BANGKOK (AP) — Police in Thailand arrested a former primary school teacher who they said admitted to having sexually abused 24 schoolgirls, after a tip-off from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The former teacher, identified as Decha Pradit, told police that he paid his young students 10 baht, the equivalent of 30 U.S. cents, and told them not to tell their parents, police Col. Mana Keabsattabut said Sunday.
Decha, who is now in his 50s, said the abuse occurred over a decade ago while he had worked as a gym teacher at a school in northern Uttaradit province from 2002 to 2004.
In 2004, he left the school after being accused of sexually abusing one of his students and settling the case with the child's parents, said Mana, the deputy director of a police anti-trafficking unit. It was not clear if that case was reported to authorities at the time.
Mana said that U.S. agents contacted Thai authorities on Sept. 9, after finding obscene photos of young girls posted on a website known to be used by pedophiles.
Using an IP address, police traced the postings to a computer at Decha's home in Uttaradit province, which borders Laos, and arrested him on Wednesday. He was charged with sexually harassing children under 15 and raping children under the age of 13.
"He confessed that he sexually abused 24 schoolgirls who were in grades 2 through 5," Mana said. It was not immediately known if all of the photographs found on the website were from the period when he was teaching.
Police found one of his alleged victims, now 20 years old, who identified Decha and said she never told her parents about the abuse that took place when she was 8.
Police confiscated several hard drives and a computer from Decha's home as part of their ongoing investigation to identify other children in the photographs, Mana said.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Melissa Sweeney confirmed that U.S. Homeland Security officials recently shared information with Thai authorities, which assisted an investigation leading to the Sept. 16 arrest of a Thai national for the sexual assault of minors in Thailand.