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Phuket hotel faces defamation charges over Army extortion claims

PHUKET: The Commander of Royal Thai Army Region 4 base, which covers all of Southern Thailand, has confirmed that he has ordered army litigation officers to move ahead with filing a complaint of defamation with police against the management of a hotel in Patong.

military, crime, patong,

Eakkapop Thongtub

Monday 2 April 2018, 01:06PM

Sub Lt Wattanachai Klongpradit of the Royal Thai Army 25th Military Circle (2nd from right) at the meeting at the hotel in Patong on March 27, as seen in the video posted online. Image: Screengrab
Sub Lt Wattanachai Klongpradit of the Royal Thai Army 25th Military Circle (2nd from right) at the meeting at the hotel in Patong on March 27, as seen in the video posted online. Image: Screengrab

The move follows the hotel management and a “concerned party” posting a video clip on social media claiming that a group of army officers went to the hotel to extort money from the hotel management, Army Region 4 Commander Lt Gen Piyawat Narkvanich told the press yesterday (April 1).

Gen Piyawat said he had already received written clarification from Lt Col Surasak Peungyeam, Deputy Commander of the 25th Military Circle, which is based in Phuket, about the incident.

In turn, Gen Piyawat said he had instructed army legal officers to prepare their complaint to take legal action against the hotel management as the allegation in the video clip had tarnished the reputation of Army Region 4.

In Thailand, defamation is a criminal charge. As such the Royal Thai Army will need to file a complaint with police, who will then investigate to see if defamation charges will be pressed.

Col Surasak explained to told the press yesterday that he and several other army officers went to the hotel last Tuesday (Mar 27) to investigate a complaint filed to him by a former employee of the hotel.

The employee had claimed that he had been unfairly dismissed by the hotel's management after he took five-day business leave on Dec 25-30 last year.

Col Surasak also said yesterday that the meeting with the hotel’s management was “secretly” video-taped and the video posted on social media accusing soldiers of extorting money from the hotel.

The video was posted on YouTube, click here.

No persons in the video posted online mention payments to be made. A separate video obtained by The Phuket News showing a conversation outside the hotel after the meeting between soldiers present and the hotel management also makes no mention of any payments to be made.

In response to the hotel management’s complaint that the soldiers arrived at the hotel carrying side arms, Col Surasak noted that doing so was required while soldiers were on duty.

He also noted that the employee had filed in his complaint that some members of the hotel’s management were influential figures.

However, Col Surasak made no mention of why Royal Thai Army soldiers were involved in investigating an unfair dismissal claim.

Gen Piyawat also noted yesterday that he has formally requested that two Royal Thai Police officers be transferred after Col Surasak pointed out that two policemen were accompanying the hotel management figure concerned in a “protection” role.

“These two policemen should not be around this hotel general manager. Police have their own job to do, not to follow this man around,” Col Surasak said.

It was not clarified which police station or police division where the two officers currently serve.



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