PATONG: A mother from Isan has been reunited with her daughter after three terrifying years during which the girl was kidnapped by a gang and set to work begging on the streets of Patong. Three years ago, Huad Sooksaeng, 34, from Buri Rum, decided to come to work in Phuket. She left her four-year-old daughter, Kesorn, in the care of a sister in Khon Kaen. Soon after, the child was playing outside the sister’s home when a van stopped and the occupants kidnapped the child. Pol Col Paween Pongsirin, superintendent of Kathu Police Station, told the Gazette today that K. Huad, who works in a bar in Patong, was walking along Soi Bangla on Thursday with a friend when they saw a girl and two boys begging at the entrance of Soi Andaman Queen. The girl looked like her daughter, so K. Huad checked for birthmarks on the child’s left side, head and finger. Having ensured that the girl was indeed her daughter, she started to walk away with her. A member of the gang controlling the child beggars attempted to drag the girl away from K. Huad, but was unsuccessful. The mother went straight to the police. The police subsequently arrested five Khmer men living in a house in Soi Roong Bam Bat Nam Sia, off Phra Baramee Rd. They later tracked down and arrested the head of the gang, a woman known as “Too”, at a house on Soi Phra Baramee 5. Through a translator, the gang members confessed that they had stolen children from Isarn and put them to work begging. The income was good, they explained. They also confessed that the children were beaten to make them look more pitiable. In some cases, they admitted, they fed the children ya bah, an illicit drug, to keep them awake during the long hours on the street. Eventually, the children’s faces would become familiar to passers by and their income would decline. When this happened, they would be sold to similar gangs in other provinces, or exchanged for fresh faces. Investigators managed to rescue one boy aged about six. He appeared to be under the influence of ya bah and was incomprehensible. He was taken to Patong Hospital for treatment. Anyone wondering whether the boy might be a missing relative is urged to contact Kathu Police Station on 342719/20, ext 400.
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