A Thai government crackdown on human trafficking last month including cases involving child pornography led to the arrests of more than 30 suspects in about 20 cases, police officials announced this week.
Eight suspects, including a university lecturer and a government official, were arrested after allegedly paying for online sex services involving underage boys, said police Maj. Gen. Kornchai Khlaikhlueng, the chief commander of the Thai police’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD).
The ATPD charged them with depriving boys younger than 18 of their parents’ care and sent the charges to criminal court, Kornchai said. The suspects were released on 300,000 baht ($9,000) bail.
To break the case, investigators monitored Namphon Somngam, 27, who allegedly opened a Facebook account offering child pornography and sex services involving boys, according to an ATPD officer.
Namphon allegedly charged each customer a 300 baht ($9) membership fee to join a chat group named “Rak Dek” or love children, according to ATPD Col. Khomkrit Sukthai.
“Customers paid up to 1,500 baht ($45) for having sex with the boys. Namphon would deduct 500 baht ($15) for his broker fee,” Khomkrit said.
Namphon has been charged with human trafficking by procuring Thai boys 18 and younger and disseminating child pornography online, according Kornchai.
“We rescued seven boys between the ages of 12 and 16 who later helped identify their customers,” he said.
ATPD officials told reporters that joint efforts with the Tourist Police Bureau, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security and non-governmental organizations saved 17 victims involved in 20 separate cases, leading to charges being brought against 33 suspects.
Kornchai told BenarNews he is concerned about a growing demand for cybersex.
“Selling and buying child porn online is the very beginning of a human trafficking ring,” he said. “We are focusing on cracking down on online child-sex abuse rings because we want to make sure that human trafficking cases are going down.”
Kornchai challenged a claim last year by a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) research consultant that Thailand had surpassed the Philippines for the notorious title of webcam center for child pornography.
“I think this is not fair, and it’s not true,” Kornchai told BenarNews.
A UNODC representative in 2017 said intelligence indicated that parts of a major webcam operation had moved from the Philippines to Thailand.
Kornchai said some foreigners arrested in Thailand had child porn featuring boys from other countries, not Thailand.