High-stakes investigation into DW TV’s exposé sends shockwaves through Pattaya and Thailand. Deputy National Police Chief, ‘Big Joke,’ takes charge as the scandal unravels. Controversial claims of bribery, blocked evidence and a city’s image at risk. The real victim, a young girl, lost in the sensational storm.

Deputy National Police Chief General Surachate Hakparn also known by the public as ‘Big Joke’ is to take over the investigation into an underage sex scandal in Pattaya exposed in a German TV documentary aired in recent days which targeted Pattaya as a haven for sex tourists and those seeking under age sex services. It comes as Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and local business operators are extremely concerned about the damage being done to Thailand’s image across the world and its known effect within the already struggling foreign tourism industry.

Big Joke or General Surachate Hakparn, spoke with reporters on Sunday in Nong Bua Lamphu province after he was ordered to take control of the investigation by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. (Inset) Scenes from the TV exposé, including footage from a video clip produced by the German suspect for Deutsche Welle TV but which has been blocked to audiences in Thailand. The DW TV crew filmed much of the documentary on location in Pattaya.

It is a news story that is snowballing and taking on a life of its own, Thailand’s top cop, known as ‘Big Joke’ or more formally Deputy National Police Chief Surachate Hakparn has again been called in as government fixer with public outrage growing while business leaders in Pattaya are turning their venom on the sensational claims made by international German TV giant Deutsche Welle.

General Surachate is to take the lead in a high-stakes investigation into the scandalous DW TV documentary exposing Pattaya’s alleged underage sex trade.

The documentary, aired by Deutsche Welle TV, features confidential briefings from a German national charged with underage sex offences in Pattaya, claiming to have bribed his way out of trouble.

DW TV’s Shocking Documentary: German national’s brazen claims supported by a smartphone video clip which has been disturbingly blocked in Thailand

The President of the Pattaya Night Business Operators Association, Mrs Lisa Hamilton, voiced her concerns, asserting that foreign media had sensationalised the news.

She highlighted the detrimental impact on the morale of dedicated police officers in the resort city, one of the world’s most popular and yet notorious tourist destinations, and urged the government to conduct a thorough investigation to safeguard Thailand’s reputation.

The DW TV documentary, based on a criminal case following a crackdown by Pattaya Police in September 2022 into underage sex for sale in the resort dubbed by the British tabloids as ‘Sin City’, has sent shockwaves through Thailand.

It unveils a disturbing narrative of a German suspect arrested and charged with underage sex offences in Pattaya. The accused boldly claims to have paid a hefty ฿1 million bribe, allowing him to escape justice and return to Germany.

The German produced a video clip to support his claims although it appeared this week that the content has been blocked by authorities in Thailand, a move which could be seen as counterproductive for law enforcement efforts.

The video shown by DW TV showed an image of the underage girl in a skimpy bar girl uniform involved in the sex-for-sale transaction as well as the wads of cash in Thai banknotes withdrawn from the bank which the German claimed he paid over to secure his way out of the kingdom.

The revelations on the respected German media outlet were presented as exposing the sale of child prostitution in Thailand, portraying a grim picture of corruption and exploitation within the red-light district of Pattaya.

The documentary raised questions about the effectiveness of law enforcement and the broader issue of child abuse in the country.

Pattaya Night Business Operators Association’s response is to attack the messenger in the story which re-energises Pattaya’s notorious and seedy image

Pattaya Night Business Operators Association President Lisa Hamilton, along with a group of concerned entrepreneurs, embarked on a mission to gather information following the explosive foreign media scoop.

Their findings shed light on the accused German national allegedly paying a lawyer ฿1 million to secure his release from the country.

Hamilton emphasised that Pattaya police had initially arrested the suspects, but they were subsequently released by court order.

The legal proceedings took a twist when the court, considering the accused’s ties to Thailand, granted temporary release on bail. However, the accused failed to uphold his court appointments, fleeing the country and evading further legal action.

Impact on Pattaya’s image: Tourism and law enforcement under the microscope after the TV feature which branded it a city built on ‘sex tourism’

The fallout from the DW TV exposé has been far-reaching. Mrs Hamilton expressed dismay over the broad scope and sweeping allegations made in the documentary, contending that it unfairly tarnished the image of Pattaya City, its business operators, and the hardworking police officers dedicated to upholding the law.

She called for a government-led investigation into the DW TV network, aiming to protect the credibility of government officials and the police.

This move, she argued, would set an example for foreign media and prevent Thailand from being exploited to destroy its international reputation.

Pattaya, in recent years, has been trying to rebrand its image by becoming more family-friendly in a campaign which has seen more daytime tourist attractions, music concert events and most recently, in November, a fireworks extravaganza to portray a more nuanced image of its famous nightlife reputation.

Night Entrepreneurs highlight their ongoing campaign against Human Trafficking to assist law enforcement efforts by police in Pattaya

Mrs Hamilton highlighted her organisation’s ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking and prevent the exploitation of children in establishments. 

The Pattaya Night Business Operators Association has been actively involved in information campaigns, disseminating public relations material to instil awareness among entrepreneurs.

These initiatives align with government policies and police programmes aimed at eradicating human trafficking.

It was a police operation targeting underage sex for sale linked to a local beer bar that led to the arrest of the Western nationals when police swooped after an assignation at a local Pattaya hotel.

PM’s intervention with investigation ordered into German suspect’s claims of bribery and corruption

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, on Sunday, recognising the severity of the situation, ordered a comprehensive investigation into the claims made by the German suspect, particularly regarding the alleged ฿1 million bribe.

During his visit to Nong Bua Lamphu Province, the Prime Minister stressed the importance of addressing the issue promptly, underscoring its impact on tourism promotion.

Deutsche Welle’s documentary, titled ‘Sex Tourism in Thailand,’ faced criticism for presenting evidence of paedophilia crimes, despite official statements denying the existence of child prostitution in Pattaya’s sprawling red-light district. 

The Prime Minister acknowledged the incident’s occurrence last year but emphasised the duty to rectify such issues.

Top cop ‘Big Joke’ takes charge as a full inquiry begins into the criminal case from September 2022 and a court hearing that led to bail being granted

Deputy National Police Chief, General Surachate Hapkarn, popularly known as ‘Big Joke,’ is spearheading the inquiry into the conduct of the case by Pattaya police.

His role is twofold – to investigate if a crime was committed and to review how the case was handled.

Significantly, it is reported that police objected to bail for the accused men when it came before the court.

The top cop as well as Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin have expressed deep concern about the potential impact on Thailand’s international reputation and the tourism industry.

Business leaders in Pattaya have criticised DW TV’s news reports, denouncing them as inaccurate and prone to exaggeration.

The ongoing investigation, directed by ‘Big Joke,’ extends to allegations of police officers accepting bribes, with a focus on tracing the money pathway.

Banned from leaving as accused men were blacklisted before they sought court approval to exit the country on business, no word yet on extradition plans

Reports indicate that the accused foreign nationals, including either a US or British individual and the German featured on the TV report, had been blacklisted from leaving Thailand by the Immigration Bureau. 

Despite facing charges and being granted bail by the court, there are no current efforts to pursue their extradition from Germany or their current places of residence.

This leaves a crucial question lingering as investigators seek to uncover the truth.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin expressed concern about the potential damage to Thailand’s image abroad due to global press coverage.

He acknowledged the detrimental impact on an already beleaguered foreign tourism recovery, emphasising the significance of resolving the issue swiftly.

As ‘Big Joke’ delves into the intricacies of the case, the Thai public is both disturbed and angered by what is emerging from the unfolding story.

A lot may be at stake here, more than appears obvious, the story addresses an undercurrent of negative opinions about Thailand that should be tackled

The world’s travel and foreign tourism industry is interconnected and bad public relations like this, particularly given the sensitive nature of the subject, may see Thailand and Pattaya relegated when it comes to bookings and decisions that may be critical to the success or failure of the country’s foreign tourism efforts.

Already, in the last few decades, despite its high ratings in global surveys as a popular choice for international travellers, there are some groups within the travel industry particularly those led by feminist CEOs of top executives who are ‘progressive’ who have pointedly boycotted not only Pattaya but also Thailand.

This sentiment may also be at work impacting Thailand’s diplomatic efforts abroad and its drive to secure foreign tourism investment, there is, in fact, no doubt about this however unfair and uncomfortable that truth may be.

The key to this is transparency and a deep desire to reveal the truth, the only effective response to what Pattaya’s business leaders see as a ‘hit job’ on the city driven by a prevailing Western bias against Thailand because of its overt sex industry.

Notwithstanding this, while the key concern appears to be Thailand’s image, investment and the foreign tourism industry, there is no word as yet about justice for the young girl, the real victim in the case. Her story might help people to understand the reality of what is going on.

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Further reading:

Fury as police track American and German who bought their way out of child sex abuse in Pattaya

Killer of former bar girl in Pattaya claims he was attacked by the young woman with a glass shard

Calls to legalise prostitution in Thailand after Pattaya sex raid on Walking Street this week

Thailand’s sex industry crackdown sees westerners rounded up at hotel orgy in Pattaya – brothel raided

Thailand tightens screening of foreign English teachers following paedophile arrest

Aussie with Thai wife arrested in Chachoengsao on sex abuse of a minor charge in New South Wales

Australian man jailed for sexually abusing Thai children shows the depravity that authorities must tackle

It’s a hard station for Thai police and foreigners should understand better the job they do to keep order

Calls to legalise prostitution in Thailand after Pattaya sex raid on Walking Street this week