Capt Sura Lertthaisong of the Sakhu Police told The Phuket News today (Jan 20), “I will call a national park officer and the woman’s boyfriend and the woman to present themselves at Sakhu Police Station tomorrow [Jan 21] so I can question them for more information.
“Today, I will consult the Sakhu Police Chief about which charge the park officer should face, then I will be able to confirm the exact charge,” he said.
Capt Sura said that he was currently investigating whether a charge of “bullying in public” under Section 397 of the Criminal Code would be appropriate.
Section 397 states, “Any person who, in a public place or in public and through whatever act, treats another with insolence or in an offensive way or causes another to undergo disgrace, trouble or annoyance shall be liable to imprisonment for not more than one month, or a fine not exceeding one thousand baht or both.”
Confirmation from Capt Sura that police will pursue a criminal charge contradicts the public statement by the accused park officer himself, 28-year-old Abdulrama Mahaderi, who in a statement posted on the official Sirinath National Park facebook page said, “The tourists told me that they did not want to press charges. They just told me that they did not want me to do anything like this again.”
The pursuit of a criminal charge follows woman’s boyfriend, the woman, Miss Sopita and her boyfriend, Panupong Rungrueng, 32, returning to Sakhu Police Station at 2pm yesterday (Jan 19) to follow up on their complaint filed last Sunday after not receiving any follow-up calls from the police for two days.
Speaking to reporters at the police station yesterday, Ms Sopita explained, “On Jan 17, I left from a house in Phuket Town to visit Nai Yang Beach. In the evening, I wanted to use the toilet. I told my boyfriend and I went in to use the toilet in the female section. My boyfriend used the toilet in the male section.
“After my boyfriend left the toilet, he waited for me at the front of the toilet building. He heard a noise on top of the wall separating the [men’s and women’s] toilet rooms. He looked up and saw a man balancing on the wall who was looking down at me.
“The man held on with one hand, and in his other hand he was holding a phone. The man was likely taking a picture of me,” she said.
“My boyfriend shouted at the man to come down from the wall. The man hurriedly climbed down the wall and my boyfriend asked him what he was doing there. ‘Are you secretly taking a photo of my girlfriend or not?’,” she added.
“The man said that he had been ordered by his boss to arrest men who took drugs in the toilet because two men were caught taking drugs there two days earlier.
“But my boyfriend did not accept this man’s explanation. My boyfriend shouted loudly, causing the people exercising nearby to come to see what had happened. So that man quickly left,” Ms Sopita explained.
“After that I spoke with my boyfriend and we went to report the incident at Sakhu Police Station for evidence.”
After returning home on Sunday, Ms Sopita’s boyfriend posted a photo of the man looking down from the toilet wall on his Facebook page.
The post went viral, and Ms Sopita yesterday said, “After my boyfriend posted a picture of the man, there were many comments.
“One group of women said that they were also spied on by this man on the toilet wall two months ago, but they did not report it and did not press charges – and the truth faded away as if nothing ever happened.”
Of note, the photo and the post on Mr Panupong’s Facebook page have since been removed.
“Nearly two days have passed, and no police or officials from the national park have contacted us,” Ms Sopita said yesterday.
“So I have come back here to the police [station] to again file a complaint about this man,” she added.
Asked why police had not contacted Ms Sopita to follow up on the complaint, Capt Sura today said, “I have already started to investigate this case. Meanwhile, I have other jobs to do.”
Ms Sopita confirmed that she and her boyfriend have now followed up themselves with park officials to confirm what action was being taken.
“The park staff replied that that man was actually a ‘temporary employee’ of the park,” Ms Sopita said.
“I also asked what is happening with the national park investigation. The park official replied that the man who caused the incident has now been suspended and that an investigation has been launched by park officials.
“I was told that if it is found that the man has committed an offence, he must be dismissed and prosecuted according to the law as well,” Ms Sopita said.
Additional reporting by Tanyaluk Sakoot