Thai authorities arrest modelling agent for child sexual abuse, pornography

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Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) raided a child modelling agency on Feb. 11 and arrested its owner Danudet Sangkaew, 23, who goes by the nickname “Nene” for child sexual abuse and pornography, the agency announced on Tuesday (Feb. 16).

Around a half a million pornographic photos and videos of children were seized by Thai authorities after they conducted a raid at Nene Modelling Agency in Pathum Thani province, north of Bangkok.

Danudet’s arrest is part of DSI’s Operation Casting Call, a high-profile case involving transnational crimes and thousands of children across the world.

Victims include at least 40 Thai minors and thousands of other children in various countries.

The operation followed a tip-off from the Australian Federal Police last year and involved multiple international agencies, including the US’s FBI and Homeland Security, the New Zealand Police and Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit organisation specialised in the rescue of child sex trafficking victims.

“This is a child-porn industry and we’re proud to have cracked it,” said Khemachart Prakyhongmanee, deputy director of the Foreign Affairs and Transnational Crime Bureau at DSI.

According to authorities, Danudet’s victims are all male minors aged between six and 15.

The agent usually approached them through schools by pretending to search for young models. Such access allowed him to target children, forge ties with their parents and eventually abuse them at his office outside Bangkok.

“It’s like shopping for children for him,” Khemachart added. “When the child told his parents, they’d think ‘Oh! This came through the teachers. This is already screened,’ and trust him.”

A portfolio of the modelling agency confiscated by police claims it has worked with more than 8,400 child models and actors since 2013. In a statement, the DSI described it as “a famous child modelling agency in Thailand”.

Operation Casting Call began with a single pornographic image of a boy that Australian police confiscated and forwarded to DSI last year.

According to Khemachart, investigators noticed a tattooed hand in the photograph and used it to trace the perpetrator, who was later identified as Thakorn ‘Mee’ Attapathomchai who took the photo at Nene Modelling Agency.

Thakorn was arrested in May last year. The image showing his tattooed hand was uncovered in a related investigation named Operation Blackwrist, which exposed a child sex abuse network operating a website from locations including Thailand and Australia.

The subsequent arrests of Thakorn and Danudet have led multinational law enforcers to expand their coordinated investigations in various countries.

The recent confiscation of more than 500,000 child pornographic images is considered “the biggest confiscation in history”, according to Operation Underground Railroad’s Supree Saowichit.

“We feel honoured to support DSI in analysing data to identify victims through images and technologies,” Supree said.

“One photo of a victim has led to the identification of many more as well as the arrest at Nene Modelling Agency, which possessed many pornographic materials. Many of these children were also sexually assaulted.”

Operation Casting Call has triggered more investigations both in Thailand and abroad. Besides legal prosecution of perpetrators, it also involves rescue efforts.

“Globally, investigations remain on-going, including significant work identifying and rescuing victims wherever they are located,” Simon Lalic from the Australian Federal Police added. (Source: CNA)

 

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