The Thai police have reacted angrily to international coverage of the latest ‘vice’ raid, which is being portrayed as another bumbling bone-headed police farce.
A video of the raid, taken by the authorities themselves, has gone viral on the internet. It shows a 50-strong force storming the mammography department at Chulalongkorn Hospital after a tip-off that lewd and obscene acts were being perpetrated. The raiders included police, local authority officials, military officers, and some men who were first thought to be officials in plain clothes but who turned out to be common-or-garden voyeurs.
Officials found, as anyone with half a brain might predict, a number of women undergoing a mammogram, a procedure that requires the patient to remove her upper clothing. The military and police were convinced that any activity involving bare-breasted women must constitute some form of commercial sex, and the explanations of the hospital staff could not convince them otherwise.
It is thought that the raid, which had been sanctioned at the highest level, was an act of malicious revenge by someone with a grievance against the hospital, though police claim that their anonymous tip-off came from a perfectly respectable source, whose name they were not reared to disclose, since it was after all anonymous.
The superintendent of the local police station said that the raid was in line with the policy of the NCPO government to crack down on vice, corruption and all political activity by politicians.
As word of the raid spread, the President of the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists raced across town from his office in Bangkapi in a futile attempt to prevent the police from pressing charges. His arguments that mammography was a normal medical procedure, and one that had saved countless lives, were summarily dismissed by the police, who argued that they saw no reason why it had to involve women taking off their bras.
Police had trouble in explaining why, if crimes of a sexual nature were being committed, they didn’t actually see any bare breasts in their raid. And some of them were looking very, very hard. The video shows officials looking with some confusion at a computer screen. A technician was showing them a mammogram image.
The video soundtrack demonstrates the intellectual limitations that the authorities were labouring under.
‘So what’s that then?’ says one officer.
‘I told you. That’s a mammogram.’
‘Looks like a tit to me.’
‘Yes, it’s the image of a breast.’
‘Right, you’re nicked, you slag.’
The video then shows a group of 30-odd patients in hospital gowns together with hospital staff being loaded into minibuses for the short journey to Pathumwan Police Station where they were held for 12 hours while the police tried to think of some offence they could be charged with.
Eventually the technicians were charged under Section 14 (3) of the Computer-related Crime Act for allegedly importing into a computer system computer data of a pornographic nature. The female patients were charged under Section 338 of the Criminal Code for public indecency.
All were released in the middle of the night on payment of 5000 baht, which the victims claim was a fine but the police insisted was bail.
When reporters asked how undergoing a medical examination in a closed facility constituted indecency, let alone public indecency, police officers relied that their investigations had revealed that all the women were naked beneath their clothes.
Faced with incredulity from everyone who heard this, one officer added, ‘We have proof. We made them take all their clothes off and took photographs as evidence. Many photographs. If you don’t believe me, go and look on the internet where we will be posting them very soon.’
One doctor among the suspects was not released with the other detainees. He had told officials that, coming so soon after the raid on the Pattaya Bridge Club, their action would further damage the reputation of the police and make the country a laughing stock.
The military took offence at his comments and he was detained at an undisclosed military facility for ‘attitude adjustment’.
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).