Top Cop launches disciplinary action: General Surachate Hakparn, known as Big Joke, confirms disciplinary action and a criminal investigation against police officers in response to Deutsche Welle TV’s shocking exposé on Pattaya sex tourism. Two officers face scrutiny for letting German suspect, Jens Kirch, escape after his arrest in a September 2022 crackdown in the city.

Top cop General Surachate Hakparn or Big Joke on Wednesday confirmed disciplinary action and a criminal investigation against two senior police officers in Pattaya in response to the shocking Deutsche Welle TV documentary on the country’s sex industry aired days ago. He also named the 55-year-old German suspect charged with the sexual assault of a minor under 18 years of age, 55-year-old Jens Kirch as the man at the centre of the story who skipped bail after his arrest in September 2022. The deputy national police chief, who was appointed by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to get to the bottom of the affair, pointed out that while Thailand does not have an extradition treaty with Germany, he plans, in due course, to speak with the German ambassador to Thailand to pursue the matter further.

Details of the case were given on Wednesday by General Surachate Hakparn, who confirmed that at least two officers are facing disciplinary action and potentially criminal charges over the handling of the case.

In a robust and informative press conference on Wednesday, it was revealed two senior police officers in Pattaya are set to face disciplinary and potentially criminal action for their role in allowing a German man, accused of child sex charges, to leave the country after his arrest in September 2022 in the resort city.

The gravity of the situation was accepted by Deputy National Police Chief, General Surachate Hakparn, in the briefing.

The scandal erupted on the international stage over the weekend after respected German multi-platform media outlet Deutsche Welle TV broadcast an exposé on sex tourism in Pattaya, revealing the human trafficking of minors in the city’s nightlife trade. 

Station chief and investigator in Pattaya face the music over anomalies in how the case was handled while a probe looks also for evidence of bribery

General Surachate, also known as ‘Big Joke,’ disclosed that a station chief and an interrogator in Pattaya would be held accountable for their failure to send the suspect into immigration police detention and for neglecting to oppose his bail request.

The accused, identified by the senior police officer on Wednesday as 55-year-old Jens Kirch, faces charges of engaging in sexual acts with a minor he had taken from a bar to his hotel room in Pattaya. 

Kirch, however, successfully sought the court’s permission to leave the country in November under the guise of a ‘business trip’ and failed to return for his trial before Pattaya Court later that month, as ordered thus failing to appear before the court weeks later.

On Wednesday, General Surachate confirmed that a British suspect linked to the case is still in Thailand and faces human trafficking charges while an American charged with paying for sexual services with the same underage girl has also fled the country.

No extradition treaty with Germany but General Surachate says he will discuss the matter with the German ambassador to Thailand given public concern

Significantly, General Surachate indicated that there is currently no extradition treaty between Germany and Thailand. Despite this, he expressed his intention to discuss the case with the German ambassador to Thailand, considering the heightened public concern surrounding the issue.

The crux of the matter lies in allegations of bribery. 

The Deutsche Welle documentary suggested that a substantial bribe of ฿1 million, along with ฿700,000 to cover legal expenses and ฿500,000 in bail, was paid to facilitate the suspect’s escape. General Surachate emphasised that if evidence of bribery is substantiated, the implicated police officers may face criminal charges, and an investigation into these allegations is already underway.

Notably, the documentary titled ‘Sex Tourists in Thailand’ was posted on the Deutsche Welle Documentary YouTube Channel but has been blocked in Thailand.

In the documentary, Kirch purportedly admitted to paying a significant sum for bail and legal fees, along with an additional ฿1 million in cash to officials, before leaving for Frankfurt just seven days after being charged.

Justice minister addressed the case on Wednesday and wants the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to explore human trafficking concerns raised

The story took a further turn on Wednesday when Justice Minister, Police Colonel Thawee Sodsong addressed the situation during a press briefing at the Ministry of Justice. 

He clarified that the charges against Kirch involve sexual assault against a child aged over 15 but under 18.

Thawee underscored that, as of the preliminary examination, the case does not fall under human trafficking. However, he acknowledged the absence of an extradition treaty between Germany and Thailand.

To address the potential involvement of government officials in corruption, Thawee revealed that Kirch was released on bail by the court, a decision within the court’s discretion.

However, he noted the investigating officer did not object to bail, and therefore the entire process is under scrutiny.

At length, Thawee announced the assignment of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), known for its focus on cases related to human trafficking, to assess whether the matter falls under the nature of a human trafficking offence.

Business and tourism sector left stunned and damaged by the TV exposé as hotel boss calls for stricter zoning in Pattaya of the Red Light district

Beyond the legal and law enforcement ramifications, the scandal has ignited both heightened concern and undisguised fury within the private sector about its repercussions on Pattaya’s tourism. 

A more moderate and responsible voice in the foreign tourism industry on Wednesday, Ms Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), expressed apprehension based on a similar incident two decades ago which caused considerable damage to the fortunes of the resort city.

Marisa referred to a reported case of sex tourism in Pattaya that significantly impacted tourism confidence in Germany at that time. The number of tourists from the German market dropped substantially afterwards.

She stressed the need for improved law enforcement to address the longstanding issue of illegal sex workers in Pattaya.

Despite Pattaya’s efforts to diversify its tourism offerings, including products for families and the MICE segment, and move away from its historical association with a red-light district, a significant challenge to this persists, she, however, conceded. 

Hotels chief: need to promote Pattaya in a way that emphasises other reasons for visiting the city tourist resort other than sex tourism and nightlife

Marisa, also the owner of multiple hotels in Pattaya, suggested consistent promotion of alternative products and activities to draw diverse market segments to the resort city and gradually replace its association with the sex tourism business.

She echoed the sentiment that Pattaya caters to various segments and is not solely defined by its nightlife.

Proposing stricter regulations on entertainment zoning, Ms Marisa urged the Pattaya Municipality to ensure that venues open until 4 am do not disturb other tourists, especially families with children, through loud noise.

The tourism industry leader advocated for the city to maintain stringent quality control over its infrastructure.

Pattaya, with the ability to collect taxes and utilise its budget, should focus on upgrading public infrastructure, particularly environmental aspects such as wastewater treatment systems.

Pattaya takes another hit and it is quite likely it won’t be the last as it will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be associated with sex tourism

The unfolding scandal involving the escape of a German child sex suspect has far-reaching implications, not just for the individuals directly involved but for Pattaya’s reputation and its vital tourism industry. 

As legal proceedings progress and investigations into bribery and corruption unfold, the city faces the challenging task of revamping its image and preventing potentially damaging repercussions to its overall tourism market.

However, given the reality of the city’s background as a tourist destination and the extent of the nightlife and sex industry, it will undoubtedly remain a target for Western media outlets as does Thailand itself because of its association with ‘sex tourism’ which remains a significant driver of visitors to the kingdom.

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 delicate balance between law enforcement, justice, and the city’s economic interests will face scrutiny in the coming months even as the city and the kingdom’s overall tourism sector struggles to recover from the nosedive inflicted by the pandemic shutdown in April 2020.

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Further reading:

Big Joke probes Pattaya sex scandal with high stakes not only for ‘Sin City’ but Thailand itself

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