Saturday, September 12, 2009

Game Store Imprisons Children

Photo Courtesy of Khaosod

NAKORN SRITHAMMARAT – Police officers barged into a 24-hr game store offering accommodation, change of clothes, and meal services to students gaming day and night. The discreet front entrance was tightly sealed off and officers had to climb over a neighboring wall to break a few windows before they could enter. They found four primary school students playing computer games in a hypnotic state.

The owner of the store argued it was normal for gaming businesses to provide loyal customers with special treatment.

The kids usually played games until late or until dawn; the owner responded by providing accommodation and hospitality services like food-on-demand, spare clothes and the occasional back rub. The kids would lie to their parents and say they were sleeping over at a friend’s house.

At 10.30a.m. on September 9th, Mr. Theerawut Singto, 30-years-old, and Mr. Phisit Surachan, teachers from the student administration approached officer Somphong Yuthao for help. Several students were believed to have been living inside the P-Net Internet Game Store and had not returned home or attended school for a number of days.

When officer Yuthao arrived at the three-storey building where the shop was, he discovered a darkly tinted glass door obscuring the shops interior. Two heavy duty pad locks secured the entrance; the shop space appeared empty but Yuthoa questioned people in the building and confirmed that the students were inside.

After two hours of knocking and no reply, the officer climbed a concrete wall onto a balcony. He broke through a window on the 2nd floor and entered the shop space. There, he found 25 desktop computers and four kids, along with Mrs. Pornthip Thongphanang, the owner, who was shocked by the sudden entry.

The second and third floors of the facility were divided into bedrooms with wardrobes which stored a variety of boys and girls clothing.

The rooms were for VIP gamers to sleep in and get changed. The officer also found a large supply of cup noodles and a variety of soft drinks.

After interrogating the students, it was revealed that the owner, Mrs. Pornthip, would wait for the kids to finish school before she opened the doors to her shop. She would lock the entrance as soon as they entered to avoid suspicion. Every day a variety of students of both sexes, from elementary to secondary school, would use the service. Kids spent as much time as they wanted playing games - for many it was a second home – kind of like Starbucks.

Mrs. Pornthip said that when the officer knocked on the door, she did not come to open it because she knew she was violating many laws. As for imprisoning the kids and keeping them in a torpid daze for prolonged periods, Pornthip said it was all part of the unique experience. “Most shops do it as well,” she insisted.

Police officers are investigating to see if drugs, sex and or sexual services involving the children took place.

Courtesy of Khaosod

Writer: Adrian Tse & Chet Chetchotisak