UPDATE August 2022: 9 Johns arrested.
After police recovered the girls and arrested these traffickers, the case continued. Law enforcement tracked down nine men who had been customers of the traffickers, arresting them at their homes. Three of the suspects were in their late 30s, four were in their 40s, and two were in their 60s. All of them had bought teenage girls for sexual services. All of them admitted to their guilt. And all of them are facing jail time and a fine for their abuse of teenage girls.
These arrests send a message that it’s unacceptable to sexually exploit teenage girls. This victory makes it clear that even if the crime seems to happen in secret when no one is looking, The Exodus Road’s investigators and police partners are vigilant and persistent.
When The Exodus Road’s Thai investigators found posts on Twitter reading, “There is a girl who accepts an inexpensive job, ready to make an appointment,” they knew it was a red flag.
Contacting the Twitter user confirmed their fears: she was trafficking teenage girls for sex.
Investigators simultaneously explored another lead that they discovered on Twitter. The next step in the process was to gain the traffickers’ trust, which required going undercover. The traffickers sent photos of the girls they were selling, but were slow to provide exact details, suspicious of the operatives’ intentions.
But The Exodus Road has spent 10 years refining their investigative tactics in Thailand. By developing extensive cover stories to pose as buyers, investigators eased the traffickers’ fears. They coaxed out more details about the teenagers, who were being sold for less than $45 each.
Their efforts came to fruition through two raids, occurring just two days apart. Because of the information that the investigators collected while working undercover, police sent teams to two different hotels.
Police found three teenage girls (two in one hotel, one in the other), waiting with eyes downcast. They were prepared to serve their next customers, the latest entries in a long list of encounters they had not chosen and could not refuse.
Instead, the police officers set them free. The three women who had been trafficking the teenagers were arrested. The traffickers are facing up to 20 years in prison to answer for their crimes.
Thai Police gather to discuss their intervention plan in Operation Suspicion.
For the three teenagers who have been set free, recovery will be a long journey supported by government aftercare services. They will be receiving help that recognizes them as whole human beings — not reducible to a tweet or a quick cash payment.
The Exodus Road’s investigators are continually pursuing excellence in their undercover tactics because they know how high the stakes are. The stakes are the lives and wellbeing of teenagers like these. The stakes are the chance of freedom.
Thank you for being a part of supporting our team so they can continue this work!