Many Thai karaoke bars and massage parlors are suspected of employing underage children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds. (Image: Pixabay)
The owner of a karaoke club in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai has been arrested for allegedly employing underage boys to provide sexual services to customers.
The establishment’s owner, a 56-year-old transgender woman whom police identified as Chatsiri Maosang, is accused of using the venue, which also offered massage services, as a front for running a brothel for homosexual men, according to local authorities.
Acting on a tip-off from a Thailand-based anti-human trafficking charity, police conducted a sting operation on July 21 with an undercover officer posing as a potential client.
The foundation said the karaoke club has been on its radar for some time.
When the undercover officer enquired about “intimate massage” services with boys via social media, he was shown nude photos of teenage boys on an online account.
When he subsequently arrived at the venue, which occupies a five-story building with an entire floor set aside for sexual services, the officer was met by Chatsiri, who offered him the choice of two teenage boys, both said to be 17 years old, for sexual services.
The club was raided and the establishment’s owner has been charged with human trafficking, abetting prostitution for underage children, encouraging lewd behavior by minors, offering pornographic materials for commercial purposes and two other offenses.
The two boys reportedly told police they had signed on to work as waiters at the club but were coerced into providing sexual and massage services to men.
Customers were charged 1,600 baht (US$50) for a sexual encounter with a staffer. Of that sum, the establishment kept 600 baht as commission, police said.
Numerous Thai karaoke bars and massage parlors offer sexual services of various kinds clandestinely. Many are suspected of employing underage children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Chiang Mai and other towns in northern Thailand have been hotspots for the sexual exploitation of underage minors, both boys and girls. Many disadvantaged youngsters from impoverished hilltribe villages are lured into the sex trade.
Minors from neighboring Laos and Myanmar are also routinely coaxed into providing sexual services for adult men across northern Thailand, according to police and anti-trafficking activists.
“Children from Laos are brought to work as prostitutes in Phrae and Nan provinces. Shan children are brought to work in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces while Karen and Burmese children were forced to work in the border area near Tak province,” a recent report by a Thai anti-trafficking agency noted.
“Commercial sexual business often takes place in rental houses, apartments, karaoke bars, pubs, restaurant, massage parlors and soapy massage parlors.”