Police charged five Thai men running a brothel in Bangkok with human trafficking after raiding a brothel and arresting 121 sex workers, including 15 who were under the age of 18.
The police will charge the owner of Nataree Massage Parlor, and four other members of management, with running a prostitution venue, procurement, opening a premises to the sex trade and involvement in human trafficking.
Pol. Col. Thepphitak Saengkla said that, of the 15 underage sex workers discovered after the raid at Nataree, one was Thai and the rest were foreigners, mostly Myanmar nationals.
The underage girls are now in the care of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Thepphitak said.
“The girls under 18 are victims of human trafficking,” Pol. Col. Chayud Marayat, head investigator in the case at Huay Khwang district police station, said on Friday.
Prostitution is illegal, but the police often turn a blind eye to the huge sex industry. However, occasionally, as in the case of Nataree, authorities are confronted with information that forces them to take action, as was the case in last Tuesday’s raid.
Nataree is one of the most famous of the “soapy massage” parlors across Bangkok. Clients select a woman sitting behind a “fishbowl” glass wall with a number pinned to her chest, then bathe with her and have sex at a cost of around THB3,000 for an hour-and-a-half.
The raid at Nataree also produced a ledger that appeared to show bribes to authorities ranging from low-ranking local cops all the way up to the tourist police and immigration.
Of the 121 sex workers arrested at Nataree, nearly 100 were foreigners, Thepphitak said.
The Thai women arrested in the raid were charged merely with “mingling” in an entertainment venue, fined THB1,000 and released.
One group of adult foreign sex workers is being detained and prosecuted for not having work permits, he said.
The other group of foreigners has been fined THB4,500 for working in a profession that does not match the one indicated on their work permits, and are being sent to the immigration detention center to be deported.
Usa Lerdsrisuntad, of the Bangkok-based Foundation for Women’s rights group, wants to see the laws changed that charge sex workers as criminals.
“The law, with respect to prostitution and sex work, has to be changed. Women should not be criminalized,” she said.
“They have no labor protections. They don’t have the power to bargain with their employers. Some women have no choice but this line of work because their origin communities are unable to provide them jobs.”
The five men arrested and detained have been charged with human trafficking, with a maximum sentence of 10 to 15 years imprisonment, Chayud said.