Focus on police involved in racket plus customers who had sex with minors.
POLICE are expanding a crackdown on underage prostitution in the upper North, mainly targeting local police involved with the racket and those who were customers.
Pol Lt-General Poonsap Prasertsak, commissioner of the Provincial Police Region 5, which covers the eight upper northern provinces, said yesterday he had ordered a team of detectives to |secretly gather information about the matter.
He instructed the detectives to acquire convincing evidence so that disciplinary action can be taken against the officers involved, Poonsap said.
“I and my team will visit Mae Hong Son next week to follow up on the fact-finding mission,” said the Chiang Mai-based regional police chief.
The police move came as the Interior Ministry investigates Mae Hong Son Governor Suebsak Iamwichan, who is accused by a woman of having sex with her daughter when she was a minor. The woman also alleged that many local police – both high-ranking and junior – were linked with child prostitution as collaborators and customers.
Suebsak has strongly denied the allegation, but the Interior Ministry has set up a team headed by deputy permanent secretary Prayoon Rattanasenee to investigate the allegations of his involvement in child prostitution.
Prayoon travelled to Mae Hong Son yesterday to question the provincial governor about the matter. The ministry has given his investigating committee 30 days to complete its mission.
National police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said yesterday he was not surprised that the governor came out daily to deny the allegation against him. “I understand that as a senior state official, he has to defend himself,” he said.
Chakthip said he has instructed his deputy, Pol General Srivara Ransibhramanakul, to investigate this matter in order to determine whether it was the current Mae Hong Son governor or his immediate predecessor who was actually linked to the sexual scandal.
“I got a report about the finding, but I can’t disclose it now,” he said.
Poonsap, the Region 5 police chief, said that the team of detectives was working separately from investigators looking into accusations by the alleged victims of child prostitution.
He said at least four local police accused of being involved with the racket had been moved out of their areas of jurisdiction, including a junior officer wanted for allegedly being part of the prostitution ring.
Meanwhile, Pipat Ekpapan – Suebsak’s immediate predecessor who is now the Uttaradit governor – said yesterday he had nothing to do with the teenage prostitution scandal in Mae Hong Son.
“I maintain my innocence that I had never done anything like that. I also 100-per-cent believe that current Mae Hong Son governor Suebsak Iamwichan did not do this,” Pipat said on his Facebook page.
He also posted pictures and details about his social development projects in Mae Hong Son, including scholarships for underprivileged youths.
“Soon the truth will prevail, as an investigation by the Interior Ministry as well as those by the Anti-Human Trafficking Division and the Provincial Police Region 5, are ongoing.
“If anyone did wrong, they won’t escape punishment,” he said.
He said that people who were unfairly judged by society, despite unclear facts in media reports, suffer damage to their names so the public should use their discretion to screen news.
His online post, which received 950 likes and 91 shares as of Friday afternoon, was in response to recent news reports in which a mother has alleged that her teenage daughter and several other girls had been blackmailed and coerced into the sex trade in Mae Hong Son province.
She said some police and state officials, including a provincial governor, allegedly bought sexual services from the minors.
In a related development, an assistant district officer in Mae Hong Son admitted yesterday there had been a practice of providing young prostitutes to local senior officials following reception parties. But Boonyarit Nipawanit, an assistant district |officer in Mae Sariang district who also heads the Federation of Assistant District Officers, vouched for Suebsak, saying he believed the governor “is a good man” and did not have sex with a minor.