A story about Thai cops extorting money from shop owners isn’t something that would normally be featured on the front page. We all know that many police officers are on the take. I’ve been stopped by police three times and each time they asked for a bribe. It’s something that I don’t like but it’s part of life here. However, at the weekend, three police officers got more than they bargained for when they tried to extort money from a tailor shop in Bang Rak district of Bangkok. A customer being served when the police arrived was a reporter from Nation TV. According to his Facebook post, the shop owner whispered to the police that this wasn’t a good time. But the sergeant insisted as he had other places to visit. The shop owner finally told the policeman that the man sitting in front of him was a reporter. In the video below you can see the reporter wai-ing the policeman. Realizing that they shouldn’t push the matter any further, the police then left the shop.
Backing up the reporter’s story is the CCTV footage that you can see above. As a result this became front page news on all of the newspapers belonging to Nation Group as well as on their TV channel and other channels too. Normally nothing comes out of stories like this as police see it as their right to extort money. They say that their wage is so low that accepting bribes and gifts is the only way for them to make a decent living. The Nation newspaper has a follow up to this story already. The police officer involved in this extortion has been removed to headquarters while the two sergeants have been put into detention for 30 days. In their conversation with the reporter, the sergeant said that they were collecting for their boss. The question is, will that person face the music too?
UPDATE: Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm has now come out to say that it is acceptable for police to ask businesses for money as it is tradition. He is referring to the practice during Chinese New Year when adults give children red envelopes filled with money. Unfortunately, he is forgetting two things. First, the owner of the tailor shop is of Indian descent. Secondly, policeman are not children and if they were, it’s not polite for them to ask for money.