Police say five Thais arrested last month for allegedly forcing 11 teen boys to dress as monks to beg for money are behind a human-trafficking ring that could have as many as 100 other children working in provinces around Thailand.
Alleged Suphanburi loan shark Boonnipa Sripiengchan, 48, and four central and northeast Thailand men were arrested Feb. 21 after police and social welfare groups raided Sattahip’s P.P. Hotel where they had rented 8 rooms for themselves and 11 boys ages 12-17. The heads of all the boys had been shaved and police recovered monks robes and alms bowls, as well as two megaphones, a donation box and 11,460 baht in cash.
Suphanburi loan shark Boonnipa Sripiengchan are four accomplices have been arrested and charged with several human trafficking offenses.
The raid came after parents of the Suphanburi boys called police saying Boonnipa, to whom they all owed money, had abducted their children and pressed them into forced labor, masquerading as monks to beg for money for construction of the Nongfai Laokhwan temple in Kanchanaburi. Parents said Boonnipa had lied to them, saying she would forgive their debts by finding jobs for the boys and having some ordained as monks. None ever were.
Instead, police allege, the woman hired Suphanburi neighbors Thongchai Sripiengjan, 20; Jaroon Onnyaem, 54; and Niratsai Srisupol, 29; along with Yasothorn native Phanan Dijit, 29, to work as guards and drivers for the boys, taking them to markets in Sattahip, Pattaya, Sriracha, Chonburi and Bangkok. Each of the youngsters was required to collect no less than 10,000 baht per day. If they didn’t, police allege, the guards beat them.
Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of suspected gang member, Thawat Boonkhum, 42.
A subsequent urine test also found that the boys claims that they’d been forced to take drugs was true. Eight tested positive for methamphetamine use and other three said they also had drugs forced upon them, although their urine was clean.
The teens were transferred to the Pakret Home for Boys in Nonthaburi before being reunited with parents.
The heads of all the boys had been shaved and police recovered monks robes and alms bowls, as well as two megaphones, a donation box and 11,460 baht in cash.
Boonnipa, Thongchai, Jaroon and Phanan, captured at the hotel, along with Niratsai, apprehended when he went to visit his alleged cohorts in jail, were charged with human trafficking, imprisonment, forced child labor, separating minors from their parents, assault, employing underage children in dangerous occupations, and encouraging drug use in minors.
Thawat Boonkhum, 42, another suspected gang member, fled the room before the officers arrived. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Police said they believe the arrests cut the head off a larger child human trafficking ring that could have 10 times as many children working as beggars throughout Thailand.