Kalasin: Nine men, six of whom work closely with children, have been arrested and charged as part of a police operation against child sexual exploitation in this northeastern province.
The suspects include a retired teacher, one high school and two primary school teachers, a child welfare worker and a university lecturer.
One of the suspects surrendered to police and another was already being held on drug charges at Kalasin provincial prison. The other seven were arrested separately.
Police from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD) apprehended the suspects in the northeastern province yesterday. They were wanted on warrants issued by the Criminal Court for enticing girls under 18 into lewd activities, regardless of whether consent was given, and depriving girls aged 15 to 18 of parental care for commercial and sexual purposes.
Pol Maj Gen Wiwat Khamchamnan, ATPD commander, said this followed earlier arrests in Kalasin of people involved in human trafficking. Police then extended the investigation leading to the nine arrests.
Police later identified the suspects as Changwat, 48, a lecturer; Thongchai, 60, a teacher at a primary school; Thotsaphon, 49, a teacher at a primary school; Surachai, 45, a municipal technician; Uthai, 68, who taught Buddhism before retiring; Apirak, 38, the employee of a road maintenance office; Sarayut, 37, a high school teacher; Jirapong, 37, a social worker at a child welfare home in Kalasin who turned himself over to police; and Krisanat, 44, who was being held in Kalasin provincial prison. All of the suspects' surnames have been withheld.
Police investigators claim Mr Uthai opened his house as a gathering place for former students after his retirement. He pretended to arrange jobs for them, but this was allegedly a ruse to have them provide sexual services for customers, mostly local government officials.
Several suspects confessed in the face of overwhelming evidence but most denied the charges, insisting they had not paid for sexual services from the girls and had been wrongly implicated, said Pol Col Manoon Kaewkam, superintendent of ATPD sub-division 3.
Investigators are confident the case will hold up in court. One suspect was arrested with 4,000 methamphetamine pills in June.