Bangkok-based modelling agency boss Kerdmai Ruayjingna has settled two charges of rape and procuring a person under 18 for a profitable sexual-act performance on Monday by paying an undisclosed amount in compensation to a 17-year-old employee.
Kerdmai still has to settle with two more teenage employees at a court-arranged meeting on March 19, said a source at Bangkok’s Ratchadapisek Criminal Court’s human trafficking case 3 division’s prosecutor team.
The settlement talks – on Monday and on March 19, involving the plaintiffs dropping two “compoundable/negotiable” charges – were possible under law, the source said. But the source emphasised that the serious criminal charge of human trafficking would still stand and a court trial would begin on February 19.
The 46-year-old former magician Kerdmai, previously known as Kheetakan Kerdpaiboon, and his former “coyote dancer” employee and NiNew Modelling manager, Panwarot Kuabkoom, 35, were at the centre of a scandal after video clips of two female dancers being slapped in the face as punishment for unclear breaches of the modelling house’s rules went viral last September.
It became a formal police case when three teenagers lodged police complaints.
Kerdmai, Panwarot and a third suspect, Monreudeee In-on, 28, were arrested, bailed and then indicted on December 13 last year on charges of human trafficking, procuring persons under 18 for profitable sexual act performances, and “taking away” persons under 18 from their parents/guardians for lewd acts.
The lawsuit said that, from May 2016-September 5, 2017, the defendants had operated a business to benefit from procuring girls over 15 but still under 18 to perform sexual acts. A 16-year-old girl reportedly worked as “coyote dancer” for them and she was sent to a Bangkok bar where she wore a bikini, did sexy dances and shared drinks with male customers who then kissed and molested her with her consent in exchange for a payment from the bar. The payment was then split between the modelling agency and the girl, the lawsuit cited.
Kerdmai also faced additional rape accusations at the time.
In a television interview, he claimed that he had had “consensual sexual relationships” with two employees, but had broken up with them.