Many children taken in by foundation were beaten and forced to work, say police
Police have completed their investigation into alleged child assault at a children’s foundation in Samut Songkhram and recommended charges against a prominent child rights advocate, his wife and the foundation.
Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn, the deputy national police chief, held a briefing on Wednesday to outline the case against Montree “Khru Yun” Sinthawichai and the Child Protection Foundation in Amphawa district.
Mr Montree, a former senator, made the headlines when activists from the Zendai Foundation took children who had been under his care to file a complaint against him at the Amphawa police station on Oct 29 last year.
The children had accused Mr Montree, 61, of assaulting them. They brought a video showing Mr Montree using a wooden baton to beat some children under his care at the foundation, of which he was the secretary-general.
After receiving the complaint, local police began investigating the foundation. They were joined by officers from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, officials from the Samut Songkhram provincial social development and human security office and activists from the Zendai Foundation.
When they visited the foundation, which also serves as Mr Montree’s residence, they found 56 children and youths, aged between one and 18 years old. There were signs that eight had been physically abused and they were taken into the care of child welfare officials.
An extended investigation found that a total of 33 children had been physically assaulted by Mr Montree on many occasions. They also had allegedly been forced to work at a resort run by his wife Phimol Sinthawichai, 61. They were tasked with cleaning and changing bedsheets and were paid wages of 40-60 baht per day.
Police questioned more than 100 witnesses, investigated those who had links with Mr Montree and also examined his finances and those of the foundation, said Pol Gen Surachate.
Mr Montree is facing charges of physically assaulting children under his care and colluding in forced child labour, hiring children aged under 15 to work, paying wages below the minimum wage rate and exploiting children for his own benefit.
Ms Phimol was charged with colluding in forced child labour, hiring children aged under 15 to work, paying wages below the minimum wage rate and exploiting children for his own benefit.
Officials also learned on March 28 that the foundation had put up donation boxes at more than 300 locations to raise funds without seeking permission.
A police complaint was filed against the foundation and six committee members at the Chokchai police station for soliciting donations without permission. Police have summoned the accused to acknowledge the charge on Wednesday, said Pol Gen Surachate.
Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Surachate Hakparn briefs reporters on the charges against child rights advocate Montree Sinthawichai at the Royal Thai Police Sports Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Police TV)