The arrest of a man in May last year linked to a photo supplied by Australian police gave officers the breakthrough that led to yesterday’s raid. The target of the swoop was a home office used as a base for ‘Nene Modelling’ which is a substantial concern working with many leading firms in Thailand’s advertising industry supplying child models and creative output.
One of Thailand’s leading child modelling agencies which produced materials for national advertising campaigns on TV and throughout the media has been unmasked as a front for a worldwide child pornography service following a raid on its offices yesterday in which the 28-year-old principal was arrested and over 500,000 images of child abuse and pornography found on computer drives.
A well-known child modelling agency in Bangkok and within the advertising industry was raided by the Department of Special Investigation on Thursday with the cooperation of the Australian Federal Police.
Over 500,000 pictures of child pornography were found by DSI officers in the police operation when they examined computer drives at the offices of the Nene Modelling Agency in the Klong Luang district of Pathum Thani.
House/Office in Pathum Thani raided on Thursday
The house, on the Pruksa housing estate, was the home of 28-year-old Danudetch Saengkaew also known as Nene, the man at the centre of the operation.
The large raiding party which descended on the house was accompanied by representatives of the Australian embassy in Thailand.
More details of the case were given on Friday by the Director-general of the Department of Special Investigation, Police Colonel Korrawat Panprapakorn and the Head of the agency’s Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime, Jatupol Bongkochmas.
Investigation began this time last year after a tip-off from the Australian Federal Police in Canberra
They told reporters that on or about this time last year they were alerted by Australian Federal Police in Canberra that a major child pornography operation was based in Bangkok.
‘The DSI only had a single photo of a minor to work with at the start of the probe,’ Police Colonel Korrawat told the media.
Non-profit anti-human trafficking organisation tasked by police to link a photograph to a name in the underworld of child exploitation
The BFATC division with the police agency then sought the help of an international non-profit organisation known as Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) to assist them in their investigation.
The vast underground market for child pornography pictures and the industry based around the sexual exploitation of children has, for many years now, pointed to Thailand as a base for such operations online.
‘Mee’ gave police intelligence on Mr Danudetch and the well known Nene Modelling agency
This led on to the arrest of a man identified today as Thakorn Attapthomchai also known as ‘Mee’ who was apprehended by officers on May 21st last year.
It was intelligence and information gleaned from this individual that led police to the raid in Pathum Thani on Thursday and the arrest of Danudetch Saengkaew.
Scale of abuse of children is vast says DSI chief who estimates thousands are victims of the outfit
Police Colonel Korrawat Panprapakorn emphasised on Thursday and Friday that the scale of abuse detected at the model agency involving thousands of young children will require further investigation and also raises the question of the need for assistance for the victims including counselling and compensation.
The Thai government, over the last five years, has prioritised police action against those in the underworld or sex industry who target underage people or children.
Many of the children linked with the Nene Modelling agency ranged from 4 year olds up to young teenagers.
‘The amount of evidence convinced investigators the agency must have been behind the abuse of thousands of children,’ the top police officer confirmed.
Charged with sexually abusing minors
Mr Danudetch has been charged initially with sexually abusing minors and uploading pornographic pictures to a computer system, a serious offence under the Computer Crime Act in Thailand.
Agency has contracts to supply child models with large Thai firms and produce content for national advertising campaigns on TV and other media
The Nene Modelling agency ran a well equipped and advanced studio operation from its base in Pathum Thani that was raided yesterday.
The firm had long term contracts with many of the leading concerns in Thailand supplying child models for promotional events and other marketing purposes.
It also produced photographic and video output for many national advertising campaigns including some broadcast on TV.
As the information given out today by Police Colonel Korrawat shows, the model agency’s principal had extensive contacts that ran from the legitimate advertising industry to the seedy underground market for child pornography.
Flourishing child modelling industry in Thailand
The child modelling industry in Thailand is vast and has been encouraged by the rising popularity of social media with many parents seeing it as an opportunity to school young children in acting and also for some, an opportunity to make extra money.
Unfortunately, for a segment of these people, as in the case of the Philippines, the vast inequality and level of poverty in the kingdom is also a factor at play.