist star.
They insist that she was discovered with an illegal vaporizer in her bag when police conducted a search of the occupants of the vehicle which included Ms Charlene An and three other male passengers.
The initial reports of the alleged police extortion came on a high-profile Taiwanese Facebook page featuring the claims made by the actress also known as An Yu Qing that she had been extorted by police in Thailand.
Police interview the Grab taxi driver who drove the actress for 3 hours at Huai Khwang Police Station
On Friday, Thai police at Huai Khwang Police Station interviewed a Grab driver who picked up Ms Charlene An and her three companions outside a night spot on January 4th and was bringing them back to the star’s hotel in Huai Khwang when they were stopped by police.
The taxi driver said he had picked the party up outside the Onyx entertainment venue in the Bangkapi area of Bangkok and had exited the Rama 9 Road and turned left at the MCOT intersection onto Ratchadapisek Road when he came across the checkpoint near the Chinese Embassy.
The 50-year-old driver identified as Mr Wichet Pinkaew testified to police as a witness in the investigation that has been opened at Huai Khwang Police Station.
The driver insists that the Taiwanese star appeared to be intoxicated even before she entered his car as he observed her approach. He told police that he had to lower the windows in the car as the smell of alcohol in the cab was overpowering.
Driver insists that actress Charlene An was very drunk and agitated during her interactions with policemen at the checkpoint who searched his passengers
He also revealed that his passengers appeared to be loud and agitated.
He thought it may have to do with his radio blaring, a Thai ghost story he was listening to, so he switched to Thai music but his passengers continued to be rowdy.
He told police that Ms Charlene, who he recognised from press reports, was the loudest person in the car and appeared to him to be drunk.
He said he had a CCTV facility in the car but the memory on its disk was only sufficient for one week and that he had reset it. However, he had, on Friday, handed over the memory chip of the device to assist the police with their enquiries.
He said that the passengers in the car had little or no English and that when Thai police tried to communicate with them in English, there was a problem as officers explained to them it was a security check.
The occupants were asked to exit the car while police looked through their bags with torchlights.
One of the men travelling with the actress, the only one who spoke Thai, paid the driver ฿80 out of an ฿89 fare on the clock to have him leave the scene
At some point, one of the men with Ms Charlene An came to him and offered him ฿80 to leave and he remembered thinking that his fare was already ฿89 but he was happy to get away from the developing scene as Ms Charlene argued with the police and there appeared to be a contretemps between her and the officers.
Mr Wichet was interviewed by Police Major Ying Pin Mekphaiboon at Huai Khwang Police Station for more than 3 hours as police tried to get to the bottom of what happened and to deal with the claims made by the star who has now left Thailand.
He said he had picked up the party at 2 am on January 4th and only one man among the four could speak Thai.
He told officers that even before the passengers got into his car, the Thai man had yelled angrily at him.
He said that before he left, he fully witnessed the police search activity which took approximately 30 minutes and also observed one of the passengers making a video clip of the proceedings.
Taxi man takes issue with claims by the actress in response to the police that she had not been drinking and was not intoxicated during the incident
3 police officers were conducting the search of the people in the car while the Taiwanese actress yelled loudly during these proceedings.
Mr Wichet also took issue with one aspect of the Taiwanese woman’s story where she said that one of her companions was taken to a quiet alley by a policeman where the ฿27,000 was allegedly exchanged.
Mr Wichet said that this was one open area on the motorway with no alleyways nearby.
He also confirmed that he personally saw nothing untoward happen between the policemen and his passengers before he left prematurely
He told officers that taxi drivers always recall drunk or obstreperous passengers and that he was in no doubt that Ms Charlene And fitted that description on the night.
He was adamant that her claims that she was not drunk were erroneous and also worried that such allegations were damaging to the image of Thailand.
She was ‘100% drunk’ says Grab driver on the night and calls on Charlene An to come clean about what happened after being interviewed by police on Friday
‘As for the person who came out to clarify via Instagram that she did not drink, I can confirm that she was 100% drunk,’ insisted Mr Wichet.
The taxi driver called on the Taiwanese woman to come clean and tell the truth about the affair and admit she was drunk.
Police Colonel Yingyot Suwanno, the Chief of Huai Khwang Police Station, later confirmed that a detailed witness statement had been obtained from the driver of the taxi.
Asked if Ms Charlene An, who has vowed never to set foot in Thailand again, would be summoned concerning the allegations by police, he demurred to comment.
The senior officer said that a thorough check of all CCTV cameras in the vicinity of the incident had been ordered and the footage would be examined closely to get to the bottom of what transpired.
Police chief at Huai Khwang has not decided yet who is telling the truth in relation to the incident. Says more evidence is required and will be studied
Asked to confirm if he was satisfied with the position taken by his subordinate officers, he insisted that no determination in this matter will be made until all the evidence has been fully examined.
He said, at this point, no charges against anyone related to the matter would be even considered.
Ms Charlene An has insisted that the Royal Thai Police study the CCTV footage located at the checkpoint stop and requested them to stop slandering her in the meantime as media reports from Thailand increasingly question her version of events. She accused the Royal Thai Police of talking ‘nonsense’ in response to her claims.
‘Now the unclean Thai police want to use me to keep them innocent because it goes against their interests? Stop talking nonsense!’ she commanded online.
She again insisted that she was not drinking on the night in question.
Taiwanese star admits the affair has upset her
Ms Charlene An insists that she had a clear image of the police officer who extorted the money from her and also revealed that all lanes on the highway appeared to have been closed.
‘That day, all 4 lanes were closed and not only 7 police officers. I clearly remember the person who extorted my money. Did he say that there was no ambush that day? And did not take the money? So why not show CCTV footage?’ her message on Instagram read.
She said she has been left upset by the affair.
‘And still, come to talk nonsense like this. Treat me as a target like this. And then stuff the stuff in me? I feel a little threatened because there are many people who claim to be police officers coming to contact me, so I am a little upset.’