Police detain 5 more in sex scandal probe
Suspected governor moves to inactive post
published : 3 May 2017 at 04:00
updated: 3 May 2017 at 06:08
newspaper section: News
Five more suspects were arrested Tuesday for allegedly procuring teenage girls in the Mae Hong Son sex-trafficking scandal.
The suspects were identified as Mongkol Kiatpakdeepong, 30, Patthamaporn Inkaew, 31, Kanokwan Rattanapakdee, 22, Kwanhathai Rerk-udom, 39, and Kallaya Wutthikul, 40, all Mae Hong Son residents.
All were charged with several offences including the sex trafficking of teenagers aged between 15-18 and luring them into obscene acts.
At the Justice Ministry, children and women's rights groups, led by child expert Ticha Na Nakorn, on Tuesday lodged a petition with permanent secretary for justice Charnchao Chaiyanukij, calling for the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to accept the Mae Hong Son sex scandal as a special case. They said the scandal should be probed by an independent investigator since police are allegedly involved.
Mr Charnchao said the DSI could step in, but there were procedures to consider before the agency could accept the case.
The arrests came after a court approved warrants for the suspects requested by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD), which also handles some parts of the investigation into the teenage sex trafficking.
Investigators say the suspects conspired with Yutthachai Thongchart, a local police senior sergeant-major from Nam Phieng Din station.
Pol Snr Sgt Maj Yutthachai was among the first three suspects apprehended. The two others were alleged female procurers.
According to ATPD chief Pol Maj Gen Kornchai Klayklueng, the five arrested Tuesday procured teenage prostitutes for officials including police, military and provincial administrative officers in 2014.
Meanwhile, Mae Hong Son governor Suebsak Iamwicharn, who was among the officials accused of involvement in the sex scandal, was transferred to an inactive post at the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Interior, pending a probe.
The order, which required Mr Suebsak to present himself at the office Tuesday, was signed by Interior permanent secretary Kritsada Boonrat on Monday.
The provincial governor is now being questioned by a disciplinary panel set up by the ministry.
Mr Kritsada said the transfer order was issued to help the investigation and to ensure fairness to all sides.
Speaking at Mae Hong Son airport before leaving for Bangkok, Mr Suebsak maintained his innocence, adding did not know when the probe would be concluded.
He also ruled out filing a lawsuit against his accusers.
Boonyarit Nipawanit, chairman of the Federation of Assistant District Chiefs of Thailand, said he believed Mr Suebsak was not a client of the alleged sex service, but other officials, who attended a party celebrating the hiring of a high-ranking official, were.
He said there was an unofficial tradition of offering sex services to please senior officials taking up new positions in the area.
Earlier, Mr Boonyarit, who is also a Mae Sariang assistant district officer, provided information in connection with the case to the Mae Hong Son-based Internal Security Operations Command.
His information was based on an account provided by the mother of one of the teenage prostitutes.
About 10-15 teenage prostitutes were procured by female pimps for the party at Hong Son Sueksa School on Oct 1 last year. After the party, he and other officials allegedly paid for sex from teenage girls at several locations, including the Thanachot Resort in Muang district.
Mr Boonyarit did not identify the senior officials.