SURIN: 19 sex workers were taken into custody following the raids on three sex for sale karaoke beer bar establishments on Highway 226 in the Sikhoraphum District of the province after customers, some of them foreign tourists, were asked to leave.
A 51-year-old local school teacher in Surin province was among the owners of three karaoke bars caught selling the sexual services of underage Thai girls this week. A task force, including armed police and provincial officials, raided the bars on Thursday night which saw the fun houses closed and those managing them facing a range of sexual charges including human trafficking and facilitating the molestation of minors.
The Director of Law Enforcement for the Department of Provincial Administration in Surin, Mr Narong Thipsiri, has warned that government officials and employees will face harsher punishment after it emerged that one of the owners of a karaoke bar which was raided on Thursday night by a special operations unit was a 51-year-old local teacher.
The senior provincial official acknowledged that human trafficking was a serious problem in the northeastern province on the border with Cambodia. He said that as well as being a violation of Thailand’s laws, it also violated the human rights of those exploited and was highly immoral.
Raid followed a tip-off from Chiang Mai based NGO
The raids took place in the Sikhoraphum District of the province along Highway 226 and saw three bars in total swooped on by the task force.
Two of the bars had been reported to authorities by Lift International, an NGO which commenced nearly ten years ago in New Zealand and now operates in Thailand from Chiang Mai.
As well as fighting human trafficking in Thailand linked to the prostitution trade, the organisation also works to strengthen the implementation of justice in Thailand by assisting the most vulnerable.
Lift International had identified to the authorities that two of the karaoke bars were offering sexual services involving underage girls.
Foreign tourists found among the clientele
In the course of the raids, which involved armed police, authorities encountered several foreign tourists among those availing of the services at the three bars.
Police had staked out the establishments and established that the bars were engaging in prostitution activity before the go-ahead was given to move in.
Three establishments were then raided by the task force. They were Leo Karaoke and Nad Phob Karaoke identified by the NGO to authorities and a third venue, Don Kaew Karaoke.
7 underage girls to be treated as victims
The raid on the three bars saw 19 sex workers held by police for interview.
It transpired that 7 of these were under the age of 18 meaning that any person having sexual relations with them was technically, under Thai law, committing a sexual offence or even rape depending on the circumstances. The youngest person detained was 14 years of age.
Once the raids commenced, police asked all customers to leave the premises and then set about interviewing those involved in the operation of the establishments.
Sex for sale raids revealed prices for sex and beer at Karaoke establishments in Surin and owners
They revealed that Leo Karaoke was run by the 51-year-old local schoolteacher named only as Mr Yutthasak in partnership with a 19-year-old assistant named as Ms Khannita.
On Thursday, the task force did not reveal the surnames of those arrested pending their legal prosecution before the courts.
At Leos, five sex hostesses were found to be employed serving drinks to customers and offering sex sessions for ฿2,500.
The youngest hostess found on the premises was a 15-year-old girl. The establishment had a service charge of ฿80 on beer which was split evenly between the bar and the hostesses.
Police reported that the owners would drive the customers with the chosen sex partner to a local resort. The bar kept ฿500 for each sexual transaction.
41-year-old women employing eight sex workers
At the second establishments, Nad Phob Karaoke, police found that it was operated by a 41-year-old Thai woman who was employing eight sex workers. The fees ranged from ฿1,500 up to ฿2,300 depending on the age of the girls.
The bar retained ฿300 and had a charge of ฿100 on drinks of which ฿60 was paid to the sex worker and ฿40 to the house.
Underage sex workers will be treated as victims
At the third establishment, Don Kaew Karaoke, police and officials found a 28-year-old Thai woman named as Ms Ponnwipa in charge.
The beer charge was ฿50 of which ฿20 went to the house. Sex sessions were ฿1,500 of which ฿300 was paid to the house.
Police and officials on Friday indicated that the underage girls caught up in last Thursday raid will be interviewed and treated as victims exploited by the prostitution rackets.
Tough charges for sex rackets linked to minors
The charges faced by the business owners include human trafficking, operating a place of prostitution and assisting or facilitating the sexual molestation of minors contrary to Thai law in respect of the minors under 1997 legislation designed to combat prostitution in Thailand.
The sex workers over 18 years old may also be liable to criminal charges of being engaged in prostitution.
The bars have also been shut down and will face an extended prohibition order.
Thai authorities including senior police officers have consistently warned any entrepreneurs or bar owners, engaging in the prostitution or sexual exploitation of minors, that they will face the full rigours of the law and will eventually be detected as part of the government’s ongoing crackdown.