CHIANGRAI TIMES – Burmese refugees living in poverty in Thailand near the border with Myanmar are being targeted by child traffickers, who ‘rent’ their children to sell flowers in the Thai capital, Bangkok.
There are reports that traffickers are offering desperate Burmese families up to 5,000 baht (US$160) on the spot, followed by an additional 4,000 baht ($120) per month for their children to sell flowers in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok.
The rent-a-child deal usually lasts a few months, after which they are told that their children would return home. Many of the children found begging on the streets of Bangkok are not Thai children.
Instead what can be found are Burmese child vendors selling flowers and Cambodian children begging money from motorists, tourists and bar crawlers?
Witanapat Rutanavaleepong, manager of the Stop Child Begging project for the Mirror Foundation, stated that this was a part of the problem in that “Most of these children are not Thai. Thailand has a problem with child begging that is hard to solve because the authorities do not see it as a problem that affects their [the children’s] future or society.”
He went on to say that “They see them as only child beggars, but the girls and some boys often go on to become sex workers, and the boys often become traffickers themselves.”
He estimates there are at least 1,000 child beggars and flower sellers working in cities and tourist spots around the country. He claims that only three cases out of the 30 that he sees in a month involve Thai children.
According to the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), the total number of children begging and selling flowers in Thailand remains unclear, but that the problem is significant.
Lisa Rende Taylor, chief technical advisor for the United Nations Inter-agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) for Southeast Asia, said children are being rented or sold by their families or guardians, and then controlled in order to make money for someone, and whether or not permission was granted, these children are victims of trafficking.
According to an investigation by IRIN, many of the children also suffer abuse if they are seen to not sell enough.
Rende Taylor went on to say that “The definition of child trafficking is essentially the act of recruiting, harbouring, or receiving a child for the purpose of exploitation. The child could go along with it, the parents at home could go along with it – it doesn’t matter – there does not need to be deception or force. If it is a child, if someone receives and controls them, it is trafficking. You just have to walk the streets of Bangkok or Pattaya [a resort town] to know that this is still an issue.”
It is claimed that the typical payment for a rented child is reportedly around $25 a month. It has been particularly hard to crack down on the trade when there is a “revolving door at the border” of Thailand and Myanmar, and that there needs to be more of a focus on stopping the criminal perpetrators.