CityNews – CityNews was contacted on 21st February by a British woman asking for assistance in a sexual assault case that had occurred earlier that day involving a Thai police officer.
The woman who has asked not to be named, contacted us asking us to help publicise her story and assist her in seeking fair justice.
According to the woman, she was returning with her boyfriend the Grand Canyon Water Park, when she was approached by a local police officer at around 1.15pm. The officer requested a photo to be taken with her, and asked her boyfriend to take the photo. The police officer then proceeded to put his hand up the back of her skirt and grabbed her backside.
The woman told CityNews that she was shocked and immediately hit his hand away and shouted at him. The police officer quickly took his phone back and drove off, but the woman and her boyfriend were able to follow him and photograph him before he ignored their calls for him to stop.
After reporting the incident to the staff at Chiang Mai Water Park, she also proceeded to file a complaint with the local Tourist Police in Chiang Mai.
She then contacted several local media companies to help share her story and put pressure on police authorities to bring the sexual assaulting police man to justice.
In her email to CityNews, she sent us audio recordings of her meeting with the police along with photographs of the alleged assaulter.
Once the report was made at the Tourist Police station, the British woman was told that all the police could do was file a formal complaint with seniors of the accused and issue him with a stern warning, “not to touch tourists again.”
Not satisfied with the response, the woman wrote to CityNews and we immediately contacted the Honorary British Consul, Ben Svasti who asked us to urge the woman to come forward to talk to the consulate, telling us that this was a serious matter which needed to be taken to senior authorities in the police department.
The next day, she returned to the Tourist Police station to collect as much information as possible including names of all parties involved and the incident report.
“After 15 minutes off faffing about and looking in numerous folders full of complaints, mine was nowhere to be seen. The officer in charge then made a phone call to who I later found out was the duty officer in charge yesterday, and found my statement in the bottom of a draw,” she told CityNews.
The officers expressed shock at the lack of progress and suggested the woman go to the Hang Dong Police Station to lodge a complaint directly with the accused’s supervisors.
“We got on the bike and arrived at Hang Dong police station at about 6:30pm, walked through to the entrance to be met by no other than the man himself. I stopped dead in my tracks and recoiled in horror, I think he thought I was going to kill him – he looked petrified.”
The British woman continued and said that she was then taken to a private room where Officer Chakapatd Thongpool took a statement via a translator. The conversation was recorded by the victim and also provided to CityNews, which was all passed on to Svasti.
Officer Chakapatd told the victim that police officers often take photos of where they are working to show their seniors, further suggesting that maybe the man’s height in relation to the victim may have been why he accidently touched that area of her body.
The audio recording shows the victim was clearly distressed by this comment and insisted that the alleged sexual assault was not an accident.
Police General Taweesak Sritongsuk, Superintendent of the Hang Dong Police Station proceeded in identifying the offending police officer as Police Lieutenant General Sinchai Wiangkam.
Pol. Gen. Taweesak told the victims that he had spoken to the accused officer and that he said that when taking the photo, he accidently touched the woman’s backside after he put his arm up to prevent her from falling into the water. The woman has refuted this claim saying that they were over 10 feet away from the water, which also had large railings preventing people from falling in.
After the woman and her boyfriend rejected the officer’s explanation and apology, another police officer appeared with a large fruit basket as they attempted an official apology on behalf of Pol.Lt. Gen Sinchai Wiangkam. This apology was not accepted, nor was the fruit basket.
CityNews talked to British Honorary Consul Ben Svasti, who immediately expressed great concern and acknowledged that this was a case of inappropriate behaviour and sexual assault by a police officer. He informed Citylife that the British Embassy as well as the Minister of Tourism and the Region 5 Police had all been notified and were urging the woman to come forward as they wanted to follow protocol and see this officer held accountable as a deterrent to any other policemen.
The Chiang Mai police have had numerous training sessions by the British Embassy and Scotland Yard, the latest being in February 2016 at a seminar held in Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai. The Foreign Office had sent Paul Davison, an expert who has investigated over 600 sexual assault cases in the UK, to talk to a group of northern policeman from agencies such as the DSI, tourist police, city police and police volunteers.
In 2015, Thailand saw 13 reported cases of sexual assaults filed by British nationals.
According to Svasti, the Deputy Commissioner of Provincial Police Region 5, Pol. Lt. Gen. Pitaya Siriraksa vowed to deal with the offending officer accordingly. Unfortunately, the officer may never be tried in a court of law as the victim has subsequently returned back to the United Kingdom so is unable to testify.
She told CityNews that she was not willing to stay in Thailand anymore due to fear of more sexual assault or other complications dealing with the police regarding this matter. Her family in the UK were very worried for her safety and urged her to return home straightaway.
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism, took a personal interest in her plight, understood her fears and arranged for a safe house for her to stay. Lt.Gen Pitaya Deputy Commissioner Region 5 arranged for a special interview room to be set up in comfortable stress free surroundings where she could be interviewed by female police officer (participant in recent British Embassy workshop) and social worker. Ben Svasti, British Honorary Consul and official from the Tourist Assistance Centre accompanied her to Region 5 HQ at her request.
Lt.Gen Pitaya told her that his officer was definitely in the wrong and he personally took this matter very seriously. He explained to her that she had two choices, either she could take to case to court or it could be settled out of court and the police officer be punished internally by the police. She said all wanted was that the police officer be prevented from ever committing the same offence again against any other tourist. She was told that the police officer was due to retire in a year and stood to lose all his pension if the case went to court. She felt this was a bit harsh on him and his family. She was informed that if he was disciplined internally he would be imprisoned in a cell for a period of time, his salary would not be increased for the rest of his career and he would be transferred to an administrative job in Region 5 HQ and would never be on the streets to accost tourists again. She found this outcome acceptable.
Region 5 Police reimbursed her the costs of her cancelled air tickets, in order to report the case which came to 13,000 baht. British Honorary Consul and Tourist Assistance Centre accompanied her to the airport and she left the country.