Lt Gen Jaruwat Waisaya, an assistant to the national police chief, explained at a press conference at Phuket Provincial Police headquarters in Phuket Town yesterday (Feb 23) that the children were taken into protection after raids at four locations in Patong.
Officers from Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division in Bangkok first raided a home in Soi Sila Uthit in Patong, where officers arrested foreign national Ngo Sun, 33, whose nationality was not disclosed, and Thai national Suphattra Charoensuk, 22, originally from Koh Samui.
Both were wanted by an arrest warrant issued on Friday (Feb 21), Lt Gen Jaruwat said.
At the house, officers found three children and equipment for making garlands, which the children were forced to sell.
Officers also took 14 more children into protection at three other houses, in Soi Phra Baramee 1 and Soi Nanai 2. At all three locations officers also found equipment for making garlands.
All the 17 children were Cambodian and were taken to the Phuket Shelter for Children and Families on Koh Siray, Lt Gen Jaruwat said.
“Officers will attempt to track down their parents,” he added.
“From questioning, the children were ‘hired’ [sic] by a group of foreigners. They told the children’s parents that they would take the children to work and pay the parents B5,000 per month.
“After parents agreed, they brought the children into Thailand through jungle paths then came to Phuket. They rent houses where they stayed with the children and had children sell items on the beach,” Lt Gen Jaruwat explained.
“Some of the children are younger than 15 years old. They did not have any days off, and some of them started working in the morning until midnight,” he added.
“They did not receive any money from the things they sold. If they could not reach the daily target, which was around B3,000, they were hit with a clothes hanger and forced to work until they made B3,000,” Lt Gen Jaruwat said.
The investigation started after some of the children could not bare the beatings anymore, and fled to other provinces,” Lt Gen Jaruwat said.
The suspects arrested will be charged for human trafficking, Lt Gen Jaruwat added.
“The suspects arrested will be questioned as the investigation is expanded,” he said.
“There are still some foreigners involved in this operation that are likely to still be in the Kingdom of Thailand illegally, and police will track these people down so they can be punished in accordance with the law,” he concluded.
All throughout the press conference, Lt Gen Jaruwat made no mention of any involvement by Patong Police in the raids or investigation.
However, Col Akkanit Danpitaksan, who took up the post as Patong Police Chief on Jan 1, was present throughout the press conference.