The United Nations Children’s Fund says the Thai rape case represents a notable failure to protect children and is a strong wake-up call that more action must be taken to strengthen protection of children in schools. (Photo: Unsplash)
The alleged gang rape of two teenage girls by several of their teachers at a provincial Thai school has refocused attention on widespread sexual abuse and violence in the Southeast Asian nation.
A 14-year-old girl was allegedly molested and raped repeatedly over a one-year period by five of her teachers and two male students at a government-run school in Mukdahan province in northeastern Thailand, according to police.
A 16-year-old girl at the same school was likewise abused by some of the same perpetrators, investigators allege.
The shocking case has reignited debate in Thailand about a culture of impunity whereby people in positions of power may use their influence nefariously such as by abusing others, often sexually.
Three of the teachers are suspected by police of having overseen the abuse of the 14-year-old girl, who lives in a broken home, and encouraging others to join in.
The alleged abuse of the girl came to light when it was reported to police last week by her grandmother. The grandmother said she had become concerned over her granddaughter, who appeared anxious and withdrawn.
The 16-year-old girl soon came forward with corroborating evidence by telling police that she, too, had been raped by some of the suspects.
Police say the two girls were raped on numerous occasions for around a year starting from March 2019. The perpetrators allegdly recorded some of the sex acts on their mobile phones and warned the victims they would disseminate the recordings online if they told anyone.
Shamed into silence, the girls continued to endure repeated abuse.
The seven suspects have all denied the allegations. A female teacher at the school has spoken out in defense of her male colleagues, sparking widespread indignation.
Sirikarn Klongdee, a child psychologist who is caring for one of the victims, said the girl is suffering from trauma and extreme stress. She is receiving counseling and is on sedatives.
Child protection experts and rights activists say the case highlights the vulnerability of many children in Thailand to sexual abuse, especially underprivileged children.
“This shocking alleged case represents a notable failure to protect children and is a strong wake-up call that more action must be taken to strengthen protection of children in schools,” the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a statement on May 13.
“No child should suffer any form of violence, anywhere. Schools, in particular, must be safe havens for children. Every child deserves to be safe and secure in school so that they can learn, grow and develop the skills and confidence they need to lead healthy and prosperous lives.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a male teacher who works at a government-run school in Bangkok told UCA News that he knows of cases where fellow teachers have taken advantage of female students.
Some male teachers offer some of their female students better grades or other inducements in return for sexual favors, he said. “This has been going on for a very long time at some schools,” the teacher added.