By ANOTHAI NGARN-DEE
Of the convicts, seven received life imprisonment, while the remainder got lengthy jail terms ranging from 15 to 45 years.
The court also ordered them to pay Bt18 million in compensation to the victim, now 16, and her mother. The compensation will include interest at 7.5 per cent a year since the day the case was filed with the court on June 15 last year.
“We are satisfied with the verdict,” said Hanif Yongstar, secretary-general and lawyer with the Muslim for Peace Foundation. “But we will continue our fight to bring other culprits to justice too.”
According to the victim, she was sexually violated by more than 40 men between May and December 2016, but could not remember all the assailants’ faces because she was drugged several times.
The girl initially kept quiet because she felt threatened and scared. Her village, Ban Koh Raed, in Takua Thung district, is small with less than 200 residents, and her attackers and their relatives are the majority there.
However, when the victim’s mother learned what had happened, she immediately lodged a complaint with police last year. Months later, her family moved out of Ban Koh Raed and enrolled in a state-provided protection programme.
Public prosecutors eventually arraigned 11 suspects and the court found all of them guilty.
According to the court, testimonies provided by the girl and her mother were consistent and credible. With other pieces of available evidence, the court found solid grounds to convict all defendants.
The convicts appeared worried after hearing the court verdict, though their lawyer, Sanphet Thipmontien, said he would file an appeal.
“It’s not what we expected,” he said.
Hanif, who represents the victim, said he believed some defendants should also be prosecuted for human trafficking.
Based on the girl’s testimonies, she was taken out of her home, drugged and forced into providing sexual services to several men against her will. This raised suspicions that her attackers might have sold her to other men.
It took time for her mother and stepfather to learn about her ordeal because they usually left their home to tap rubber at night.