Police have charged a deputy director-general of the Department of Children and Youth (DCY) for interfering in the investigation into a child prostitution ring in Surat Thani.
The move came after law enforcement agents raided a total of 18 locations which have been linked to the trafficking of minors for prostitution -- which included a shelter for children -- on Wednesday.
The raids followed the arrest of 16 people in November last year for child sex trafficking.
Since then, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and non-governmental organisations have been working with the police to find 18 other suspects.
All 18 suspects are wanted for child sex-related charges, including colluding to operate a child sex trafficking ring and luring minors into prostitution, among others.
These offences are punishable with up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to 2 million baht.
Pol Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, assistant chief of the national police, told a press briefing that the investigation pointed towards the Surat Thani Shelter for Children and Families.
The findings implicated a number of officials, including a deputy director-general of the DCY, the chairman of a local savings cooperative, a deputy chairman of Phunphin district's tambon administrative organisation's council, as well as soldiers, teachers and doctors in the area.
He said an official identified as "Aem" was found to have assaulted children at the shelter to pressure them into prostitution.
Investigators determined that a DCY deputy director-general also played a role in hampering an investigation into the ring.
The deputy director-general has also been charged with malfeasance in office. Investigators are gathering evidence to submit to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, Pol Lt Gen Surachate said.
Aem, for his part, was charged with physically assaulting a minor, malfeasance in office and obstructing a police investigation, he said.