Col Sanakorn Manmuang, Chief of Investigation of Royal Thai Police Region 8, told The Phuket News this week, “I have received some tip-offs from local people, including foreigners, in Phuket about suspicious behaviour that may lead to evidence of child sex exploitation on the island.”
Col Sanakorn heads a police unit specifically tasked with investigating sex exploitation and human trafficking in Phuket and surrounding provinces.
“I want to make sure Phuket will not become like Pattaya and Chiang Mai,” he noted.
“Phuket province is a base tourism destination, like Pattaya and Chiang Mai, where there are increasing numbers of tourists. We are concerned that as child exploitation is a hidden form of crime, it might be on the rise in Phuket,” Col Sanakorn explained.
Investigations launched just weeks ago are continuing, he assured, but declined to reveal any further details.
“We are now collecting evidence. I think our investigations might lead to evidence of children in the sex trade,” Col Sanakorn said.
Col Sanakorn expressed his concerns after Phuket last Friday (June 2) became home to the first Child Advocacy Centre in Southern Thailand to spearhead a multi-agency campaign against human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.
The branch in Phuket, located in Cherng Talay, is to serve as the head office for operations throughout Southern of Thailand. (See story here.)
At the centre’s official opening last Friday, Pol Gen Tamasak Wicharaya, a Level 10 Adviser of Royal Thai Police (RTP) who heads the RTP’s Thailand Internet Crime Against Children (TICAC) division, said, “Our main task force is recruiting and preparing to train officers as the TICAC and ACT Phuket Child Advocacy Centres join to work more closely together.”
“We are focusing on main tourism location in Thailand, such as Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket,” Gen Tamasak said.
“With this centre set up here, we can get in closer to any problems. This is about children at risk facing violence and exploitation, so we have to be ready for any incident.”
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is also supporting efforts at the centre.
Joe Fonseca, the FBI’s Assistant Legal Attache in Thailand, noted, “Phuket is an area of Thailand that attracts tourists, but Phuket also attracts the worst people in society – the ones who exploit children. So we want to make that our team is here to support and help them.”
Staff from the child support network For Freedom International (FFI) are also assisting officers at the Phuket shelter.
“We assist officers working on the ground using cutting-edge techniques, in conducting cases against offenders, starting from the initial interview process, finding and collecting evidences and witnesses, through to arrests and prosecutions,” FFI Director Darren Herbold told The Phuket News.
“During this process, FFI are able to assist children and youth who are victims, integrating work with the related organisations, both nationally and internationally,” he said.
Child Advocacy Centre of Thailand (PHUKET). 19/1 Soi Chorng Talay 6, Srisoonthorn Rd, Thalang, Phuket 83110. Tel: 089-1194779 (Ms Sookpranee). Facebook: Children's Advocacy Center Thailand