Seeking ways to end abuse
Last month, I met Queen Silvia of Sweden. It was an encounter that I never expected, and it was a meeting that changed the way I view the world. It wasn't for anything regal or fancy. It was for something much more profound. Queen Silvia, visiting as the founder and chairman of the World Childhood Foundation, was in Thailand with her team to shine light on the issue of child sex abuse.
It's a gut-wrenching topic to talk about, but in order to create any positive change to the situation, we need to know what's going on.
Worldwide, one in five girls and one in 10 boys are subject to sexual abuse. Nineteen percent of those children are raped when under 18 years old, 71% in their preteens (under 13), and most disturbingly, 10% are infants under four years of age.
Thailand, as many (wilfully ignorant politicians and corrupt officials) aren't willing to admit, has been a paradise for paedophiles worldwide. We have a strong reputation for engaging in one of the largest child sex abuse operations in Southeast Asia, and according to Unicef, it estimates that the number of Thai children involved in this horrid industry are between 60,000 and 200,000 children.
Making matters worse, of course, is the internet. The "deep web", as it's called, is a cesspit of the most vile materials this world has to offer. According to a study of child sex abuse material (aka "child pornography") by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), paedophile web boards are growing, getting more violent and targeting younger and younger victims. In the presentation, which I attended, the UNODC presented a censored photo-album of two adult men raping a two-year-old boy. Is your blood boiling now?
Faced with information like this, all I can ask is why? Why would anyone do this? Why is it increasing in number? And why isn't anything being done about this?
It seems like a hopeless fight, but there may be a silver lining. In 2015, after 10 years of campaigning by lawmakers, Thailand's National Legislative Assembly passed a penal code amendment to criminalise the possession, sharing and production of child sexual abuse material. We are the first Southeast Asian country to make child sexual abuse material illegal -- aligning with many other developed countries in the world. And the only thing left is to implement it.
Yet, as Thailand's judicial processes go, it's been a slow start. A few arrests have been made, including a suspected member of a large Japanese paedophile ring. What needs to happen is for this trend to continue. Judges, police, prosecutors, lawyers and judges need to work together and secure implementation of the law. They need to use their brains and their hearts to convict these abusers -- as time and time again, they are bailed out to do the exact same thing. By locking them up, it will show that Thailand doesn't tolerate child sex abuse anymore. And as Thailand becomes an increasingly ageing society, children are what's left of the country's hope and future. The trauma caused to these children leads to deep psychological scars, resulting in depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and even early death. If no one is willing to protect them now, what will their and the country's future become?
If they believe that extra money in their pockets sounds better than protecting a child's life, then they'll definitely have a special place in hell to rot in.
Thankfully, there are people like Queen Silvia and her heroic team paving the way to help children by removing them from their abusive environments and rebuilding their social fabric with amazing volunteers and social workers.
As normal citizens we can also do something. If anyone comes across child pornography or circumstances that you suspect may include child sexual abuse, please, call the Thai Police at 1911, or make an online report at ThaiHotline.org. Make these people do their jobs. The Royal Thai Police has the Thailand Internet Crimes Against Children task force, supported by the FBI and US Homeland Security to combat sexual exploitation via the internet.
We can't let abused children continue to suffer like this.
Apipar Norapoompipat is a feature writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
Apipar Norapoompipat is a features writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.