5 more arrests in Thailand's teen-sex scandal and more to come

5 more arrests in Thailand's teen-sex scandal and more to come
Mae Hong Song governor Suebsak Iamwichan.
PHOTO: The Nation/Asia News Network

Five more people - a man and four women - were arrested yesterday for alleged involvement in child prostitution in Mae Hong Son, while police will seek warrants today to arrest three more policemen on charges of gang rape and taking a minor from her guardian.

The five suspects - Mongkol Kiatpakdipong, Pattamaporn In-kaew, Kanokwan Rattanapakdi, Kwanhathai Reuk-Udom and Kalaya Wutthikhun - were notified of the charges against them under warrants issued by the Criminal Court, a police source said, citing a report by the Anti-Human Trafficking Division (AHTD) chief Kornchai Klayklueng.

The five - charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit human trafficking to reap benefits from prostitution and human trafficking - were escorted by AHTD officers in a van to Chiang Mai yesterday afternoon, where they were due to board a plane to Bangkok.

Another police source said more arrests were imminent, with investigators set to seek three more warrants today. At least 10 police and one military man were involved as procurers or service users, the source said.

It was also alleged that another team led by a man labelled 'M' sent girls to provide sex services to senior officials, some of whom were now bargaining so warrants would not be issued for them.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda has said the transfer of Mae Hong Song governor Suebsak Iamwichan to his ministry aims to dispel community doubts as the investigation into child prostitution in the far North continues. He said given that Suebsak had been implicated in the scandal, it was best to transfer him while inquiries continued.

Yesterday morning, 350 officials, plus private-sector representatives and others saw Suebsak off when he left the province for Bangkok.

The move followed a 43-year-old former police informant filing a complaint in which she claimed her teenage daughter was lured into taking drugs, blackmailed and coerced into sex work. The mother alleged that high-ranking officials in the province, including the governor, were customers of the sex ring. Suebsak has claimed he is innocent.

Request for DSI to take over case

Meanwhile, Ban Kanchanapisek juvenile centre head Thicha na Nakhon led representatives of women's rights and children's groups to ask Permanent Secretary for Justice Chanchao Chaiyanukit to get the Department of Special Investigation to take up the prostitution ring case, given it involves many police and administrative officials.

"Despite the transfer of the governor, many officials who were allegedly involved remain there, so that cannot ensure a transparent investigation. If this problem isn't tackled seriously, new cases will occur," she said. The groups were also considering whether to file criminal negligence complaints against officials at state agencies in charge of care for children and youths in Mae Hong Son.

Chanchao said police were investigating the case and the ministry's Rights and Liberties Protection Department had provided protection to the mother who exposed the prostitution ring.

He promised to coordinate with both the Interior Ministry and the Royal Thai Police to ensure justice to all sides.

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