Sex Laws in Thailand Part 3: Civil Society and Law Enforcement
by Jon Fox
25 January 2010
These efforts led to the 2008 arrest of a New Jersey native, Wayne Nelson Corliss. Following a tip off from Interpol, Corliss was arrested by ICE agents in the U.S. and later pleaded guilty in a Newark court to three counts of traveling to Thailand with the intent of engaging in illicit sexual conduct and one count each of producing and possessing child pornography. His interrogation pointed federal agents to two other Americans who admitted to traveling with Corliss to Thailand in order to have sex with young boys. Local ICE cooperation with NGOs and the RTP led to identifying the child victims and gathering their testimony against the American offenders. All are currently awaiting sentencing in American courts for crimes committed in Thailand.3
More recently, in February 2009, ICE’s Bangkok office coordinated “Operation Twisted Traveler” specifically targeting Americans who traveled to Southeast Asia to engage in child sex tourism. In August 2009, the operation successfully nabbed three convicted child sex offenders - Jack Sporich, 74, Erik Peeters, 41, and Ronald "John" Boyajian, 59. According to a federal affidavit, after their release from U.S. prisons, the three traveled to Cambodia to seek out young children. Peeters bought a 13-year-old Cambodian boy from his parents for $2 and a bag of rice, and raped him several times. Sporich was reported to have ridden a motor scooter through the streets of the city of Siem Riep, dropping money behind him as a way to entice children. All three were charged in U.S. courts under the Protect Act for travelling internationally for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors.
The arrests were the result of cooperation between ICE, the Cambodian National Police, the U.S. Department of State, and NGOs working in Cambodia to identify suspected sex tourists and rescue victims. In a briefing following the arrests, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton stressed that Operation Twisted Traveler is still very much ongoing. "Boarding a plane to a foreign land is no protection," Morton said. "If you molest children overseas and we find out, we will investigate you and we will seek to bring you back here to face justice. The arm of the law is long, it’s determined, and it’s looking for you."
Local initiatives - Codes of Conduct
Independent agencies and private sector actors have also taken the initiative to protect children in the absence of a coherent Thai national program to fight the sexual exploitation of children. Working with ECPAT, an international network of organizations working to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the World Tourism Organization (WTO), and UNICEF, Thailand’s Tourism Authority (TAT) has adopted the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.
An international, multi-stakeholder Steering Committee supervises the implementation of the 'Code of Conduct' project. It includes representatives of Interpol, the WTO, TAT, and representatives from the tourism industries of both sending and receiving countries. Over the years, partnerships between private sector tourism businesses, government agencies, NGOs, intergovernmental organizations and media has increased significantly, leading to enhanced protection of children.
As part of the Code of Conduct introduced to Thailand, suppliers of tourism services commit themselves to implementing polices protecting children from sexual exploitation. Key activities include establishing strict policies against commercial exploitation of children; training personnel in the protection of children; and introducing a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating strict adherence to shared child-protection polices.
More than a dozen prominent hotel chains in Thailand have committed themselves to the Code of Conduct. These include the international Accor group, Centara Hotels, Sofitel, Novotel, and the Chiang Rai Tourism Society. ECPAT has trained over 6,000 employees from the Accor hotel chain in Thailand on how to deal with suspected and actual cases of child sexual exploitation and how to prevent it.4 In 2009, the Swiss-based Kuoni Group, an international leader in the tourism industry, learned that sexual exploitation of children was taking place at one of its partner’s Samui hotel. Following the ‘Code of Conduct’ guidelines, Kuoniinformed the national offices of ECPAT and the local police, and quickly ended its partnership with the violating partner.
TAT's mandate is defined as being "an agency responsible for the promotion and control of tourism and tour-guide businesses” entrusted with ensuring compliance with standards and laws for the benefit of all parties of the nation's tourism industry.5 TAT strives to promote Thailand as more than just a sex tourism destination. In 1992, the Thai National Assembly passed the TAT drafted Tourist Business and Guide Bill. A year later it was followed by special Ministerial Regulations that have been in force since May 28, 1993. The law allows TAT to take punitive steps against operators whose actions are seen to be “detrimental to the Thai tourism industry and negatively impact the country's image and reputation.”6
The Tourist Business and Guide Bill requires tour operators to refrain from any acts that will “compromise the honorable reputation, integrity and ethical standards of the tourism industry” in Thailand.7 A tour operator who violates this particular article faces fines of between 5,000 to 20,000 baht and suspension of the permit for a period deemed appropriate not exceeding 6-months by the Registrar. In the case of a repeat offender, the permit can be revoked permanently.8 While TAT is limited in enforcement capabilities protecting children from sexual exploitation, it does monitor tour operators and works closely with local law enforcement to eradicate sex tourism in Thailand.
  
5.Source: TAT Website, accessed December 2009 at: http://www.tatnews.org/tat_news/1482.asp#3
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