BANGKOK – According to Saowanee Khomepatr, a director at the Thai Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Australia needs to do more to prevent child sex tourists traveling abroad and impose tougher sentences on child sex offenders
Saowanee Khomepatr, also called on Thai authorities to step up child protection programs with few signs of progress over the past decade.
“I think it’s not so much progress about the work (in Thailand). But we have to try more and make more effort,” Mrs Saowanee told AAP.
A director of the ministry’s Anti-Trafficking in Women and Children Bureau, Mrs Saowanee works closely with Australia on child sex abuse cases.
She called on Australia to step up publicity to warn potential offenders.
Australia has in place extra-territorial laws covering child sex offenders whose offences occur outside the country.
Thailand is a key destination for child sex tourists and paedophiles, although stepped-up local and international policing has forced more foreign sex tourists to travel to neighbouring countries, such as Cambodia, where official sanctions may be weaker.
Mrs Saowanee’s comments came after Thai police arrested a 51-year-old Sydney man, Ian Potterton, last week on charges of “indecency” with a child under 15 years of age and a second count of mental torture to a child.
Potterton, who strenuously denies the charges, could face up to 10 years in jail as well as monetary fines.
Thai police investigators allege he transferred funds to The Philippines and Thailand to pay for “online sex shows” while in Australia.
In Thailand, he travelled with a Thai family and is alleged to have abused their seven-year-old nephew in northern Thailand.
Potterton was arrested on November 8 as he prepared to board a flight to Sydney.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) allege Potterton had earlier emailed photos of a naked young boy to Australia.
Potterton acknowledged the existence of the file, but told AAP the photos were non-sexual and expressed outrage over the AFP intervention.
On October 31, the AFP conducted a search of his Sydney residence, where “electronic devices” were seized.
Potterton is the second Australian currently facing paedophile charges.
A 93-year-old Australian man, Karl Joseph Kraus, is due to appear in a Chiang Mai court next month over the sexual assault of four young sisters under the age of 15.
Mark Capaldi, a researcher with non-government group End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), known in Australia as ChildWise, says the new challenge in fighting child sex abuse is digital technology.
“A lot of (child abuse) can be facilitated nowadays around digital technology, through the internet or file sharing, dissemination of child pornography to those people who specifically want to target children,” he said.
But he said the high profile cases, often involving Western men, were overshadowed by the fact that the majority of sexual exploitation of children was by “local demand, nationals”.
“So that remains a concern in countries like Thailand.”
Mr Capaldi welcomed Australian government programs across Asia in awareness and education along with capacity building with Thai police authorities in a bid to address the problem.