BANGKOK, Thailand — An American teacher and TikTok star has been arrested in Thailand after allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old girl he met online, local authorities said.
Luke Rockwell was arrested on Saturday in the Thai capital, Bangkok, according to police. He appeared in court on Monday night and was released on bail.
The girl’s family said he passed on sexually-transmitted diseases that caused her to become unwell. NBC News could not verify this allegation and police have not commented on it.
Police Colonel Vajirakorn Wongboon of the Royal Thai Police confirmed Rockwell’s arrest, that he was teaching English in Bangkok and the age of the complainant.
It is unclear whether Rockwell has legal representation in Thailand. Rockwell has not commented publicly about the case. His Tiktok account, @English_with_teacherluke, has 1.3 million subscribers but has been set to private. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment via Facebook.
The girl’s mother, who is 40, told NBC News that Rockwell met her daughter in March when she had just turned 16 and that the pair met at Rockwell’s home because he didn’t want to be seen in public with her.
NBC News is withholding the mother’s name to protect the identity of the girl.
At first the pair had protected sex, but after Rockwell presented medical documents showing that he had a clean sexual health they had sex without protection, the mother said in an interview.
On Aug. 25 the girl suffered bleeding and pain and three days later she confessed the relationship to her, the mother said. She was taken to a local hospital and to the police station to file a report.
On Thursday, Aug. 30 the hospital confirmed she had STIs and the next day the police took the family’s statement and issued a warrant for Rockwell’s arrest, the mother said.
“The police could not find him still on Friday so they asked if my daughter can lure him out for a meeting and we did that together with police presence while she texted him. And that’s how he was arrested on Saturday,” the mother said.
The police told the family that Rockwell had photographed and filmed the couple’s weekly sexual encounters without the girl’s knowledge, she said. Police have not confirmed this to NBC News.
“I was so shocked and it gave me a big punch in the chest. I was filled with sorrow and anger when I found out what he did [the recordings] to my daughter,” the mother said.
She added that she was upset to learn that Rockwell had been granted bail.
The Thai criminal code sets the age of consent at 15 — but it is a criminal offense to “take away” someone who is over 15 but under 18 and conduct “indecent acts” outside of marriage, including when the person gives consent. The offense carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a fine of 10,000 baht ($280).
Thailand has a longstanding history of sexual abuse of minors committed by foreign workers and tourists. In 2008, Canadian teacher Christopher Paul Neil, who taught in several Asian countries, was convicted after hundreds of photos were found of him allegedly engaging in sex acts with young boys.
In 2009, Wayne Nelson Corliss, also Canadian, was sentenced to almost 20 years in jail for his part in an international sex tourism ring that preyed on young boys in Thailand.
Nat Sumon reported from Bangkok, and Patrick Smith from London.