Government social workers allegedly involved in child trafficking bust

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Three officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security were questioned for their alleged involvement in a child prostitution ring in Surat Thani, a senior member of the government said on Tuesday.

One of the accused was a deputy director of the Department of Children and Youth (DCY) who was being questioned for interfering with the investigation into the case.

“Whoever the investigation leads to, they will all be dealt with,” said Juti Krairiksh, the Minister of Social Development and Human Security which is in charge of the DCY, told reporters at government house.

“Right now, there are three civil servants who are providing their statements at the ministry. In terms of the deputy director who was accused, a truth finding committee is currently investigating the accusations. If any punishments are given out first before the investigation is finished, there could be a counter lawsuit later,” Juti said.

A child trafficking ring was discovered last Wednesday after authorities in Surat Thani raided 18 locations that were linked to their investigation, including a shelter for children. Police discovered 11 victims under the age of 18. The victims had reportedly been held by the suspects since November, 2021.

Eight arrest warrants have been issued and seven suspects are now in custody, including Saengroj Kanchana, 52, a son of a prominent local politician Chumpol Kanchana, an MP for the Democrat Party. One suspect still remains at large.

Saengroj has denied all charges, including statutory rape of a minor and trafficking of a minor for sexual purposes. He was also wanted on similar charges for a separate active case in Surat Thani as well.

Before these two trafficking cases, Saengroj was sentenced to 16 years and 15 months for murder in 2000, and was convicted of raping three women while he was on bail between 2005 and 2006.

His latest bail request has been denied and he is currently being detained at Surat Thani Provincial Court’s jail. Investigative officers say Saengroj interfered with their investigation by intimidating witnesses.

The three officials from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security who are being investigated include the head of a shelter for children where the victims were discovered, one of the civil servants who was working in the shelter and Phisit Phoonphiphat, a deputy director of the Department of Children and Youth.

Minister Juti said some of the victims are now under police protection and some were moved from the area to avoid further trauma. The police said more arrest warrants will be issued soon, but they cannot provide further details on the new suspects at this time.

“The investigation will be transparent,” Juti said. “Whoever is involved will be prosecuted, no exception.”

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