Updated: June 29, 2021 05:26 AM GMT
Clothes and other evidence are displayed at a police press conference in Bangkok on Feb. 16 to announce the arrest of the owner of a modeling agency for child pornography and sexual abuse. (Photo: AFP)
Thai police have made a breakthrough in combating child pornography produced and distributed in the country by arresting the administrator of a website featuring underage girls and vulnerable young women.
Authorities raided the home of the 28-year-old man, identified only as Olarn, in Tak province in northern Thailand on June 28.
Police say the man admitted having run a website called VK Sanoh Sortaling on VK, a Russian social media and networking platform with around 500 million users worldwide.
The Thai man’s website had more than 100,000 followers and featured a secret online group where users could view pornographic content featuring underage girls for 300 baht (US$10), according to authorities.
Police said they had discovered more than 100,000 files with pornographic content featuring females, both children and adults, on the computer and mobile phone of the suspect, who has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography for sexual and commercial purposes.
The production and distribution of pornographic materials involving children remains a problem in Thailand, a country long known for its freewheeling sexual mores.
Authorities acted after the Australian embassy in Bangkok notified them that pornographic material featuring children was being distributed internationally
In January, a 44-year-old Israeli man was arrested in Bangkok and charged with the illegal possession of pornographic material involving children.
Thai police launched an investigation after Israel’s embassy in Bangkok had notified authorities that the man was likely engaged in the sexual abuse of children.
In the same month, a South Korean man, who had been wanted by Interpol for posting obscene pictures of children on the internet, was arrested on the southern Thai island of Phuket.
Meanwhile, in February, a 28-year-old Thai man, who ran a child model agency in Pathum Thani, a province bordering Bangkok, was arrested for producing and distributing pornographic content involving underage boys.
Authorities acted after the Australian embassy in Bangkok notified them that pornographic material featuring children was being distributed internationally, including Australia, from Thailand.
Thai investigators traced one explicit image provided by their Australian counterparts to the Thai model agency where they found around half a million sexually explicit images featuring boys.
“[The amount of evidence collected] convinced investigators that the agency must have been behind the abuse of thousands of children,” said Korrawat Panprapakorn, director-general of Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation.
The arrest of the man came shortly after the owner of another model agency, in the southern province of Songkhla, was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography.
Some local experts say that prolonged and financially ruinous lockdowns during the ongoing pandemic have helped fuel a rise in child pornography in Thailand.
Perpetrators often contact children and teenagers on social media platforms, offering to pay them for sexually explicit images
“The lockdown allows minors, usually aged between 10 and 18 and who have a mobile phone, to be easily abused online. One perpetrator is able to lure as many as 200 victims,” said Boom Mosby, founder of the Hug Project, an NGO working to end the sexual exploitation of children.
“In many cases, teens, especially girls, were asked to send photos of themselves to online perpetrators who said they would be paid in return for reviewing products.”
Perpetrators often contact children and teenagers on social media platforms, offering to pay them for sexually explicit images, experts say.
Last year Thai police received nearly 170,000 tip-offs from locals about pornographic content featuring children available online.
The figure was a rise of more than 40 percent rise from the year before, according to the Hug Project.