Grisda stands by governor in sex case
Interior Ministry says man in pics is not Pipat
The Interior Ministry has insisted the man featured in photographs with two girls believed to be women trafficked into prostitution is not the former governor of Mae Hong Son.
The photos of a man in what appears to be a hotel room with two naked girls bearing owl tattoos on their chests -- the mark of women forced into the Mae Hong Son sex ring -- have gone viral amid speculation the man may be Pipat Ekphaphan, the former Mae Hong Son governor who is now Uttaradit governor.
But Interior permanent secretary Grisda Boonrach quashed the rumours, insisting Sunday that the man in the photos is not Mr Pipat.
He said, however, the ministry is investigating the case to see whether allegations that the current Mae Hong Son governor Suebsak Iamwicharn was involved in the sex ring hold any truth. The probe has yet to be finalised.
Mr Pipat posted in a Line group of Uttaradit community members that the photos online were doctored to make the person featured in them look like him.
He said the man in the photos is wearing a wristwatch on his left hand; he always wears his watch on his right hand.
Meanwhile, an investigator at Mae Hong Son's Muang district police station said police questioned one of the girls in the photos who identified the man as a staff worker of a cement company in the province, not the former governor.
Police are trying to locate the worker and will summon him for questioning.
Police so far have made nine arrests, including a police senior sergeant-major and two local women said to have acted as procurers.
The police source said about 20 people will be summoned for questioning. Of them, at least five are police officers.
Meanwhile, in online communities, a message was shared saying that about 200 people will gather at Mae Sariang district office to demand the removal of Boonyarit Nipawanit, assistant district chief, from the district.
They said they are dissatisfied with Mr Boonyarit's handling of the case. He has not yet identified the senior officials.
Mr Boonyarit said he believed that Mae Hong Son governor Suebsak, who was among the officials accused of involvement in the sex scandal, was not a client of the sex service, but other officials who attended a party were.
The party took place in Oct 1 last year at Hong Son Sueksa School and featured about 10-15 teenage prostitutes who were procured by female pimps.
These prostitutes are often referred to as "dessert". The common question put to state officials in these circumstances is, "Would you like some dessert, sir?"
It was alleged Mr Suebsak solicited sex in this tradition when he visited the province shortly before he served as provincial governor.