TAO member arrested in flesh trade case

TAO member arrested in flesh trade case

Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrhmanakul (right) talks to Chuchart Pea-green (seated left), a tambon administration organisation member of Ban Mai, at a house of the kamnan in Bang Yai district, Nonthaburi, on Friday. (National Police Office photo)
Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrhmanakul (right) talks to Chuchart Pea-green (seated left), a tambon administration organisation member of Ban Mai, at a house of the kamnan in Bang Yai district, Nonthaburi, on Friday. (National Police Office photo)

Fed up with the delay tactic of a prime suspect accused of buying sex services from teenage girls in Mae Hong Son, deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul acted on Friday.

Pol Gen Srivara was waiting for Chuchart Puangjeen, a tambon administration organisation (TAO) member of Ban Mai, to report to police at Bang Mae Nang police station in Bang Yai district of Nonthaburi on Friday morning.

When Mr Chuchart did not show up at 9am, the deputy police chief decided to lead authorities to the house of Panom Pungsukdaeng, who is the kamnan of tambon Ban Mai, and arrested the TAO member while he was about to drive his pickup truck from the house where he stayed overnight.

Mr Chuchart was apparently shocked when he saw the deputy police chief came to detain him by himself. The general immediately seized his mobile phone.

"You have deleted all pictures of the girls from this phone, haven't you?," Pol Gen Srivara asked him. "Yes," the TAO member answered.

"Were you the one who claimed to be a provincial governor?" the officer went on. "No, I didn't," he denied.

"Don't worry. We have evidence," Pol Gen Srivara told him while whisking him away to the police station to be formally charged.

Mr Chuchart, 56, was charged with paying for sexual services from teenage girls.

The TAO member had reportedly asked police for more time, citing the need to find lawyers.

"No more delays," Pol Gen Srivara said.

Mr Chuchart was identified as one of the prime suspects after investigators collected evidence pointing to them as buyers of sexual services.

At least four other members of the Ban Mai local government could be involved, the deputy police chief said. "Police will charge them and arrest them after the evidence is ready," he said.

Ban Mai TAO chairman Wasu Phan-ngeon last week denied his involvement in the sex scandal in the northern province.

The case took place on Sept 22 last year at a resort in Mae Hong Son's Muang district, while the Ban Mai TAO took a three-day trip to the province starting on that day.

The case was exposed in November last year when the authorities cracked down on prostitution rings in Mae Hong Son. A woman who worked as a police informant saw a picture of her daughter among the girls forced into prostitution allegedly by a local policeman at Nam Phieng Din police station who ran a flesh trade ring.

Last month, the mother complained about the slow pace of the investigation and asked why the policeman at the heart of the flesh trade network was not prosecuted.

Pol Sen Sgt Maj Yutthachai Thongchart was later arrested on charges of running a sex ring and human trafficking, along with two women, identified as Piyathas Thiensuwan and Piyawan Sukma. The women were charged with acting as procurers and human trafficking.

Mae Hong Son governor Suebsak Iamwicharn was a target after the girls told police that one of their clients told her that he was the governor.

The girls, who are under a witness protection scheme, did not identify Mr Suebsak and instead pointed their fingers at another person when they were shown the pictures to confirm the suspects.

Mr Suebsak was under investigation afterwards but his name was cleared this week after the investigation showed he was not involved.

The governor posted a message on Facebook with pictures as evidence that he was attending a meeting arranged by the Interior Ministry from Sept 22-28 at Miracle Grand Hotel in Bangkok and returned to Mae Hong Son on Oct 1.

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