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Thai and US cops hunt for sex-trafficking ring


THAI POLICE are cooperating with their US counterparts in the hunt for a group involved in a “large-scale highly sophisticated sex-trafficking scheme” in which hundreds of Thai women were forced to work as prostitutes in the US.

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About a dozen people were recently apprehended in cities across the US for running the operation. 
A Thai woman, Sumalee Intarathong, 55, suspected of being the organisation’s boss, was arrested in Belgium in August.
US police have contacted the Anti-Trafficking in Person Division about the case, deputy police commissioner General Srivara Ransibrahmanakulhas said, adding that a team has been set up to check the backgrounds of Thais indicted in the US over the case.
He said police were trying to determine whether Sumalee had been involved in illegal issues in Thailand.
“We want to know if the organisation has any connection with other Thais in the country,” Srivara said. 
Meanwhile, US authorities said on Wednesday they had shut down a sex trafficking ring and charged 17 people in a case stretching from Thailand to various major US cities. 
Twelve Thai nationals and five Americans were charged with illegally transporting hundreds of women from Thailand and forcing them into prostitution in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC and other cities. 
“The 17 people charged in this indictment ran a highly sophisticated sex trafficking scheme," US Attorney Andrew Luger of the District of Minnesota said in a statement. “They promised women in Thailand a chance at the American dream, but instead exploited them, coerced them and forced them to live a nightmare. In short, the victims lived like modern day sex slaves," he added.
According to the indictment, the organisation targeted poor women who spoke little English, and promised them a better life in the US at a debt of US$40,000 to $60,000 (Bt1.4 million to Bt2.09 million).
It said the women were required to repay the debt through forced prostitution, working long hours every day. 
The women were not allowed to retain any of their earnings while paying off their debt, and were “owned” by Sumalee. 
All but four of those charged have been arrested, officials said.

Published : October 06, 2016

By : THE NATION, <br /> AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE