BANGKOK: A Thai trafficker was sentenced to a record 374 years in jail for child trafficking in a ruling that lawyers say will send a deterrent to other criminals.
Yuttana Kodsap, 31, was found guilty of child trafficking for the purpose of pornography after he lured children aged 7-12 to play computer games at his house where he filmed sexual acts with them and sold the videos on a chat app, police said.
A court in Thailand's southern province of Phang Nga sentenced him to 374 years in jail for his crimes and ordered him to pay 800,000 Thai baht (US$26,000) in compensation to each of the five victims, according to court documents provided to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by the Court of Justice.
The case was the second trafficking case in Thailand in which offenders were sentenced to more than 300 years in jail. Last year the criminal court sentenced three men to up to 309 years each for trafficking children for prostitution.
In both cases, courts capped the imprisonment period at 50 years in accordance with Thai law.
Papop Siamhan, an independent lawyer with expertise in human trafficking, said child prostitution cases resulted in long prison sentences because they often involved several laws and many children.
"Long prison sentences will act as a deterrent because people will be afraid to commit such crimes, and it will also result in authorities and judges being more careful when handling such cases," he said.
Earlier this year the United States praised Thailand for sentencing convicted traffickers and complicit officials to significant prison terms in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.
Thailand was ranked as a Tier 2 country in the report, meaning it is making significant efforts to combat the crime.
Since January this year, courts have handed down 170 prison sentences in trafficking cases of which 74 were sentences of more than 10 years, according to the Court of Justice.
Archana Kotecha, Asia region director and head of legal at anti-slavery charity Liberty Shared, said long sentences can be effective deterrents when they are addressed at kingpins in trafficking cases and not low level offenders.
But she said this must be accompanied by seizure of assets which should be used to pay compensation to victims.
"Deterrence aimed at the freedom and assets of offenders is likely more effective and holistic as it takes into account the need to compensate victims for what they have endured and removes the commercial gain made by the offender," she said.