Former Australian embassy staff charged by Thai police after cameras found in Bangkok mission’s women’s toilet

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A former member of staff at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok has been charged by Thai police after spy cameras were discovered in a women’s toilet inside the secure government building.

The discovery raises serious questions about how the cameras could have been installed and remained undiscovered, potentially for years.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has confirmed that a former locally recruited staff member at the Australian Embassy in Bangkok was arrested by Royal Thai Police on January 6.

The ABC understands that the former employee, Bank Thamsongsana, has dual Australian and Thai nationality and was until recently employed as an IT systems manager at the embassy.

His recently deleted LinkedIn profile said he had been employed by DFAT since 2013, having lived and studied in Australia and held several other Australian government positions.

Bank Thamsongsana was arrested last month.(Provided)

It is understood that several cameras were discovered pointed at showers and women’s toilets after an SD card containing footage of female staff was found on the bathroom floor last year.

A government employee with knowledge of the incident said ABC employees at the embassy were shocked and shaken.

“The female staff, both Thai and Australian, are very anxious,” the person said.

“Some of the women don’t feel safe staying there. They feel compromised and threatened.”

The government employee added that embassy staff wanted more support to “manage the serious psychological impacts of this case, and even the possibility of serious security breaches.”

It’s unclear how long the cameras had been in place or how much vision had been collected, but it appears dozens of Australian embassy staff are assisting Thai police.

A Royal Thai Police officer, who is working on the investigation, told the ABC it was “a sensitive case” which “involved many people”.

The officer said forensic investigators were currently reviewing the evidence and female police officers would interview the women involved.

Police have confirmed that a man has been charged with two offenses under sections of Thailand’s criminal code which cover sexual offenses and public nuisance.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison or a fine of 20,000 baht ($850).

The ABC has learned that Mr Thamsongsana, a married man in his 30s, was released on bail after spending a night in police custody.

A man with short dark hair poses for a photo on a bridge with another person whose face is blurred.
Bank Thamsongsana worked as a computer systems manager at the embassy.(Provided)

The Australian Federal Police and DFAT declined to say whether there would be an Australian government or law enforcement investigation into the incident.

“It’s supposed to be a secure government building”

The Australian Embassy in Bangkok is one of Australia’s largest diplomatic missions worldwide.

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the security breach was a matter of great concern.

“There has clearly been a failure here on many levels, all of which need to be addressed,” Mr Jennings said.

Peter Jennings is pictured in a suit and glasses with a serious expression on his face.
Peter Jennings says the Bangkok breach likely prompted security reviews at other Australian posts overseas.(AAP: Mick Tsikas, file photo)

“No member of staff should expect to have to deal with this type of appalling behavior and I believe it must be treated with the utmost seriousness.

“There’s also the added dimension beyond that, it’s supposed to be a secure government building where classified work is undertaken.”

“I would imagine that as a result of this the Australian Embassy in Bangkok and probably embassies around the world went through their physical security review.”

A multi-storey red brick building with the Bangkok skyline in the background.
The Australian Embassy in Bangkok moved to a new building in 2017.(BVN)

The ABC asked DFAT if the Australian government was taking steps to assess and improve security at its overseas posts, but it did not provide those details.

A DFAT spokesperson said the department was unable to comment further as it was an ongoing legal matter.

“The well-being and privacy of all staff remains a priority for the department and we continue to provide appropriate support,” the spokesperson said.

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