Saturday, 20 May 2017

THAILAND: Mae Hong Son Underage Prostitution Case, Politician Admits Buying Sex

Confession by Ban Mai politician is latest twist in Mae Hong Son underage prostitution case.

THE MAE HONG SON forced-prostitution ring scandal, that had landed numerous policemen and a provincial governor in hot water, took another turn yesterday.

A Nonthaburi local politician was arrested and reportedly confessed to buying sex services from a minor last September and also misrepresenting himself as the governor of Mae Hong Son.

As the scandal has unfolded, nine policemen have been dismissed from civil service and seven civilians have been taken into custody.

The then governor of Mae Hong Son, Suebsak Iamwichan, who is accused of buying sexual services from a minor despite his claims of innocence, was transferred on May 2 to an inactive post until the investigation was complete.

Chuchat Poungchin, a 56-year-old member of the Tambon Ban Mai Administrative Organisation in Nonthaburi’s Bang Yai district, was arrested yesterday morning for allegedly buying sexual services from a minor under 18.

He was taken into custody by investigators from Provincial Police Region 5 led by deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul.

Investigators said Chuchat confessed to paying for sex with a minor, but initially denied that he drunkenly claimed to be the governor of Mae Hong Son.

However, while police was talking to reporters following the arrest, Chuchat confessed that he had bought sex services from an underage girl and also admitted he claimed to be the governor.

The girl saw my picture in uniform on my cellphone and asked me what I do for a living so I said provincial governor, he said, adding that he apologised for the damage caused to Seubsak.

Three more Ban Mai politicians, accused of buying underage sex services, also met police at the Bang Mae Nang precinct to give testimony and were temporarily released.

The latest developments backed Suebsak’s claim of innocence and followed the statement by Srivara on Thursday that the ex-governor and several policemen were cleared of involvement in the case.

Suebsak yesterday also showed photo evidence that he was attending an Interior Ministry seminar in Bangkok from September 22 to 28 last year.

The results of the fact-finding committee’s probe against Suebsak, led by deputy permanent secretary Prayoon Rattanasenee and submitted to Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda yesterday, also found no grounds of the alleged wrongdoing by Suebsak, Anupong said.

After the Interior Ministry investigation cleared his name, Governor Suebsak said he had no plan to pursue legal action against those who had made the allegation against him.

No, I consider this case has already ended, Suebsak said, What I want to do now is to solve problems in Mae Hong Son, particularly human-trafficking issues.

Meanwhile, Federation of Assistant District Chiefs of Thailand chairman Boonyarit Nipawanit said that the mother of the teenage girl who reportedly provided sex services to a senior official had claimed she had been asked not to pursue charges against the accused official.

She was told that it was for the sake of country’s reputation, he said.

Boonyarit said the Tambon Ban Mai Administrative Organisation president would request that the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) take up the investigation into the scandal to ensure justice for all sides.

He added that Provincial Police Region 5 investigators seem to be rushing to close the case involving Ban Mai politicians.

Boonyarit claimed that the ring reportedly sent four girls to provide sex services at a resort on September 22 last year and sent three girls to provide sex services on September 23.

However, lawyer Kerdpol Kaewkerd, representing the teenage victim’s mother who first exposed the ring and another three alleged victims of the ring, said he did not know about Boonyarit’s phone conversation with his client.

Kerdpol also said that the accusation against Suebsak stemmed from a claim by one girl, whom he did not represent, that the man using the sex services resembled the governor.

He said it was within Suebsak’s right to sue for defamation but they insisted the accusation came from damaged persons.

He said the damaged persons he represented were content with the result of the police probe that led to punishment of a policeman running the ring and others procuring girls for the ring.

Meanwhile, 20 rights advocates led by Angkhana Inthasa, head of the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation’s gender equality promotion, submitted a complaint to deputy police spokesman Pol Maj-General Songpol Wattanachai at the Rights and Liberties Protection Department to pass on to Srivara.

The complaint came after Provincial Police Region 5 officers showed names and faces of the Mae Hong Son investigation witnesses and interviewed them in front of the media on May 11.

The witnesses in human trafficking cases must be protected, and police should not identify them.

They urged that the DSI take over the case to ensure justice and prevent criticism, as policemen were involved in the scandal.
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