By Alisa Tang
BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Thai police working with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation have arrested a man for procuring more than 100 boys over the past three years for an alleged American pedophile in northern Thailand, police said on Friday.
Ayo Ahcho, a 23-year-old from the Akha hill tribe, was arrested on Tuesday in a border village in the Mae Fah Luang district of Chiang Rai province and charged with human trafficking, said Lt. Col. Apichart Hattasin of Thailand's northern region police.
Police said Ayo had been supplying boys to be sexually abused by 61-year-old Thomas Gary, who had been coming and going from Thailand for 20 years and was arrested on Sept. 13 and charged with the sexual abuse of minors.
"This was an individual case. This was not a network," Apichart told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.
Ayo himself had been having sex with Gary for three months, and Gary later provided Ayo with a room in the Chiang Mai guesthouse where he stayed and paid him 1,000 baht ($30) a day to work as his "servant", Apichart said.
Ayo would pick up boys ranging in age from 13 to 18 for Gary every other day or so, usually vulnerable children and orphans from the streets or from video game Internet cafes in Chiang Mai, the police officer said. He said Gary had kept a collection of dirty socks and underwear from the boys he abused.
Apichart said Gary, who would normally stay in Thailand for about five months each time he visited, had been released on bail within a few weeks of his arrest. He remained in Chiang Mai pending a court hearing.
The U.S. State Department in June named Thailand as one of the world's worst centers for human trafficking, saying it was "not making significant efforts" and was a source, destination and transit country for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
According to child protection group Ecpat International, the number of Thai victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation is decreasing due to improved social and educational services.
However, these services are not extended to stateless and undocumented migrants, who continue to be particularly vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation, Ecpat said.
Many people from hill tribes in northern Thailand are stateless.
(Reporting by Alisa Tang, editing by Ros Russell)