Need has increased for a structured approach to forensic science and the management of missing persons to better track disappeared children in Thailand.
Recent media coverage in Thailand of high profile murders and missing person cases has led to country wide discussions of how a more structured approach for identifying missing persons can help to bring more people home.
There have also been arguments that enacting immediate responses in the case of missing children will mean that police action during the first crucial hours of an abduction of a child will mean that more children are likely to be rescued and found safe.
Steps were taken when the Justice Ministry established a forensic science department and found itself heavily involved in identifying bodies during the 2004 Asian Tsunami.
As well, as of this past summer the Royal Thai Police launched its Missing Persons Management Center (MPMC).
The aim of the MPMC is to be a centre for sharing information on missing persons and on unidentified bodies, and also to collaborate with other authorities on investigating missing persons cases.
But the MPMC faces the serious challenge of overcoming the fact that in Thailand, someone going missing is not a crime.
As a result, authorities are often slow to take serious action, or they may take action only when they suspect that a missing person may be the victim of a crime.
Due to unreported cases, the Royal Thai Police records that show that only 1,168 people have disappeared since 2002, 138 having been found. Compared with Britain, which has a similar sized population to Thailand, records show that 200,000 missing persons reports are filed each year.
Thai regulations don’t specify a waiting period before a person should be reported missing, but police typically wait for 24 hours before accepting a report from family or friends.
Mr Eaklak, an acknowledged authority on human trafficking, claims that “We should break this tradition of waiting 24 hours. In the case of a missing child, the quicker you report, the greater the chances of finding him or her.”
The highest proportion of missing children in Thailand is between 11 and 15 years old.
Time and coordination are the two most serious factors affecting the ability of national bodies to track down and identify missing persons. Currently, there are currently two separate databases of missing persons and unidentified bodies.
One is the four-month-old MPMC, which comes under the Royal Thai Police. The other comes under the Central Institution of Forensic Science (CIFS), under the control of Ministry of Justice. The two databases are not linked.
A serious concern regarding missing children is that they end up being trafficked. In Thailand, human trafficking is a billion dollar business, which is 50%- 60% of the government’s annual budget and more lucrative than the drug trade.
Many women are girls are trafficked by international criminal syndicates.