Governor denies sex ring links

Governor denies sex ring links

Yutthachai: Accused of running ring
Yutthachai: Accused of running ring

The governor of Mae Hong Son has vehemently denied buying sex from teenage girls trafficked into a prostitution ring allegedly run by local police.

Yutthachai Thongchart, a police senior sergeant-major formerly attached to Mae Hong Son police, has been arrested on charges of running a sex ring and human trafficking.

He was apprehended Tuesday along with two women, identified as Piyathas Thiensuwan and Piyawan Sukma, who are charged with acting as procurers and human trafficking.

The three suspects were questioned by police in Mae Hong Son and were to be flown to Bangkok for interrogation by the anti-human trafficking police Tuesday.

The mother of one of the girls working in the sex ring said the female pimps had forced them to work as prostitutes for clients in Mae Hong Son, who included senior state officials, according to deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul.

The mother also reportedly worked as a police informant.

Pol Gen Srivara said the girls told investigators that one of the officials was Mae Hong Son governor Suebsak Iamwicharn.

The girls said they were each paid 1,000 baht per client for sex.

Mr Suebsak denied using the sex service or having anything to do with it.

"I'm absolutely a million percent sure I had nothing whatsoever to do with the ring," he told a press conference Tuesday.

Mr Suebsak said he was baffled as to why he was being implicated.

He began serving as governor on Oct 1 last year.

The girls lodged a complaint with the Damrongtham centre in the province on Nov 6 last year.

Mr Suebsak added it was odd that the girl whose informant mother exposed the case aired her plight only after he became governor despite claiming her daughter had been forced by Pol Snr Sgt Maj Yutthachai into prostitution two years ago.

The governor said he was ready to be investigated.

Meanwhile, Pol Gen Srivara said Provincial Police Region 5, which supervises Mae Hong Son police and had begun an investigation into whether police were complicit in the ring, suspended its probe after delays, which, he surmised, were due to investigators neglecting their duty.

The deputy national police chief said authorities were also considering whether to seek warrants for the arrest of at least three Mae Hong Son police officers -- a deputy chief investigator, a deputy chief inspector named 'Art,' and a non-commission policeman in charge of detaining suspects -- over possible links to the sex ring.

The warrants, if sought, would be requested from the court based on the accounts of the girls. Pol Gen Srivara has vowed to act swiftly against anyone involved in the ring and those who procured sexual services from the girls.

He added the Anti-Money Laundering Office would be asked to examine assets of the ring members.

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