CHIANG MAI, THAILAND – An American man who sexually abused over 100 young boys in Thailand was convicted this month for his crimes. His conviction is the result of strong collaboration between IJM, multiple organizations and the Thai government, and sends a powerful message to overseas sex offenders that their crimes will not be ignored.
13-Year-Old Reports Abuse to Police
For the last 20 years, this man had been visiting Thailand regularly, usually staying for five months at a time. He would use a Thai "agent” or trafficker to find boys, aged 13 to 18, who then brought them to a bedroom in a bar. There, the American would sexually abuse the boys, and give them a small amount of money to keep them quiet.
Most of the boys came from vulnerable situations—either from broken homes or living on the streets. As a result, most did not have anyone who they could tell or who could protect them.
That’s why the "Big Brother Project,” was created—Thai police spearheaded this initiative to engage with vulnerable street children through activities and events. It was at such an event that a 13-year-old boy told a staff member that he had been abused multiple times from 2010 to 2014 by an American tourist. The police then contacted IJM for assistance.
IJM Thailand had met this teen before: He is a hill tribe member, and IJM had helped him and his family navigate the bureaucracy and become official citizens of Thailand just one month earlier as part of our citizenship rights abuse casework. Citizenship is vital to receiving full protection of the law. Now that this teen was a citizen, he was able to have rights and access government benefits that otherwise would have been withheld.
IJM, NGO Partners & FBI Support Police with Arrest
IJM coordinated with local police, the FBI and other NGO partners to investigate the suspect, who was ultimately arrested on September 12, 2014.
During this time, police also connected another suspect to the case—the Thai man who had been procuring the boys for the American.
After a month of hiding, this suspect was located and arrested by police in January of this year. The accomplice told a gathering of reporters that he had supplied over 100 boys over the past three years.
The total number of boys abused before that time and during the American’s visits in the past 20 years may never be known.
Conviction Sends a Message
During the trial, the same 13-year-old boy that had told staff about his abuse bravely decided to testify; IJM helped him prepare. The American suspect originally entered a "not guilty” plea, but once confronted with the evidence gathered by IJM, police and partners, he changed his plea to guilty.
On August 20, the American was convicted and sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison on multiple counts of rape and inappropriate sexual contact with children under 15.
The conviction sends a strong warning message to other sex tourists who would try to exploit children. Street children are targets because they are often thought to be outside the protection of the law, because they may lack official citizenship status or abuse drugs. This case could be a demonstration that these children are not invisible, and deserve protection.
Do you suspect a Canadian is travelling overseas to abuse children? Download a Travel Brave kit, filled with information to help you identify warning signs and to report the crime.