Tue, June 28, 2022

in-focus

Activists condemn officials for obstructing probe into child sex ring


The civil sector condemned the Department of Children and Youth (DCY) for obstructing the investigation into child prostitution in Surat Thani.

On Wednesday, police raided 18 sites linked to the trafficking of young people, including a children’s shelter.

The raids came after 16 people were arrested in November 2021 for their role in a child sex trafficking ring.

Since then, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, non-governmental organisations and the police identified and have been hunting for 18 other suspects.

If caught, they can face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to 2 million baht.

Assistant National Police chief Pol Lt-General Surachate Hakparn told reporters that the investigation led them to the Surat Thani Shelter for Children and Families.

The investigation also tracked links to several officials, including a deputy director-general of DCY, chairman of a local savings cooperative, a deputy chairman of Phunphin district’s tambon administrative organisation’s council as well as soldiers, teachers and doctors in the area.

Surachate said an official going by the name “Aem” was found to have assaulted children at the shelter to push them into prostitution, while the DCY deputy director-general allegedly had a hand in hampering investigation into the ring.

The DCY deputy director-general has been charged with malfeasance in office and evidence will be submitted to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, Surachate said.

Ineffective solutions

Chuwit Chantaros, secretary-general of the Child, Youth and Family Foundation, said on Thursday that this case is shocking because most of those involved have a good social standing and some may even have political positions.

He said this is a recurring problem because those in power take advantage of defenceless children, and by the time the state steps in, it is too late.

However, he said, the biggest shock is that a state agency tasked with protecting children is doing the opposite – protecting the offenders. He said legal action taken against the DCY deputy director-general should be transparent and a new investigation panel set up comprising people from outside the bureaucracy.

He also said that the children at the shelter may be safe for now, but someone might use their dark influence on the victims’ relatives.

Gagging order

Ticha Na Nakorn, director of the Baan Kanchanapisek Vocational Juvenile Training Centre for Boys, said members of a citizen network and DCY officials had visited her for advice several years ago. She said at the meeting the DCY officials revealed that they had been instructed to not help police with human-trafficking cases.

This, she said, proves that authoritarianism and patronage are deeply rooted in Thai society and that it is time this root was pulled out.

Citing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s aggressive style, she said the state has been generally ineffective in handling this situation. Ticha said the only way to solve this problem will be to get to its root by overhauling the bureaucracy and ensuring suspects are punished.

Published : May 06, 2022

By : THE NATION