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Over 400,000 Children in Thailand Exploited Through Social Media Annually

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Over 400,000 Children in Thailand Exploited Through Social Media

According to police and protection agencies, 86 suspects were arrested on child sex abuse charges in Thailand in the first two months of 2022. This is due to technological advances in social media leading to an uptick in these cases since the Coronavirus pandemic began.

According to Police Maj. Gen. Wiwat Khamchamnan, chief of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD), 73 suspects were arrested last year for various crimes, including sexual harassment, possessing child porn materials, trafficking in persons, and extortion.

At least 49 victims under the age of 18 – both girls and boys – were aided by the task force, he said.

The number of technology crimes, including online child sexual exploitation, has doubled since the start of the Pandemic in 2021, Gen. Wiwat told BenarNews. He noted that only 30 cases were investigated last year.

Between June 2015 and September 2020, the task force recorded 152 cases of online child sexual abuse.

“Physical crimes have evolved into cybercrimes. To find child sexual materials, people don’t even have to access the dark web. “It’s all over social media now,” Gen. Wiwat said.

The dark web refers to internet content that is only accessible through specific software, configurations, or authorization. Since it provides maximum anonymity, it has been used for criminal activities.

Children Being Exploited Through Social Media

“Disrupting Harm,” a report funded by the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and supported by UNICEF, Interpol, and ECPAT, an international network of civil society organizations working to end children’s online sexual exploitation, estimates 400,000 children in Thailand were subjected to exploitation through social media last year alone.

According to the report, 9 percent of Thai children between the ages of 12 and 17 were victims of grave instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse through social media.

According to the report published last month, this can include being blackmailed into engaging in sexual activities, someone else sharing their sexual images without permission, or being coerced into engaging in sexual activities through promises of money or gifts.

Twenty-nine percent of children surveyed reported accidentally seeing sexual content online, via pop-up advertisements or social media posts. Children who were abused were primarily targeted on social media platforms, namely Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, followed by online games and in-person interactions.

Children Becoming Prey on Social Media

Activists and authorities say many children are at risk because they are spending more time online with minimal supervision since the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to stay at home.

Most of the time, the report stated, the child or girls knew the person who initiated the exploitation or abuse. This could have been someone close to the child or a member of the child’s network. Police, social workers, and helplines were barely used by those affected.

At least three Thai operators of child abuse websites with more than 65,000 subscribers worldwide have been arrested as a result of cooperation between Thai police, Interpol, Australian, and U.S. authorities since 2018.

Thai police seized more than 500,000 photos of child sex abuse from a 28-year-old man who claimed to be an agent for child models last year – the largest cache ever discovered. Among the charges against the suspect are uploading obscene materials, attempted rape of a minor, rape of a minor, and child molestation.

According to Gen. Wiwat, the child-exploitation-porn industry is worth about 500 million baht (the U.S. $14.9 million) annually, based on the transactions under investigation.

“Online trade of sex and sexually related materials is easier than before,” he said.

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