Cop Denies ‘Ripping Off’ Maserati-Driving Celeb Actress

A file photo of Panita “Ning” Tumwattana, left. A now-deleted photo of herself with a Maserati, right. Photo: Ningpanita / Instagram
A file photo of Panita “Ning” Tumwattana, left. A now-deleted photo of herself with a Maserati, right. Photo: Ningpanita / Instagram

BANGKOK — When an actress complained on social media Monday that she was unfairly stopped by a police officer who appeared to be targeting her for a bribe, her grievance went viral in no time, thanks to sympathetic netizens.

But the celeb, Panita “Ning” Tumwattana, was forced to admit today that she judged the officer too harshly after police released their side of the story, accusing Panita of not only driving without license but also possessing a wrong license plate.

“I acknowledge my mistakes. I was too impatient for thinking that the officer was trying to play a trick by slowly issuing me a ticket,” Panita told Channel 3 in a live interview today.

Her comment a day after Panita took the internet by storm with her now-deleted Instagram post saying a policeman pulled over her Maserati and she suspected the officer was trying to squeeze some extra baht out of her.

Read: Corruption Catch-22: Report a Bribe and Go to Jail?

A screenshot of Panita’s now-deleted Instagram post.

“I got pulled over by the police, so I asked him seriously to issue me a ticket as I knew I was guilty. But the officer asked me a lot of questions and walked around my car, asking for the car’s make, even though it was written on the trunk. I knew he was trying to rip me off,” the post’s caption said.

“Do I sound too blunt? But it’s true! There’s plenty of good cops out there, but this officer is a rotten apple that spoils the whole barrel,” she continued in the post that was soon widely shared.

But the Traffic Police Division disputed her allegations. In a statement released Tuesday, the force identified the officer as Cpl. Teerapong Kabjuntuk who said he saw the actress cutting lanes in a restricted area, so he pulled her over to issue a ticket.

Teerapong said he had to walk around the car to inspect the vehicle because he couldn’t immediately recognize the make. He said he then charged Panita, whom he didn’t recognize at the time, for violating road signs, driving while not carrying a license, and failing to display her car’s tax registration sticker.

“In my 27 years of living and three years as a policeman, it was that morning that I learned about the make,” Teerapong said. “I don’t like to watch TV, so I don’t know many celebrities. If I knew she was a superstar, I would ask her for a photo to brag to my wife about.”

Panita was slapped with an additional charge today after police realized her license plate didn’t match her ID information either, traffic police division commander Komsak Sumangkaset said. The officer said the license number for her Maserati was registered to a BMW.

Speaking today, Panita said she swapped the plate with another car while she is waiting for the plate transfer process for the Maserati to be completed.

The social media, which was mostly on her side at first, also quickly turned against Panita after the police’s version of the encounter came to light, sending the hashtag #NingPanita soared to the top-trending on Thai Twitter.

“Her actions made me feel terrible. Although she seems so smart on TV, her way of thinking is so condescending,” user @T_Boonruang tweeted.