Thailand has a population of approximately 67 million people, out of which more than 15 million are children. The relatively better economic situation brings about a large number of migrant workers from the three neighboring countries; Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao PDR. A large number of children and dependents of migrant workers are unaccounted for due to high costs and complications in the registration process. The actual number of the migrant population including their children and dependents is estimated at 3 million people.
Although Thailand has lifted the minimum age for agricultural work from 13 to 15 years old and for work on sea fishing vessels from 16 to 18 years old, there is still 13% of children aged 5-14 years old who engage in the workforce. The types of works that children perform are preparing shrimp or fish ponds, feeding and maintaining the stocks, sorting fish, removing the heads of shrimp and fish and peeling shrimp to name a few. Other industries in which child labour can be found is service industries, begging and domestic workers which make them also prone to sexual exploitation.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands tackled the problems in Thai fishery and seafood processing industry, service industry including begging, domestic work and garment and industrial factories. The geographical areas of this programme were Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani, Samut Prakan and Mae Sot district at the border with the. The main focus of the programme in these areas was the prevention of economic exploitation of migrant and ethnic children from Myanmar.
Sexual exploitation of children in Thailand is a well-known situation neglected by society. An estimated 30.000 to 40.000 children are sexually exploited, excluding non-Thai children. The growing number of the migrant population in the country inevitably affects the potential number of migrant children who will be sexually exploited due to their vulnerable status.
The significant economic growth brought into Thailand by the tourism industry is a development the country welcome. The sex-tourism associated with the country is no longer limited to only Western tourists, but Asian male tourists pose equivalent risk to children. The rapid growth of high-technology and widespread internet usage through computers and smartphones in the country brings sex offenders closer to children. Chatrooms and other online platforms provide space for sex offenders to engage in sexual exploitation with children.
In Thailand, Terre des Hommes Netherlands tackles online sexual exploitation and sexual exploitation in the tourism industry with foreign perpetrators from both Europe and Asia as a focus. The programme is implemented in Bangkok and Pattaya where we support a shelter for child victims and survivors of sexual exploitation. Our interventions focus on strengthening the capacity of policy-makers, law enforcement and officers in judiciary system in addressing online child sexual abuse and exploitation in travel and tourism, we raise awareness on online sexual abuse and exploitation in the communities and public space, and we provide reintegration of child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.
In Thailand, children and dependents of undocumented migrant workers from Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia and other stateless children are the most at risk groups to be trafficked. The reason that they don't register varies from high costs for migrant parents to the complicated nature of the legalization process for stateless families. For those already registered, the children continue to face other social challenges including access to education, health care services and social integration.
Our Thailand programme covered anti-trafficking work for internal and cross-border children on the move. The programme at the border in Mae Sot district of Tak Province covered one of the main entry points from Myanmar (Myawaddy, Kayin State) to the country. Within Thailand, we worked in populated urban cities; Samut Sakhon, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, areas that are known for child trafficking.