MAE HONG SON – A Thai court has approved three arrest warrants for Mae Hong Son policemen on suspicion of gang rape Monday but denied three other warrants for officers who are suspected of involvement in the sex trafficking of underage teenage girls.
Decisions on the warrants were made by the Mae Hong Son Provincial Court after they were submitted for the second time by Pol Lt Col Worathan Kruechanta, an investigator at Muang Mae Hong Son police station.
Warrants were approved for three suspects attached to Kong Koi police station in the province’s Sop Moei district, one of whom holds the rank of police corporal.
But the three refusals — for an officer working in the central Muang district, and for two others from Provincial Police Region 5 (PPR5), which covers a sweeping area around Chiang Mai — have further raised public suspicion over the accuracy or thoroughness of the police investigation report.
Critics say the issuance of the warrants could cause much embarrassment to local police as the suspects include a high-ranking policeman and the driver of another senior officer.
Police sought warrants for three of the suspects earlier on Sunday but these were initially denied by the court, citing insufficient evidence.
The issue flared up after the mother of a 17-year-old girl — one of the victims allegedly forced into the flesh trade in Mae Hong Son — lodged a complaint with the PPR5 in charge of the North, accusing several high-ranking state officials of being involved in the racket.
The accused officials include Mae Hong Son governor Suebsak Iamwicharn, who is now being questioned by a disciplinary panel set up by the Interior Ministry.
However, the mother, 43, who was identified only as Nampetch, later decided to seek help from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD) after the investigation moved forward at a glacial pace.
Police later apprehended three suspects: two alleged female pimps and Yutthachai Thongchart, a local police senior sergeant-major from Nam Phieng Din station.
They have been charged with conspiracy to force teenagers aged between 15-18 into prostitution and abducting children.
Meanwhile, Ms Nampetch, accompanied by her lawyer Keodpol Kaewkeod, lodged a petition Monday with Crime Suppression Division (CSD) chief Pol Maj Gen Suthin Sappuang, urging the agency to take legal action against Preecha Wimolchaijit, chief of the Mae Hong Son Provincial Police, and five other officers.
All have been accused of dereliction of duty in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code.
According to Mr Keodpol, Pol Col Preecha was accused of failing to order his subordinates to speed up the probe to provide fairness to all sides.
The five others are Nam Phieng Din police chief Somkiate Sawaengsook; a local police investigator; and three policemen who served as members on a disciplinary panel against Pol Snr Sgt Maj Yutthachai.
Mr Keodpol said the investigator received a complaint against Pol Snr Sgt Maj Yutthachai from Ms Nampetch but refused to take legal action, claiming he had already faced a disciplinary probe.
Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said the PPR5 is now busy handling a total of 33 cases against customers of the alleged sex-trafficking ring.
Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda has said the transfer of Mae Hong Song governor Suebsak Iamwichan to his ministry aims to relieve community doubts as the investigation into the northern province’s child prostitution ring continues.
Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul insisted Thursday that Governor Suebsak Iamwicharn was involved in the sex trade scandal in his province.
He said there was sufficient evidence to prove the allegation, however he was unable to provide details yet as it could affect the investigation.
Pol Gen Srivara said police have not summoned Mr Suebsak since the provincial governor has already been questioned by a disciplinary panel set up by the Interior Ministry.
The governor was previously implicated by the mother of a girl forced into prostitution, who said that Mr Suebsak was a client of the human trafficking gang. Governor Suebsak has denied all the allegations.