Witness protection sought by advocate

Witness protection sought by advocate

Rights activists hold placards denouncing the alleged gang rape of schoolgirls by teachers and alumni in Mukdahan province. Varuth Hirunyatheb
Rights activists hold placards denouncing the alleged gang rape of schoolgirls by teachers and alumni in Mukdahan province. Varuth Hirunyatheb

Respected child rights advocate Ticha Na Nagara has asked the Ministry of Justice to provide protection for victims and witnesses in gang rape cases allegedly committed by five teachers and two male alumni of a school in Mukdahan province.

Ms Ticha, now director of Kanchanaphisek Remand Home, and Choowit Chantaros, secretary-general of the Children, Youth and Family Foundation, filed a petition with Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice.

Ms Ticha said the accused teachers might try to intimidate witnesses and victims.

The move came after police granted the suspects bail. After the suspects were released, reports surfaced of teachers at their school making social media posts in support of the alleged perpetrators.

One post that generated a lot of attention blamed the victims' parents, claiming they had not taken good care of their children.

Ms Ticha reportedly asked the Education Ministry to investigate this support group over what she called "twisted logic" being expressed in some posts.

"Those who think like this are not fit to be teachers. These comment have done great damage because they shift the blame onto parents and victims. These comments trivialise this heinous crime and make them appear acceptable."

She urged the Education Ministry to revolutionise the education system by reforming the spirit of the profession.

"I do not come out in public to attack this profession because there are decent teachers in Thai society. The challenge is how to help these good teachers and whistleblowers protect children," said Ms Ticha.

The petition also asked the Justice Ministry to provide appropriate compensation and mental rehabilitation for both victims. The Justice Ministry was reportedly compensating the victims -- a 14- and a 16-year-old girl -- with 110,000 baht each.

Child psychologists from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security have provided counselling for both girls. The 16-year-old victim who is also a witness in the case of the 14-year old has been placed in the care of a Justice Ministry facility in Mukdahan province.

Police have pressed charges against five teachers and two alumni for allegedly gang raping the first victim for over a year, while charges are reportedly being prepared in the second case which recently came to light.

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