By Nanchanok Wongsamuth
BANGKOK, June 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thai cybersex traffickers are targeting teenage boys from wealthy backgrounds, often luring them by posing as young girls, the deputy head of a child sex abuse task force said on Monday.
Kornchai Klayklueng, a senior police officer, said victims were persuaded to film or photograph themselves masturbating, then told the images would be leaked to their friends and families unless they continued to provide them.
Some victims have been identified by their uniforms as they attend well-known private schools, said Klayklueng, deputy head of Thailand's police-led Internet Crimes Against Children (TICAC) task force.
"Most of them [the victims] are sons of the rich who have mobile phones and are active on social media, but are not looked after very well by their rich parents who don't have enough time," he said.
"In the end, they [the boys] turn into victims of human trafficking, not knowing that their sexual acts are seen by people worldwide."
The growth of the internet and increased use of personal technology devices was fuelling the crime, he said.
TICAC, which was launched in January 2016 by the Royal Thai Police, works hand-in-hand with local non-governmental organisations to track down offenders and their victims.
It was set up a month after the Thai government passed a law which had tougher penalties for those possessing child pornography, which previously did not have a jail term.
Anyone found possessing child pornography for personal entertainment purposes can face a jail term of up to five years and a maximum fine of 100,000 baht ($3,200).
"They think they are talking to girls who send them photos or videos and are challenged to do the same," said Ketsanee Chantrakul, a programme manager at ECPAT Foundation, a Bangkok-based group fighting child sexual exploitation.
"Unlike girls, boys are less careful and they don't think that sending videos is a harmful thing," Ketsanee told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
No data exists on the number of child victims of cybersex trafficking.
At least 610,000 people in Thailand - or about one in 113 - are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery, according to an index created by the Walk Free Foundation, a human rights group.
Since it was set up four years ago, TICAC has investigated 151 cases of internet-facilitated sexual exploitation, of which 44 are related to human trafficking.
The rest are related to child sexual abuse and child pornography. ($1 = 31.3000 baht)
(Reporting by Nanchanok Wongsamuth @nanchanokw; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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