Former Deputy Senate Speaker Chalerm Promlert, Five Years Jail Term Upheld

The Supreme Court upheld a 36-year jail term given to former deputy Senate speaker Chalerm Promlert, five years after he was accused of having sex with underage girls.

The court found Chalerm, 71, guilty of sexually abusing four girls under the age of 15 between Nov 23, 2000 and Jan 3, 2001.

It upheld the Appeal Court's decision in January this year, which added 20 years to the 16-year sentence the lower court gave Chalerm.

The court said he should be punished more severely because he broke the law while he was a senator.

''The defendant was well aware that what he did was a serious crime,'' the court said.

The former deputy governor of Surat Thani, who had been free on bail of 2.5 million baht pending his final appeal to the Supreme Court, acknowledged the verdict with a pale face.

Police then escorted him to Pathum Thani jail.

Many of Chalerm's relatives, but not his wife, showed up to hear the verdict at the Thanyaburi provincial court.

The mother of one of the victims, whose names were withheld, said she was glad Chalerm did not walk free and thanked all the parties for their support.

Police had charged Chalerm with statutory rape in January 2001 after two girls separately identified him in a line-up as the man who paid them to have sex with him at a motel in Pathum Thani.

Chalerm spent two days in bed with the schoolgirls, one of them aged 16, at a motel in Pathum Thani's Lam Looka district. He paid each 4,000 baht for their services.

The students, aged 13 to 16, were taken to the motel by another girl, a 17-year-old school dropout.

Sex with a girl under 15 years of age brings a charge of statutory rape.

Chalerm resigned as senator in March 2001 amid mounting pressure from fellow senators and civic groups.

The Senate voted 87 to 54 to grant him immunity, splitting it into two camps and upsetting civic groups.

The court of first instance in October 2002 dismissed Chalerm's claim that he had a medical record of receiving treatment for a sexual dysfunction.

Chalerm also said that he had work commitments the days the offences occurred, but his Mercedes was spotted outside the Phaka Inn Hotel in Pathum Thani.

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