Cops expand probe on prostitution ring

Cops expand probe on prostitution ring

Gang members lured teens into flesh trade

Police are hunting for more suspects involved in a gang which preyed on homeless youths around Hua Lamphong railway station, following a crackdown last week which saved a dozen victims who were pressed into prostitution.

On Friday, police from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division raided a hotel near the railway station and arrested seven suspects, after receiving several tips from residents. Five other suspects are still on the run, police said.

Twelve males and two females -- most of whom are teenagers -- were rescued in the operation. They were given assistance from a team comprising multidisciplinary specialists from the Social Development and Human Security Ministry.

According to police, the gang targeted homeless children and teenagers wandering around the station and lured them into prostitution.

Police said the victims -- whose ages range from 10-16 -- were sexually abused, forced to take drugs and solicit sex on the streets for 300-500 baht per customer, but received only 100-200 baht from ring members.

"If they resisted, they would be beaten up," police said.

Pol Maj Gen Worawat Watnakornbancha, commander of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD), said some of the victims used the money they received from selling sex to buy drugs from the ring, the officer said.

A background check on the arrested gang members found some of them had been convicted for drugs and/or theft, Pol Maj Gen Worawat said, before adding the gang also forced their victims to use box cutters to rob their customers.

"This is tantamount to teaching our next generation to become thieves,'' he said.

Pol Maj Gen Worawat said the ATPD will work with the Narcotics Suppression Bureau and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board to crack down on other prostitution and human trafficking rings active in the vicinity of Hua Lamphong station, as well as in other provinces across the country.

He also said that efforts are being made to protect other underprivileged children from being exploited by human traffickers.

A source on the investigation team said investigators were questioning the teenage victims and gathering evidence to seek an arrest warrant for the leader of the gang.

Police are also examining money trails that may lead investigators to the gang leader.

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