CHIANGRAI TIMES – Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations has begun an investigation into the alleged fake rescue last year of hill tribe children from sexual slavery by an Australian charity.
At the request of the Australian Federal Police, they will also submit a letter through Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking a parallel investigation in Australia that focuses on the alleged use of false advertising to solicit funds.
The move follows a meeting of representatives of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (DSI), Trafcord (the anti-trafficking co-ordination unit of Northern Thailand) and the National Committee on Trafficking, foreshadowed in The Weekend Australian.
AFP officers had been summoned to the meeting on Saturday at the DSI headquarters in Bangkok to hear the complaints. The AFP did not comment, but a source at the meeting said the AFP representative had asked the DSI to make the request formal through the normal channels.
The Grey Man’s Brisbane-based president, John Curtis, said yesterday he had no difficulties with any investigation by either the Thai government or the AFP.
“We have no problem with any authority looking at our operation. Our major concern is for the children, and we stick with everything that we’ve done.
“We’ll co-operate with any investigation, but we have no doubt that we’ll be completely exonerated. We have no problems with the AFP looking at both our accounts and the basis upon what it was raised.”
The move follows complaints that The Grey Man, which claims it is comprised of ex-police officers and special services veterans, faked the rescue of 21 Akha hill tribe children from the village of Baan Khun Suay in Chiang Rai province of northern Thailand last October.
The charity placed pictures of the children on their website and Facebook pages and began an appeal for funds.
But investigations by the Thai non-government organization Trafcord and the DSI had found that the children had never left their homes, had continued to attend school and had suffered as a result of the publicity.
“The successes of The Grey Man seem to have raised sensitive issues with a Thai-based NGO, which unfortunately appears to have distracted them from their core activity while they pursue a vendetta against The Grey Man,” he said.
Andrew Drummond and Andrew Fraser
From: The Australian