It's no secret that Thailand doesn't exactly have a handle on controlling its sex industry, one of the nation's biggest tourist attractions. Things like underage hookers and strippers ejecting Ping-Pong balls from various orifices, for instance, are tolerated by police. But authorities found it difficult to ignore a recent case of alleged teenage prostitution because it just looked bad: one of the nation's elderly statesmen, up to no good in a motel with underage girls.
According to several Thai newspapers, the incident occurred at a motel in the Pathum Thani suburb of Bangkok. The politician was a man in his 60s, a senator and former Interior Ministry official. The girls were four eighth-graders, one of them only 14. Reportedly, 4,000 bahts ($93) was paid to the 17-year-old girl who set up the evening of sexual entertainment. The incident was discovered after the parents of one of the girls reported that their daughter was missing. After a police investigation, the girls and a motel employee identified the senator from a photograph.
Not surprisingly, the nation is shocked. Prostitution that caters to fat German tourists is one thing, but a senator? In Thailand being convicted of having sex with a child under 15 can bring up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to 40,000 bahts ($934).
As the news spread across the country, outraged social activists demanded immediate prosecution, and the senator's fellow politicians urged him to step forward and resign.
"If I were the sinner, I'd quit without waiting for a court verdict," chief Senate whip Niphon Visityuthasart told the Bangkok Post. "It is shameful for a person whose job is to scrutinize laws to break the law." Sen. Wallop Tungkananurak told reporters that if the 14-year-old could positively identify the senator, he would join others in asking that the man be expelled from the Senate.
Other politicians expressed concern that the case might be swept under the rug. "I'm worried the legal process will stall because the accused is powerful and may use influence to have the charge against him dropped," said Sen. Montri Sintawichai. "More than that, the victims and their parents are of lower status. They may be afraid and refuse to testify."
A Senate committee will look into the case beginning next week. The senator's name has not been released, but amateur sleuths are hard at work trying to uncover it after the media divulged he is the owner of a bronze-colored Mercedes-Benz.