Thai Police Seize Largest Ever Cache of Child Sex Abuse Photographs

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Bangkok
2021-02-11
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Thai Police Seize Largest Ever Cache of Child Sex Abuse Photographs Officers from Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation and other agencies inspect the home office of a suspect arrested with child pornography in Bangkok, Feb. 11, 2021.
[Photo courtesy DSI]

Thai police said Thursday they had arrested a 28-year-old Thai man and seized more than half a million photographs of child sex abuse – the largest ever cache – as part of an investigation into an international child-porn ring.

Police charged the suspect, Danudej Saengkaew, who claimed to work as a child model agent, with multiple sexual offenses against minors, said Korawat Panprapakorn, director general, Department of Special Investigation.

“It can be assumed that the archive of more than 500,000 obscene pictures of children are the biggest ever found – they showed sexual harassment of thousands of children,” a police press release said.

DSI officials said Danudej faces charges of uploading obscene materials, attempted rape of a minor/rape of a minor, child molestation, and abduction of a minor. Of these charges, attempted rape of a minor/rape of a minor carries a sentence of life in prison.

Danudei was arrested following a raid at his Nene Modeling home office in Pathum Thani, north of Bangkok, police said, adding that Australian Federal Police (AFP) had tipped off their Thai counterparts about the suspect’s location.

AFP previously gave Thai police information about an alleged associate of the suspect, Tagorn Attapathomchai, who was arrested in Bangkok last year.

Korawat said the suspect arrested on Thursday had been involved in the illicit business for about eight years.

Danudei initially denied any wrongdoing but officials confiscated evidence on his computers and other equipment, Korawat said.

“He said he just took photos of children for his modelling business, to make them famous. …We will take this evidence for analysis,” Korawat told reporters, adding that there may be other associates who worked with the suspect.

The arrests of Daundei and Tagorn were a result of cooperation among AFP, New Zealand Police and two U.S. agencies, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the police statement said.

International and Thai NGOs including the California-based Operation Underground Railroad, A21 Foundation, Lift International, Alliance Anti Traffic, and the Legal Center for Human Rights will assist victims with rehabilitation, police said. These agencies could help the victims in filing possible lawsuits against Danudei and Tagorn.

‘Tip of an iceberg’

A Thai children’s advocacy group expressed concern about the sexual violations against children, alleging that society is ignorant about such exploitation.

“Thailand sees frequent sexual abuses and sexual exploitation of children, but society is not aware of that,” Macha Porn-in, director of Yawachon Development Project, told BenarNews.

“Today’s news is just the tip of an iceberg. There are more out there.”

Macha said the nation needs to do better job at sex education.

“Thailand needs to have sex education that meets international standards so people are aware of the matter. People must learn to respect children’s bodies. Children’s bodies must not be touched,” Macha said.

Since 2018, cooperation among DSI, Interpol, AFP and HSI has led to arrests of at least three Thai operators of separate child sex abuse websites that had a total subscriber base of more than 65,000 worldwide, a DSI report said.

All three were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of between 36 and 50 years, the report said.  

In 2015, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly amended the criminal code to make the possession, distribution and production of child pornography a crime.

“This amendment to the Criminal Code is a recognition that children and youth need to be protected from exploitation, including on the internet where images are traded and distributed far too easily,” said Jeremy Douglas, regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific at the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, in a statement at the time.

UNODC had assisted Thailand in amending its criminal code.

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