Police in Bangkok have detained a 60-year-old man who allegedly pretended to be a transvestite in order to attract beautiful young ladies for modelling jobs and then raped around 100 of them.
Sonthichai Yusuparp was arrested in a room in a slum community in Dusit district on Saturday, according to Pol Maj Gen Theeradet Thumsuthee, investigative chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
According to the chief, the individual was wanted for rape on a Criminal Court warrant issued on June 27.
Sonthichai was arrested in 2015 for 14 counts of rape after telling police he had raped at least 100 women. His victims included government dignitaries, business executives, and undergraduate and graduate students. Last May 20, the man was released from jail.
The rapist always pretended to be a transvestite hunting for beautiful women to recruit for show business at shopping malls on weekends. He then took victims to hotels for “casting” but raped them there.
Sonthichai used the same ploy on a woman at a music school in a shopping centre in the Lat Phrao district before being arrested again on Saturday. He introduced himself as Bua and persuaded the victim to bring him to her apartment. He left after he was unable to rape the victim.
Detectives had been seeking for the man around Bangkok shopping malls for roughly two weeks prior to his arrest. When they finally located him, they had a plainclothes policewoman approach him while pretending to be looking for work in the entertainment industry.
The man worked as a construction worker, truck driver, manufacturing worker, security guard, and curtain installer from 1992 until 2009. In the capital, he changed occupations and addresses.every 1 to 5 months.
He met someone in show business in 2009 and purported to be a transvestite working as a modelling agent, according to Pol Maj Gen Theeradet.
Rape Culture in Thailand
In Thailand rape laws are tougher than in many other countries. Convicted sex offenders, for example, can face life in prison or death in the event of deadly rapes. However, when perpetrators assist with the authorities, the majority of instances go unpunished or result in reduced terms.
If a crime is committed against a child aged 15 or younger, such as the schoolgirl, the offender faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 to 400,000 baht ($3,198 to $12,795). If the assault was caught on camera for exploitation, the sentence can be raised by a third, or by half if the footage was shared with others.
However, Dr. Jaray Singhakowinta, adjunct professor of sexuality studies at Thailand’s Graduate School of Language and Communication, explaines that, “judges rarely impose the death penalty on offenders, as convicted persons often confess their crimes and are considered entitled to a reduction of the sentence at the discretion of the judges.”
That is why, a few years ago, a Thai celebrity, Panadda Wongphudee, launched a public campaign to change the penal law so that anyone convicted of rape were automatically sentenced to death.
However, as Dr. Singhakowinta explained, the campaign was questioned by many lawyers who warned of the potentially fatal repercussions if the legislation was amended. They were concerned that if the death sentence were lawfully mandated in every case, victims would almost certainly be slain.
Rape is still a major issue in Thailand. Every year, instances of abuse and violence against adults and children make national headlines. According to Royal Thai Police data, 1,965 rape reports were filed between January 1 and December 31, 2019, with 1,893 persons detained as a result.
The Pavena Foundation for Children and Women alone recorded 786 occurrences of rape and indecent assaults in the same year. Since 1999, the organisation has aided almost 9,000 victims of sexual assault, and its data show that the number is growing.