MAE HONG SON – A Shockingly sophisticated service offering teenage girls in Thailand as “dessert” was run by senior officials including a police sergeant who was jailed on Wednesday for 320 years.
The prostitution ring operating out of Mae Hong Son in northwest Thailand was busted in 2017. But when it was operating, young women were marked with owl tattoos and offered to VIP guests.
Piyathat Papthiensuwan and Piyawan Sookmak were jailed for 176 years and 167 years respectively, despite the fact that Thailand’s Criminal Code includes a maximum jail term of 50 years.
A Thai columnist told AFP the sex ring treated the young women as something that could be bought for the right price.
“She is a present,” he said, speaking about girls offered at lavish dinners. “She is the same as food, as beautiful clothes. Something that has a price.”
The Straits Times newspaper reported that three young women were coerced into the trade and forced to have sex with men as often as 10 times a week for $40.50 each time. One of the girls was forced to have sex with a teacher from her school.
The newspaper reported the girls were later moved out of the province once known as the “happiest” place in Thailand and that clients using the service included senior government officials.
A social worker told the newspaper that one of the girls was ordered to work whenever she received a phone call.
“Even when she was having a meal with her mother, she had to leave. If she didn’t, the pimp would send people to find her at home.”
Pictures circulating in Thailand’s media show one of the alleged victims with an owl tattoo stretching the length of her chest.
The sex trade in the region previously best known for its mountainous terrain is nothing like what goes on in other parts of Thailand. Transactions are frequently carried out in full view despite prostitution being illegal. The laws are routinely ignored and rarely enforced.
Luke Williams visited Pattaya, in the east of Thailand, in 2016. In a piece he wrote for news.com.au, Williams described it as “one big, open air brothel”.
“We are on the bus to a place where you can get kissed, spanked, lap-danced, get a few hours with one or more of 27,000 prostitutes or, you could even find a wife,” he wrote.
“That place is Pattaya Beach, Thailand. Pattaya has the world’s largest red light district and is considered Planet Earth’s unofficial sex capital. I’m about to spend a week there.”
In 2016, Thailand’s tourism minister instigated a push to rid the country of brothels.
“Tourists don’t come to Thailand for such a thing. They come here for our beautiful culture,” Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told Reuters.
“We want Thailand to be about quality tourism. We want the sex industry gone,” she said.
Sometimes, sadly, that means moving the sex trade abroad. Just this week, authorities in Germany raided 62 properties and arrested seven men they allege brought Thai women and transsexuals to Germany to work as prostitutes.
By Rohan Smith