Police and social workers rescued 23 children from the clutches of suspected human traffickers during a raid of four locations in Pattaya.
Minister of Social Development and Human Stability Paveena Hongsakula ordered the Department of Special Investigations, Chonburi human-trafficking police, and officers from Nongprue and Banglamung stations based on reports that Thai and Cambodian traffickers were forcing children to work as beggars in Pattaya’s entertainment districts.
Officers, accompanied by Paveena Foundation for Children and Women social workers, raided a home in Paradise Hill Village 2 on Soi Khao Noi, a commercial building on the same street and a group of 10 row houses on Soi Nongket Yai 6 in Nong Plalai April 25. At the luxury home, officers found a large cache of children’s clothes but no kids. Six Thai men and a Cambodian woman, identified only as “Kia,” 42, were taken into custody.
Paveena Hongsakula (center) led her team to rescue 23 children from suspected human traffickers during a raid of four locations in Pattaya.
More children’s clothes and toys – but again no children – were found at the Nong Plalai address. The commercial building yielded no evidence, but a 45-year-old woman and her 7-year-old daughter were taken into custody.
Khwanruan Sriaram, 33, a resident near the Nong Plalai row houses, told police about 20 people were staying there, including children who she often heard crying. She told police the entire group was attending a funeral at Sawang Fah Pritaram Temple in Naklua.
Officers swooped down on temple to discover 23 children ages 1-15, all “branded” with red-colored dye on their heads. Six adults claiming to be the children’s parents were arrested, including Somchai Hongchada, 43, who is accused of driving all the children to Pattaya entertainment zones.
Officers said two 5-year-old Cambodian girls told them that Kia – who they called “mother,” – took them to beg and sell items to tourists. She used the money for drugs and alcohol, the children claimed, adding that if they didn’t earn enough, they were beaten.
Investigators said the people arrested are part of a Thai-Cambodian gang that sends poor and disabled children from Cambodia to work in three destinations in Thailand.