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After 6 Years on Run, Bangkok Massage Brothel Boss Captured

Bangkok's Natree
Bangkok's Natree "soapy massage" parlor was raided and shut down in 2016. Fifteen underage girls were found working there along with a ledger showing bribes to police.

Police have arrested a man they say was a kingpin behind a prostitution ring that exploited numerous underprivileged people, including minors, in a small law enforcement victory against the rampant sexual exploitation of people in the country.

Local authorities detained Prasert Sukkhee, the 63-year-old owner of the closed Nataree massage parlor in Bangkok, on Oct. 4 after a five-year investigation into his business activities.

Prasert, who was also wanted on charges of money laundering, is accused of running a prostitution ring involving 121 women, mostly from neighboring countries, police said. Eight of the alleged victims are under 18.

Thailand has long been a hub of the sexual exploitation of young men and women, including children, according to rights advocates and experts.

“In Thailand, there are an average of 52 children being sexually, physically or psychologically abused, neglected or exploited each day or more than two children every hour,” the United Nations Children’s Fund explains.

Many of the youngsters who end up in the booming sex industry are from disadvantaged communities in Thailand as well as neighboring nations such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

“Migrant workers and ethnic minorities [are the] most vulnerable to trafficking and sexual exploitation,” says ECPAT International, a group monitoring the status of migrants and victims of human trafficking worldwide.

“Only 51 percent of all eligible migrants are currently enrolled in public health insurance schemes, while up to 200,000 migrant children remain out of school.

“The lack of access to these social safety nets, language barriers and low economic and social status contribute to the vulnerability of children to different forms of trafficking, especially sexual exploitation.”

Many of the victims, whether they are Thais or foreigners, are lured by unscrupulous operators into working in the sex industry under false pretenses. Some are also lured into working in the sex trade abroad.

In May, seven Thai women who were tricked into becoming sex workers in Dubai were rescued and returned to Thailand.

In recent years, Thai authorities have stepped up their campaign against human traffickers in response to a decision by the U.S. State Department to raise concerns about large-scale human trafficking in the country.

In 2019, Thai authorities rescued a record 1,807 victims of human trafficking: some two-thirds of those rescued were women and nearly three-quarters of them were migrants from Myanmar.

Experts say the actual figure of people being trafficked any given year is much higher.

According to Walk Free’s Global Slavery Index, there are around 610,000 human trafficking victims in Thailand and many end up in the country’s notorious sex industry.

It has long been alleged that some senior police officers may benefit from the sex trade through kickbacks and so police may turn a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of women, men and children.

However, complicating matters for law enforcement officials is that much of the country’s sex industry has moved online, especially during the ongoing pandemic.

In late September, officers working for police’s cybercrime division arrested a couple, a 20-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman, at a hotel in Bangkok on a charge of streaming pornographic content to viewers online.

The couple reportedly told police they had made at least 500,000 baht since they started out in June by providing sexually explicit content to subscribers online.

This story first appeared in UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.