Official accused of sex links faces new charge

Official accused of sex links faces new charge

Wasu arrested over party payment claim

Wasu Phan-ngeon, chairman of Ban Mai tambon administration organisation in Nonthaburi, is escorted to court on charges linked to the Mae Hong Son teen sex scandal. He was charged and freed on bail. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Wasu Phan-ngeon, chairman of Ban Mai tambon administration organisation in Nonthaburi, is escorted to court on charges linked to the Mae Hong Son teen sex scandal. He was charged and freed on bail. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

A fresh charge has been brought against the chairman of the Ban Mai tambon administration organisation (TAO) in Nonthaburi Monday for his alleged links to a high-profile sex ring.

After he was detained and charged with dereliction of duty in the Mae Hong Son teen sex scandal, Wasu Phan-ngeon has now been accused of abusing his authority to allow the organisation's funds to be used to pay for sex at a party.

Mr Wasu earlier turned himself in to answer the charge and was remanded in police custody. Police had asked the court to refuse his request for bail. But the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases (CCCM) in Bangkok granted Mr Wasu bail, set at 400,000 baht, said his lawyer Sri-ood Kosutho.

The bail was granted on the condition that Mr Wasu must not tamper with any evidence.

Wasu Phan-ngeon was charged with dereliction of duty after it was alleged he knew the TAO fund was being misused by at least two of his subordinates to buy sex from a teenage girl in Mae Hong Son during a trip to the province last year, yet he failed to stop it.

Mr Wasu has denied both charges.

The Ban Mai TAO had reportedly sought a budget to finance the study trip for 23 people, although only 20 went. Some of the money was alleged to have been used by TAO members -- a reference to the Ban Mai TAO officials Chuchart Phuang-gene and Pin Nuchdee -- to buy sex from underage girls procured from a network run by a Mae Hong Son police officer.

Police have also charged Montha Charoensukwan, assistant chief of Ban Mai TAO, with preparing a fake document to justify using the funds. Mr Sri-ood is also facing charges for allegedly giving a false statement to the police.

The lawyer told police Mr Wasu was suffering from back and leg pain and was admitted to Phyathai 3 Hospital in Bangkok on Friday night. The pain recurred as a result of an injury he had suffered after falling off a roof a year ago, he said.

However, police later discovered that the injury was a false claim when a check with the records of the hospital involved disproved his story.

Mr Sri-ood said he has been summoned by the Bang Mae Nag police in Nonthaburi to answer the charge today. He is confident he will be granted bail.

Also on Monday, Mr Chuchart and Mr Pin, both charged with buying sex from teenage girls under the age of 18, surrendered themselves to Mae Hong Son police. They were accompanied by their lawyer, Saran Pluemcharoen.

The men were questioned before being taken to reenact the crime at the resort where they had allegedly solicited girls for prostitution.

Mr Saran said his clients admitted to the charges and were planning to ask for bail. They also apologised to the Mae Hong Son governor. Mr Chuchart allegedly told the girl with whom he had sex that he was the governor. The Interior Ministry has cleared Mae Hong Son governor Suebsak Iamwicharn of wrongdoing following allegations he bought sex from a minor in the Mae Hong Son case.

A fact-finding panel, headed by deputy permanent secretary for interior, Prayoon Rattanasenee, concluded there was no evidence to take disciplinary action against Mr Suebsak, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said.

Mr Suebsak was previously moved to an inactive post at the Interior Ministry in Bangkok on May 1 pending the ministry's investigation.

Gen Anupong said Mr Suebsak will not be allowed to return to Mae Hong Son right away, adding he and the ministry's permanent secretary still needs to discuss the matter further.

The scandal broke after the mother of a 17-year-old girl -- one of the victims allegedly forced into the Mae Hong Son flesh trade -- lodged a complaint with police.

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