A child protection foundation chief surrendered to face charges of alleged physical abuse against children at his foundation in Samut Songkram and forcing them to work as “cheap labour” at his resort.
Child Protection Foundation secretary-general Montree Sintawichai, his wife and his son reported to Amphawa police station on Thursday after the station summoned them to face the charges.
Late last month, the foundation, which takes care of 55 abandoned children, made headlines after a group of university students who carried out voluntary work there covertly took a video clip of two teachers beating seven or eight children aged between 10 and 17.
The clip that was sneaked out and publicised by popular Facebook page Zendai (thread) also showed the teachers cursing the children.
A smiling Montree did not express any worry when he arrived at the police station.
He claimed he received “moral support” from Kaewsan Aibodhit, the chairman of the foundation, while Panas Thassaniyanon, former member of the Constitution Drafting Assembly, would assist him as a legal adviser in the shocking case.
After Zendai posted the clip and relayed an account by the voluntary students that the children at the foundation were allegedly forced to work at a resort owned by Montree, the Samut Songkram provincial administration, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry and police sprang into action.
The National Police chief ordered his deputy, Pol General Surachate Hakpal, to head an investigation while the social ministry sent officials to relocate the eight abused children to another shelter for protection pending the investigation.
Police also charged the two teachers who were seen in the clip beating the children.
The foundation was formed in 1994 and was initially located in Soi Lat Prao 106 before being relocated to Amphawa district in 2001.
Its Facebook page has not been updated since 2015. Earlier posts showed several well-known figures visiting the foundation to donate money and necessities.
The page thanked the group of students for their courage in exposing the misdeeds.
It said the group of students went to the foundation to work voluntarily but soon saw things were wrong.
They noticed the children were not happy with the activities they were given. They were not even delighted when the students gifted them dolls or rewards.
Some children whispered to the students that they would prefer food or something to eat than the dolls.
During activities, the university students secretly talked to some children and learned they were allegedly forced to work at a resort belonging to the owner of the foundation in exchange for a small sum of money to buy sweets.
Zendai also alleged that a teenage girl was forced to study in a vocational school so she could work for the foundation owner’s resort after she finished her studies.
Furthermore, the page alleged that foundation staff would not allow children to have mobile phones. If anyone was found to sneak in a phone, it would be “seized” and “smashed”.
Zendai claimed the children were forced to clean the resort in the morning before school in exchange for 40 baht for buying sweets at school and 36 baht for bus fare.
The page went on to allege that when some children managed to contact their parents or relatives to come pick them up, the foundation would not let them go and remind their parents that they had abandoned their kids.
The page added that a 17-year-old girl, who was raised since birth, did not have anywhere to go despite her frustration.
Zendai said three kids had fled the foundation, telling friends they would rather seek jobs at construction sites in Bangkok. Their fate has not been known since.
According to the university students, the kids had told some teachers about the alleged abuse but the teachers replied they could do nothing about it.