THE DEPARTMENT of Special Investigation (DSI) has busted a major human trafficking ring that allegedly forced Moroccan women into prostitution in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area.
DSI deputy chief Pol Colonel Songsak Raksaksakul said the agency had received a tip-off from the Alliance Anti-Trafic and other international agencies that a Moroccan woman had asked for help after being lured into prostitution.
The woman claimed she had been assaulted and her passport was confiscated by the gang. She also said they took video clips of her in order to blackmail and coerce her to continue in the sex trade at a night entertainment venue and a hotel in Soi Nana of Klong Toei district.
The director of the DSI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Centre Pol Lt-Colonel Komwit Pattanarat identified the gang members as Michael Pearl, 45, a Sudanese man holding an Australian passport; Syrian national Ghassan Wakej, 36, and an unnamed Moroccan woman. Two Thais, Chalard or Chairat Narachan, 62, and Aree or Chayakorn Eiumsaree, 45, were also identified.
Four of the suspects were in custody after police secured arrest warrants, Komwit said. Officers said Pearl had been apprehended at Suvarnabhumi Airport while he was about to board a flight to flee the country on Tuesday.
Wakej was arrested on the same day at an unidentified location. Both Pearl and Wakej were brought by officers in a search of their Sukhumvit hotel rooms, which reportedly yielded incriminating evidence. The two Thai suspects surrendered at the DSI office on Thursday.
DSI officers planned to take the four suspects to apply for their first detention period later on Thursday and to object to bail release on grounds that they are a flight risk.
DSI chief Pol Colonel Paisit Wongmuang said the crackdown on human trafficking crimes was a priority for Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and Justice Minister Suwapan Tanyuvardhana.
Songsak also said the DSI would find ways to help tackle the issue of foreign women being lured into prostitution in Thailand, adding that authorities around the globe prioritised human trafficking crimes as they involved human right violations.
Thailand remains on Tier Two of the US State Department's 2017 Trafficking in Persons watchlist released in June.