Bangkok brothel raid reveals graft, child sex workers

BANGKOK • A raid on a large Bangkok brothel notorious for its "soapy massages" has found underage sex workers and logbooks detailing big kickbacks to corrupt cops and officials, investigators said yesterday.

Thailand's police force has a reputation for graft, but it is rare for the authorities to reveal so clearly how the protection rackets work.

More than 100 officers from Thailand's Interior Ministry raided Nataree Massage, which is in downtown Bangkok and popular with locals and foreigners.

During the Tuesday evening raid, they found documents detailing alleged payments worth thousands of dollars to police and city officials.

"The account book with the hush money is very clear in detailing which agencies and persons received the money. Most are police and police agencies," Mr Ronnarong Thipsiri, director of the Territorial Defence Office, which was involved in the raid, said.

DETAILED EVIDENCE

The account book with the hush money is very clear in detailing which agencies and persons received the money. Most are police and police agencies.

MR RONNARONG THIPSIRI, director of the Territorial Defence Office.

"We did not inform police ahead of the raid because we had information that they were benefiting from this operation," he added.

A photograph of one logbook page, taken by local reporters who joined the raid, showed more than US$10,000 (S$13,500) worth of payments made to police officers and law enforcement agencies over a 20-day period in March.

Mr Ronnarong, who said the photo was legitimate, added that one section of the brothel's account book showed 19 million baht (S$730,000) in takings, though he did not say over what period of time the payments had been made.

The raid also uncovered sex workers under the age of 18 inside the brothel, most of them foreigners - a stark reminder of how impoverished teenage migrants continue to be lured into Thailand's sex trade.

Mr Ronnarong said around 90 per cent of the 121 women found working in the brothel at the time of the raid were Myanmar nationals, primarily ethnic minority women from the two countries' border regions.

"Three held documents proving they are under the age of 18," he said, adding that investigators believed at least 12 others were underage.

The head of Bangkok's police force, Lieutenant-General Sanit Mahathavorn, told reporters yesterday he had appointed a task force to investigate the hush money allegations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'Bangkok brothel raid reveals graft, child sex workers'. Print Edition | Subscribe