CHIANGRAI TIMES – World Vision Canada used World Tourism Day to remind Canadians to help prevent the abuse happening abroad by reporting the exploitation of children in such countries as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
“Wherever there is poverty and weak protection, children are at risk of sexual exploitation. It happens all over the world — and in many countries popular with Canadian travellers,” Caroline Riseboro, World Vision Canada public affairs vice-president, said in a statement.
“When one country or region gets serious about protecting children and convicting offenders, the criminals simply pack up and move where there are more vulnerable children and weaker protection and laws,” she said, noting that the trend has shifted to the Philippines, where recent statistics suggest that 40 per cent of men who travel to the country are visiting for “sexual purposes.”
Tourism numbers also have increased last year for other off-the-beaten track countries, including Laos, which hosted 2.5 million visitors, and Vietnam, which had five million visitors.
World Vision also urged the Canadian government to use already implemented extraterritorial laws to convict Canadians who sexually abuse children overseas when the host country can’t or won’t. The law has existed for the last 14 years, but only four people have been convicted while the number of accused is more than 150, the organization said.
DEPDC- CHIANGRAI is a non-profit community based NGO working in Thailand on the prevention side of the trafficking of women and children into the sex industry or other exploitative child labour situations. It offers free education, vocational training and full time accomodation for young girls and boys in an effort to achieve these goals.
As well as providing free permanent shelter and education DEPDC also runs several other projects and activities aimed at the prevention of trafficking and the provision of child rights in the region; emergency shelter for abused or abandoned children, care and repatriation for girls who have left commercial sex work, education for vulnerable children and teens outside of the formal education system, youth leadership education programme to combat trafficking in the Mekong Sub-Region and vocational and human rights training for undocumented migrants and indigenous peoples.
Since its inception DEPDC has helped prevent thousands of children from the Mekong sub-region succumb to the sex industry or other exploitative child labour situations. These young children have received further schooling or vocational training as a good start to a healthy life.
The past decade has seen significant growth in trafficking in people worldwide, a blatant abuse of human rights with devastating consequences for the millions of individuals, families and communities affected by this crime. Victims of trafficking through the north of Thailand comprise both women and children from countries in the Mekong Sub-Region (Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, southern Yunnan province of China and Vietnam). Although women and children of Thai nationality are still being trafficked nowadays the majority of the victims are from the ethnic hill tribes who reside in Thailand without citizenship and from the aforementioned countries in the region.
Many come to Thailand seeking jobs and new opportunities but are quickly trapped in a system of abuse with nowhere to turn given that they have no rights of citizenship.
Without citizenship or land tenure the majority of the hill tribe people residing in Northern Thailand live in poverty without access to education, health care or legitimate work opportunities. At the same time, their way of life, traditions and values are being rapidly eroded due to foreign influence, national development strategies and the influx of consumer goods. In hill-tribe villages across the region drug addiction and sales as well as the prevalence of HIV/AIDS are insidious problems breaking down families and communities.
Brothel owners have networks of agents combing the villages seeking out troubled families caught in the cycle of debt with few options. These traffickers can appear to be the answer to the family’s financial struggles and fears with their simple solution of exchanging their young daughters for money. This system is a complicated web involving relatives, village elders, city authorities, police, government officials and business people who all benefit from the girl’s labour.