Thailand -- Comments on Legal Ages
This page needs to be cleaned up!!
Update 07-2002: We recently came across the following ... which contradicts much of what we have published ... we can't confirm or deny the contents -- but are including it as a FYI:
Montri Sinthawichai, secretary-general of the Child Protection Foundation, said a law on statutory rape was already in place. Those who commit statutory rape of girls under 13 could get anything from seven years to life behind bars.
Source: http://www.thailandlife.com/thaiyouth_66.html dated Jan 11, 2002.
Referrence: Section 277 of The Thai Penal Code: "WHOEVER has sexual intercourse with a girl not yet over fifteen years of age and not being his own wife, whether such girl shall consent or not, shall be punished with imprisonment of four to twenty years and fined between Bt8,000 to Bt40,000. "If the commission of the offence according to the first paragraph is committed against a girl not yet over thirteen years of age, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment of seven to twenty years and fine of Bt14,000 to Bt40,000 or imprisonment for life. "If the commission of the offence according to the first of second paragraph is committed by participation of persons in the nature of raping and/or murdering a girl, or by using weapons or explosives, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment for life."
Date: 5/20/97 Publication: The Nation Section: Local Legislative amendment set to outlaw male rape MEN who rape other men or boys may soon face penalties equal to those faced by men convicted of raping females. The Council of Social Service Ministers has agreed in principle to have the the Criminal Code amended so, in effect, males will also be considered the victims of rape under the law, Government Spokesman Warathep Rattanakorn said yesterday. Currently under Article 276 of the code, only those convicted of raping women face the maximum penalty of a 20-year prison term and/or a Bt40,000 fine. According to Article 278, any offender, regardless of gender, who forces a male aged over 15 years into a sexual act, is convicted only of sexual molestation, which carries the maximum penalty of a 10-year prison term and/or a Bt20,000 fine. Under the amendment, those who forcibly sodomise males over age 15 would face the penalty equal to those convicted of rape a 20-year prison term and/or a Bt40,000 fine. Cases where the victims are under 15, regardless of whether they give consent, would also carry the same penalty. Those who sodomise boys under 13, regardless of whether they give consent, would face a 20-year prison term and/or a Bt40,000 fine, or life imprisonment. Those people who perform other sexual acts on men against their will would be subjected to the same penalty as in Article 278. They would face a 15-year prison term and/or a Bt30,000 fine if the crime is committed on men younger than 15, regardless of whether they give consent. The council also agreed that penalties for those convicted of the possession or production of pornographic material should be increased in an attempt to eradicate child pornography, the spokesman said. The amendment would also include an amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code to ensure the protection of children's rights during police questioning, court testimonies and procedures, he said.
Thailand - Thaïlande - Tailandia
EDITOR: Update 09-2000
What the law says The following are penalties for offences relating to sexual crimes and child prostitution:1. The Criminal Code:Article 276: Those who rape women who are not their wives, either by coercion or physical violence, are liable to four to 20 years imprisonment or a fine of 8,000 to 40,000 baht. Article 283: If the same offence is committed on a child not yet over 15 years of age, the offender is liable to imprisonment of 10-20 years and a fine of 20,000 to 40,000 baht, or life imprisonment, or death. Article 287: Those possessing obscene publications or films for commercial purposes or distribution face a three-year jail term or a fine of not more than 6,000 baht or both. The penalty extends to those involved in the distribution of such publications and those who help advertise them. 2. The 1996 Prostitution Prevention and Suppression Act:Article 8: Those who rape or have sex in a brothel with children aged over 15, but not yet 18, with or without the consent of the children, are subject to one to three years imprisonment or a fine of 20,000 to 60,000 baht. If the victim is under 15 years of age, the offender is liable to 2-6 years imprisonment or a fine of 40,000 to 200,000 baht. Article 9: Those who lure or persuade others into prostitution face a jail term of one to 10 years or a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 baht. However, if those who are lured or persuaded into the trade are more than 15, but have not reached 18, offenders are liable to a jail term of five to 15 years and a fine of 100,000 to 300,000 baht. Where the victims are under 15, offenders face a jail term of 10 to 20 years and a fine between 200,000 to 400,000 baht. Article 10: Parents or guardians who are involved in offences according to Article 9 face a jail sentence of four to 20 years or a fine of 80,000 to 400,000 baht. Article 11: Owners or managers of brothels or those engaged in the prostitution business are liable to a jail term of three to 15 years and a fine of 60,000 to 300,000 baht. If the prostitutes are more than 15, but not yet 18 years of age, the owners or managers are liable to a jail term of five to 15 years or a fine of 100,000 to 300,000 baht. But if children under 15 are found in such places, the owners and managers face 10 to 20 years jail term or a fine of 200,000 to 400,000 baht. Article 12: Those who detain or deprive others of freedom, or use physical violence to force others into prostitution are liable to 10 to 20 years imprisonment or a fine of 200,000 to 400,000 baht. 3. The 1997 Constitution (concerning search and arrest operations):Article 237: In criminal cases, arrests can only be made with a court order, or when suspects are caught in the act. Charges must be filed as soon as possible and the suspect's kin or relatives must be informed immediately. Detainees must be brought to court within 48 hours after the arrest. Article 238: In criminal cases, a search must not be carried out in public places unless the police have court orders or there is good reason to allow the search without court orders.
And August 24, 1998:
Law banning prostitution not enforced stringently, seminar told Bar owners believed involved in sex trade Anjira Assavanonda Operators of nightspots where under-age prostitutes ply their trade should be taxed out of business, the secretary-general of the Children Protection Foundation said yesterday. Many people who operate discotheques, pubs, bars and nightclubs are believed to be involved in the sex trade, Montri Sintavichai told a seminar on the theme: Child Prostitution: Who Will Be Held Responsible? Under-age prostitutes are found not only in brothels but in nightspots frequented by the well-to-do, he told the seminar organised by Mahidol University's Faculty of Social Science and Humanities. "It is difficult to take action as such establishments are legal," said Mr Montri. "Therefore, one way to put a greater financial burden on the operators is through taxation, forcing them indirectly to close down. I believe this could reduce the number of under-age prostitutes." Mr Montri was supported by Pol Gen Kraisuk Sinsuk, deputy national police chief, who said a number of brothels have become entertainment places usually backed by influential people and officials, which made it difficult for the police to crack down on them. According to Mr Montri, the Anti-Prostitution Act is not enforced stringently and is riddled with loopholes. He cited a case in which police failed to arrest a child abuser since he did not have sex in the brothel. Further, the abuser might claim he did not know the prostitute was younger than 18 years because she used a fake identification card. Some problems stem from prostitutes who enter the sex trade voluntarily and refuse assistance from state officials or NGOs. Mr Montri said youngsters are generally lured into the sex trade, enter the business voluntarily or are pressured by their families. "The most worrying group is those who choose to enter the sex trade," he said. "They are obsessed with nightlife, drugs, alcohol, gambling and luxuries so they try to make as much money as possible to serve their needs. "And one way to fulfill their desires is to offer sexual services. These youngsters often reject our help and feel as if we are interfering in their private lives. Their number is increasing every day and they never think about quitting," said Mr Montri. Since this group has become more difficult to approach, the tax increase on entertainment places where they usually hang out could be an indirect means of pulling them out of the sex trade, he said. Other solutions are to teach children right-thinking concepts and to keep them in school as long as possible. Rehabilitation facilities are important to help those who want to quit and live normal lives in society.
And April 5, 1999:
CRIME / PROBLEMS ENFORCING THE LAW Struggle to curb under-aged prostitution Police cannot act without a tip-off Aphaluck Bhatiasevi and Wassayos Ngarmkham Police have admitted that it is difficult to enforce the law which makes having sex with under-aged prostitutes a crime punishable by imprisonment. Pol Maj-Gen Jongrak Chuthanont, deputy commissioner of Metropolitan Police Bureau, said yesterday that since sexual activities between male patrons and young prostitutes mostly occurred in such places as a motel or a massage parlour, it was almost impossible for the police to know about it without being tipped off by somebody. Even if police knew about the activities, the male clients must be caught in the act to be punished. However, Pol Maj-Gen Jongrak said, the law which came into force in 1996 might have discouraged men from using child prostitutes, resulting in a drop in the number of arrests. The law aims to impose harsher penalties against those trafficking in, patronising or profiting from prostitutes under 18. Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry said there are still at least 6,400 child prostitutes in the country, many of them from neighbouring countries. Vichai Chokewiwat, a senior official at the Communicable Diseases Control Department said a recent survey showed 10 percent of sex workers in Thailand are below 18 and considered child prostitutes. The survey, conducted throughout the country last January, states that there are about 64,000 sex workers in the country, a figure with 5-20 percent variability. Most of the sex workers are employed in restaurants and karaoke entertainments. The survey, often referred to as the most reliable source of information on prostitution in Thailand, went on to say that the number of male prostitutes is about 20,000 and mostly concentrated in four to five provinces attracted by foreign tourists. The government's brothel crackdown campaigns have pushed sex workers from direct establishments to work in restaurants, karaoke entertainments, barber shops, bars, nightclubs, pubs and traditional and modern massage parlours, said Dr Vichai Out of some 50 types of indirect sexual establishments, the ministry has focused a survey on 20, most of which are easily reached by health officials, he said. These include 3,000 restaurants, over 1,000 karaoke bars and 1,000 beer bars and nightclubs which offer sex in areas near their establishments in order to avoid the law, said Dr Vichai. "Most of them are advised to do so by the police so that the sexual establishment and the police can stay together," he said. Though the police continue to deny that direct sexual establishments continue to exist in the country, the Health Ministry's survey found 500 people continue to be employed as direct sex workers, 79 of them are employed in brothels in Bangkok. There were about 100 sex workers roaming around the Sanam Luang area in Bangkok and about 5,000 working in traditional massage establishments. The fear of being infected with HIV/Aids has reduced the number of men visiting sex workers, though the number of the so called "special service women" in the country has remained constant for the past few years, said deputy director-general of the Communicable Diseases Control Department Thongchai Temprasit. He however expressed concern over the increasing trend of VD in southern provinces, adding that there is fear that the Aids epidemic may also be on the rise. Quoting the survey results, Dr Thongchai said that a couple of years ago each sex worker had to entertain 4-5 customers a day. But the number has reduced to about one client per day, he said. Another survey conducted on 21-year-old young military recruits showed that the number of Thai men visiting sex workers decreased from 60 percent in 1991 to 12 percent in 1997. A study conducted by Mahidol University showed that Thai men commenced their sexual activities at the age of 29 years. It was previously 24-25 years. Confirming the decreasing trend of Thai men visiting sex workers, Venereal Disease Control Division director Anuphong Chitvarakorn said statistics obtained from VD clinics throughout the country show that the number of patients visiting the clinic decreased by 20 percent within a few years. Dr Anuphong said about 10 years ago, VD clinics treated some 380,000 persons per year, but the number of patients have plunged to 18,000 persons last year. Condom use among Thai men visiting sex workers has increased from 60 percent in 1993 to 98 percent in 1997. In a move to boost prevention campaigns against sexually transmitted diseases before the long Songkran holidays, the Ministry of Public Health has joined with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in campaigning and distributing condoms at various areas, outbound from Bangkok railway and bus stations between April 5-9.
And April 6, 1999:
All that activity, but no arrests Ever wondered why not one man has been arrested, tried and sentenced for using an under-age or child prostitute since the law was passed three years ago making the patronising of child prostitutes a crime punishable by imprisonment?The fact that not a single case has made it as far as the courts tends to raise more questions than it does answers. Could it mean that the law has been so effective that it has so scared the hell out of men that they no longer use young prostitutes if they are not sure if a girl is under or over 18 years old?Could it mean that men have become more morally responsible, or more faithful to their wives or girlfriends, or more health-conscious because of the Aids scourge that they have avoided visiting brothels or other vice dens frequented by young prostitutes?Could it mean that child prostitutes really are a thing of the past?The truth is that child prostitution is still flourishing. There are still plenty of child prostitutes even if they are not normally found in brothels these days. According to a survey conducted recently by the Public Health Ministry, there are about 6,400 child prostitutes, or roughly 10 percent of total prostitutes nationwide. And as we know all too well, official numbers tend to be conservative and unrealistic. The real number of child prostitutes may be several times higher. But what these figures do show is that there still is a demand for child prostitutes despite the tougher laws and Aids. And how heavy is this demand?Using simple arithmetic and basing it on the assumption that each child prostitute serves, say, four customers a day, the number of men frequenting young sex workers averages 25,600 a day. That's 25,600 breaches of the prostitution law committed each and every day. And yet not a single case has been brought to the courts. This is unbelievable. According to Pol Maj-Gen Jongrak Chuthanont, the deputy commissioner of the metropolitan police bureau, brothel operators now do not allow sexual activities between clients and child prostitutes on their premises. Most of the couplings between young women and their paying customers takes place outside, such as at motels, and there is no way police can know about these activities without being tipped off, he said. And the men have to be caught in the act before they can be punished-which does not occur as often as we would expect. To catch a sex worker in the act, police often pose as patrons. Having received the service, the officer hands the girl money which is marked and then makes an arrest. But this cannot be done with a male patron. The idea of using an under-age girl as bait to lure a patron may sound too outlandish and invite a public backlash. But there is no reason for police to be discouraged and lose faith in the law, which does have a deterrent effect. Even if men are rarely caught with child prostitutes, the police can still do more to curtail the problem of child prostitution-if not solve it-by hitting the other targets-the brothel operators, procurers and pimps-harder. But this will depend on the police going about their job very seriously and, more importantly, having the will to resist the bribes offered by those who make their fortunes in the flesh trade. Perhaps Pol Maj-Gen Jongrak is unaware of the disclosure by health officials involved in the survey that some unscrupulous police officers have advised brothel operators how to get around the law so that they can continue in the lucrative trade of making young women available. So law enforcers are just not catching culprits with their pants down, but actually are part of the problem themselves.
On Sept 27, 1999:
Facing the difficult truth Even with the most glaring evidence against them, many foreign paedophiles have escaped standing trial. But one organisation is working to tighten Thai laws in this area and ensure child victims get justice Ukrit Kungsawanich In February 1993, a police squad, tipped off by a Western informer, stormed into room 552 of a Pattaya hotel to find a 14-year-old boy lying half-naked next to a 66-year-old Swede-a retired civil servant named Bengt Bolin. In spite of the evidence, Bolin was granted bail by a Chon Buri court. He managed to get a new passport, jumped bail, and returned home. Following much publicity in his home country, Bolin was called to trial in 1995. The Swedish court requested the victim to testify-a near impossible task since the youngster was a vagrant and moved about. The order to appear in court was being made two years after the incident. Thanks to the studious work of Face-the Coalition to Fight Against Child Exploitation-the teenager was eventually located and chaperoned to Sweden. His testimony helped seal the case against Bolin who was found guilty. He was sentenced to three months in jail and ordered to pay the victim 150,000 baht compensation. The Bolin case was a first. It was the first time a sexually-abused minor had testified in person in a foreign court. It was also for Face, the small organisation founded by two Thais in April 1995, to monitor and follow up cases of foreign paedophiles in Thailand. Face was born out of the concern of social worker Sudarat Sereewat and lawyer Wanchai Roujanavong. After conducting research on child prostitution at the end of 1987, Ms Sudarat received a grant to form Ecpat-a campaign aimed at fighting child prostitution in Asian tourism. Working from the legal side, Ecpat continues to strive to encourage governments around the world to amend or pass laws to deal with this international issue of paedophilia and child prostitution. "Ecpat works hard, but it is not in their remit to follow up on cases of arrested paedophiles," said Ms Sudarat, secretary-general of Face. Recognising this gap, she left Ecpat and with help from prosecutor Mr Wanchai, set up Face. "According to my research, more than 5,000 foreigners visit Thailand each year to have sex with children, both boys and girls," said Ms Sudarat. "Even though there is more public awareness about this issue now, many of these people get away with the crime," she added. While Face is committed to working to strengthen local laws to protect the rights of children, it also actively monitors the progress of cases. Ms Sudarat said: "People ask us why we only focus on foreign paedophiles since there are Thai paedophiles, too. "The reason is, because these tourists, mainly Japanese, are willing to pay a lot to have sex with virgin children. Some Japanese will pay as high as 20,000 baht." Such willingness to pay, which far eclipses what local paedophiles will pay, provides a high incentive for pimps to lure or force more children into the business. Face also works to raise public awareness and change attitudes towards child exploitation and commercial sex. Many Thai people, she said, seem somewhat apathetic about the issue. "When the case of Bolin broke in Sweden, his face was on the front page of almost every newspaper there the very next day," said Ms Sudarat. In addition, a Danish TV crew even made a documentary film entitled Pattaya Room 552. "Here, though, people paid scant attention to the news. Only one newspaper in Thailand reported the story-and it appeared as a small item on an inside page. This shows Thai people are apathetic about this problem," she said. The attitude, said Ms Sudarat, was well illustrated by comments from a Thai official involved in the trial of Bolin. "This man told me I shouldn't be furious that Bolin got away [from Thai legal action]. He said, 'Unlike a girl, the boy has nothing to lose, also he got paid for it'," Ms Sudarat said. She said, Face also lobbies for improved legal procedures so the process at court level is more efficient and effective. "We want to speed up court procedure so it's more likely the alleged abuser and the victim are around so legal action can in fact take place," she said. Many youngsters involved in the flesh trade are homeless and so do not stay in one place for long. This, however, does not mean they should not enjoy the same legal protection of other children. "When arrests take place, to make the court case possible, the abused children are sent to stay in a rehabilitation centre. But these youngsters can't stand it too long, and many times they abscond from the shelter," said Ms Sudarat. The same also goes for the accused, like in the Bolin case. "If we can lessen the complications of the government paper work, we can actually retain these people in Thailand and see them brought to justice." Despite many obstacles, Face has things to celebrate. Over the last three years, the organisation had put more than 10 foreign child molesters behind the bars of local prisons. One of them was Frazer Darling, a British teacher in a Bangkok school. His involvement in molesting school boys was exposed, and with the help of Face who worked side by side with the court and police, he was sentenced to 33 years in a Thai prison. Apart from their commitment to monitoring and advocacy, Face also has a public campaign to raise awareness via education, the mass media, government agencies, and NGOs to end child prostitution in Thailand. In order to work more effectively, Face has formed a network with other organisations like Child Workers in Asia, the Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights, and the Development & Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre. Despite its successes, Face remains realistic in its goals. "To totally end child prostitution in Asia may be impossible since we are fighting against such powerful forces like traditional beliefs, and money," said Ms Sudarat. However, she said, society must pay greater attention to the problem of child sexual abuse for several reasons. "Youngsters who are sexually abused are much more likely to become abusers themselves-venting their frustration and anger on other children who are defenceless." With many anti-paedophile bills pending in parliament and many laws due to be amended, Face's mission is far from over. "When we can change the attitudes of the judges and get rid of corruption, our children will be protected from commercial sex operations and trafficking," said Ms Sudarat.
"After midnight, girls aged 13-15 in party dresses are found waiting
for customers at Patpong and in front of Robinson
On Sept 22, 1999:
EMAIL RECEIVED: Subject: Thailand´s age of consent Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1999 11:17:31 +0200
Thailand¨s age of consent is 15 years old, but if money or presents are involved it is 18 y-o for anyone
EDITOR NOTE: Spelling and grammar errors left as received.
In Thailand, the approach to protective legislation has also involved amendments to the Penal Code. There has been a firm governmental commitment since 1993 to eliminate child sexual exploitation. Amendments to the Code at that time provided serious penalties for those who engaged ill the sexual abuse of children and updated the laws on pornography. New amendments this year (1996) ~vil1 mean that while pro stitution per se will no longer be a crime in Thailand, soliciting and publicising for the pu~~oses of prostitution will be punishable.
Engaging in prostitution with a person under the age of 18 will be punishable if the act takes place "in a place of prostitution". However, if the act takes place elsewhere, the age of consent is 15.
Boy children continue to lack adequate protection in that rape and unlawful sexual intercourse can not be committed against male children, by virtue of a judicial interpretation of the provisions of the Code.
A green harvest of a different kind by Kamol Hengkietisak Bangkok Post: March 20, 1994 (Page 17) `Tok khiew' or "green harvest" originally meant "pledging green paddy" for loans. The term had been used extensively for decades as a symbol of the farmers' hardship. It was often the case that most farmers did not have enough to sustain themselves while waiting for their paddy to mature enough for harvest. So they pledged their green paddy in the field to the local money men, usually rice millers, as a mortgage in return for a sum of money at a very deep discount, often up to 50 per cent of the actual value of the harvest. Recently the term `tok khiew' has acquired a new sinister meaning. Instead of pledging green paddy, farmers pledge their young daughters, often 12-13 years old, to the procurers in return for money or other material things such as houses or pick-up trucks. The young girls may be pledged when they are still in school or as young as Prathom 5 (grade 5). When they finish the compulsory Prathom 6, these young girls will be sent to serve the flesh market in Bangkok or other major provinces, including Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hat Yai and Phuket. They have to work as prostitutes in brothels, or any other disguised brothels such as short-time hotels, restaurants, tea-houses, massage parlours, cocktail lounges, membership clubs, and karaoke bars for a number of years to pay off their (parents') debts. Recognising that Thailand will never be able to rid itself of the problem of prostitution, Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai nevertheless, insisted very early in his term that he would like to see the problem of child prostitution licked during his administration. "I understand that it is near-impossible to get rid of prostitution in this country due to several reasons, but at least we can do something about child prostitution. "My government will never tolerate child prostitution, and those government officials who fail to carry out this policy will be harshly dealt with," vowed Chuan. Interior Minister Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh echoed Chuan's remarks and warned police officers to urgently tackle the problems or else face disciplinary action. Seeing their superiors were serious about the child prostitution problem, the police began to crack down on child prostitutes. Those prostitutes who did not have ID cards would face arrest, and if they were aliens -- usually Burmese or Chinese -- they would face deportation. In this country, every Thai citizen has to register for a National Identity Card when they turn 15. So if a prostitute does not have an ID, she is considered a child or an alien. Either way, she can no longer work openly as a prostitute. Chuan did specify the age of a child prostitute, but the police seem to consider 15 as the minimum acceptable age as the National I.D. Card bestows the title of `Nai' or "Mr" for males and `Nang Sao' or "Miss" for female card-holders. Below the age of 15, a boy is known as `Dek Chai' and a girl has the title of `Dek Ying'. From a legal standpoint, 13 is considered the minimum age that a child can be engaged in sex with a partner if his or her parent consents. Eighteen is the minimum age of consent without parental approval. So a paedophile (one who is sexually attracted to children) can engage in sex with a child prostitute with no punishment if the child is at least 13 years old. As 15 is the most convenient age for checking the age of child prostitutes, police often raid entertainment places and check the ID cards of those girls who work there. Police raids were carried out quite often when Chuan first made his policy stance and died down as time went by. The raids began to pick up again when Pol Gen Pratin Santiprabhob was appointed acting police director-general in November, and was again intensified when the new police restructuring went into force in late January. When it seemed to die down, the issue of police kickbacks in Chon Buri rekindled the flame and the police began to conduct raids of various entertainment places again to check for child prostitutes. For the past month, the issue of `tok khiew' began to emerge officially. On February 17, there was a meeting at the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare attended by several government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the problems of prostitution and the trade of human flesh. Arthorn Chanthavimol, deputy permanent secretary of Education, revealed that after April 15, the traditional Thai New Year, there will be a new batch of girls entering the flesh trade as the newcomers will follow the senior prostitutes when they visit home. Arthorn said that there are about 1,000-1,500 young girls from Chiang Rai likely to enter the oldest profession, approximately 1,000 from Phayao and some more from other provinces. "The ministry has figures as compiled by our teachers that tell us that already there are over 2,000 young girls who are already pledged [tok khiew]. These young girls are only 13-14 years old. They are completing Prathom 6 and some of them were pledged when they were still in Prathom 5," he said. Laddawan Wongsriwong, a woman MP and native of Phayao Province, admitted the problem of `tok khiew' is very widespread in the North, including Phayao. "When a girl was born into a family, there would be a celebration because the girl, especially if she is good-looking, will bring wealth and prosperity into the family," she said, acknowledging that the problem has been going on for a long time. "The procurers are getting sophisticated. They usually have an agent within a village who will act as a middleman, but more likely the agent is a woman who is a former prostitute herself. The agent will approach a family with pretty young girls who are still in school. They may even offer to build houses or give a pick-up truck as an advance for the very pretty ones," she said during a recent TV programme highlighting the issue. Siriphorn Panyasen, a noted social worker from Lampang, said that the problem of `tok khiew' was not easy to solve as senior prostitutes were often recruiters and that parents of the young girls enjoy the luxurious lives brought on by their children's sex labour. "Instead of thinking that it is morally wrong, they [young girls] think only of gaining material comforts that their bodies can bring for them and their family," she said, adding that girls are taught to obey their parents and would be considered a good child if she can repay her upbringing. Samphan Thongsamak, minister of Education, said that apart from poverty, `tok khiew' could be attributed to copycat fashion as young girls saw some successful prostitutes coming home with riches. "Those who are not successful and/or catch dreaded diseases such as Aids would keep quiet," he said while presiding over the ceremony to expand educational opportunities in Chiang Rai on Thursday. Pol Lt Gen Prasarn Wongyai, commissioner of Police Region 5, revealed that the agent would `tok khiew' in the form of personal loan contract while girls are still in school. The police could not do anything as the loan contract is not illegal. Another method is to marry the young girls and then sell them as prostitutes in Bangkok, but this method works only once as most rural folks are now aware of such a trick, he said. However, Pol Lt Gen Prasarn discounted press report that some policemen are `tok khiew' agents themselves. "Tell me who and I will punish them harshly," he said. Asst Prof Napaporn Thavanond from Chulalongkorn University, during the TV programme "To the Point" last Monday, said that people should not judge those parents who sell their daughters from a high moral ground as they did not have much opportunity in their lives. "In my research, rural folks now don't love rural ways of life as agriculture only brings on mounting debt. For this reason, `tok khiew' is understandable if a family wants to have a better material life," she said. Boonserm Thavornkul, Chart Thai MP from Phichit, blamed the system which allowed local moneymen to charge astronomical interest rates which forced most farmers into heavy debt, the only way they could get rid of these debts was to sell their daughters for prostitution. On the same TV panel, Saphasit Khumpraphan of the Children Foundation, said that the problem of `tok khiew' cannot be attributed to the supply problem alone. Demand should also be considered as the main cause. "If there is no demand for child prostitutes, do you think these young girls can sell their bodies?" he asked. Arthorn Chanthavimol, who was the first to raise the `tok khiew' issue officially, said that the NGOs and Chiang Mai University are trying to solve the `tok khiew' problem by giving scholarships to young girls to continue their secondary education for three more years. The amount is 3,000 baht per head. The target is 1,000 potential young prostitutes. Yet he conceded this amount was not enough. "10,000 baht is more realistic. I think the government should invest by helping these 2,000 young girls at the tune of only 20 million baht a year, which will be cheaper than paying for Aids treatment in the future." MP Laddawan agreed that more scholarships are needed for young girls' families. But they should be supplemented by occupational training. "I have helped set up women's sewing cooperatives in Phayao. Young girls will be trained to make clothes, and we try to find orders for regular employment," she said. However, she conceded that her job was not easy. "When I went door to door to explain the evils of `tok khiew' I was often met with a hostile reception from certain families who are getting rich from selling their daughters. "I was even threatened by these families that they would not vote for me during the next election as they thought that I caused them to lose face," said the MP who garnered the largest vote in the province. "But I am ready to lose a few thousand votes as I don't want my province to be known as the supplier of young girls for child prostitution," she said, adding that more and more families are beginning to understand her sincerity in trying to help them. MP Boonserm said the Government should help get rid of farmers' debts and provide them with low-interest loans. He also urged the government set up more training centres and industrial estates in the provinces. Saphasit said the solution must begin with the patrons. He advocated allowing guest workers from Burma to bring their wives along so that they do not have to rely on prostitutes. For foreign tourists, the TAT should make sure that no travel agents supply any details on prostitution to their customers. Saphasit reserved the harshest criticism for the lifestyles of Thai men who frequent brothels -- either directly or disguised as entertainment places such as cafes, membership clubs, or karaoke bars. "We should inculcate the young men with an attitude of 'the New Generation Won't Patronise Prostitutes'. Support groups should be created in universities to change the attitude of having sex with prostitutes as part of an initiation rite. "For the attitude change to be successful, `Phu Yai' [elders] must set an example, especially senior government officials," he said. Asst Prof Naphaphorn said `tok khiew' exists because of the network. The only way to break up the network is to get rid of the agent. "Even in schools, some students themselves act as agents, supplying young girls to clients who are waiting in hotels. The young girls are not professional but want pocket money to have fun in pubs and dance halls. "If there are no agents, they could not become prostitutes as they don't know the route, however much they are willing," she said. Naphaphorn agreed with social pressure measures. "We should start condemning those who frequent child prostitutes, starting with friends or close associates," she said. Naphaphorn also advocated creating jobs in rural areas and expanding educational opportunities three more years. Minister Samphan believes in extending education as one of the preventive measures. While in Chiang Rai on Thursday, he requested the cooperation of respected monks in urging parents to continue their children's' education three more years. He also urged the police to take strong measures against `tok khiew' agents who are well-known locally. Samphan also urged monks to stop praising young prostitutes when they return home temporarily to make `khatin' (annual) merits, as this continuing praise sets a bad example. The minister even proposed bringing parents of potential `tok khiew' to come to Bangkok to witness with their own eyes the real conditions in brothels, tea houses and bars. Saphasit of the Children Foundation said that the problem of `tok khiew' was not easy to solve as long as the tradition of selling daughters continues. "It's no use rescuing the girls and bailing them out if their mothers continue to sell them back to the procurers," he said sadly.
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Legislation against child sex tourism
In April 1996, the Royal Thai Government of Thailand passed stringent anti-prostitution laws with the most severe penalties reserved for those involved in child prostitution. Now customers, procurers, brothel owners, those who force children into prostitution and even parents, face long prison sentences as well as large fines. The penalties under Thailand's new Prostitution Prevention and Suppression Act are as follows:
Chapter Three: Migrant Children in
Prostitution in Thailand
Section 11. Whoever is the owner of a commercial sex
establishment, the manager of a commercial sex establishment, or the organizer of
commercial sex activities shall be penalized with a term of imprisonment from five years
to fifteen years and a fine from one hundred thousand baht to three hundred thousand baht.
If the commercial sex activities or commercial sex establishment under paragraph one
involves or employs a child of not more than fifteen year for the purpose of commercial
sex, the term of imprisonment is from ten years to twenty years and the fine from two
hundred thousand baht to four hundred thousand baht.
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