An Uzbek man has been arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport on charges of luring his compatriots into the flesh trade in Pattaya while two Uzbek women involved managed to flee, according to police.
Officers from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPO) apprehended the 32-year-old suspect at the airport on Thursday as he was about to flee the country, Pol Maj Gen Sarut Kwaengsopha, the ATPD commander, said on Friday.
The suspect, identified only as Navruzbek, was wanted on a warrant issued by the Criminal Court on charges of colluding in human trafficking by procuring women into the flesh trade.
According to police, Mr Navruzek and two Uzbek women had lured their compatriots into forced prostitution in Thailand by claiming that they would take them to work as assistant cooks at a restaurant in Pattaya. Many young women had fallen victim to the gang.
When they arrived in Thailand, the women ended up being forced into providing sex services to customers along a beach near Pattaya’s popular Walking Street, said Pol Col Pattanapong Sriphinphor, superintendent of ATPO Sub-division 2.
Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division police discuss the workings of an Uzbek human trafficking gang at a press conference on Friday. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)
The suspect and his associates also trapped the women in debt bondage, telling them that they owed US$5,000 for travelling expenses and visa arrangements.
“Any victims who disobeyed the gang would be physically assaulted, illegally detained or denied food,” said Pol Col Pattanapong.
“Most victims had no choice and had to provide sex services. Each was forced to sell sex at least four times a day from 6pm to 6am. Those who did not meet the target would be punished by not being given food. The victims were given one meal a day.
“If the victims asked for their wages or wanted to return to their home country, the gang rejected by claiming that they had to pay back their debts first.”
According to the police investigation, the suspects asked their victims to work in Pattaya first before taking them to Bahrain, where they could earn more money.
One woman mmanaged to flee to seek help from the NightLight Foundation and Operation Underground Railroad, an anti-human trafficking organisation from the United States. She was later taken to file a complaint with the ATPO police.
Investigators subsequently issued warrants for the arrest of Mr Navruzbek and two Uzbek women — the alleged gang leader Zumrat, 42, and procurer Diloromkon, 22.
Ms Zumrat and Ms Diloromkon managed to take 17 victims with them when they fled the country, said Pol Col Pattanapong. The Uzbek man was about to flee, but was caught at the airport.
During questioning, he denied all charges, but admitted to having known Ms Zumrat. He was being held in police custody for legal action.