A recent meeting of the International Labour Organization in Manila cited the growing number of reports of trafficking in children, organized trafficking networks and the increasing demand for younger children by the sex trade throughout Asia. But some people are staging a frontal attack on the abuse of children as Miguel Schapira of ILO Television explains.
Thailand's night life brings out many men like Amaleem. But while others are just looking for a good time, he is on the lookout for trafficked children forced into Thailand's notorious sex industry. Perhaps as many as 800,000 girls under the age of 18 are forced to work as prostitutes, held in slave-like conditions.
Amaleem Plengrusme, Director, Community Theatre Group
I love Thailand. I don't want to see children go to the sex trade. I don't want to see the foreigner come to Thailand and abuse children. And I want to do something because this is my birth country.
Amaleem directs the Community Theatre Project. With funding from the International Labour Org., the ILO, this troupe of young performing artists traverse the remote hills of northern Thailand. Tonight they are in Mae Sai, a town near the border with Myanmar. Through a mixture of traditional arts and dramatic storytelling, they send a warning to innocent village girls who may be tricked by offers of work and promises of a better life in the big city.
Those promises know no border. Increasing numbers of children are smuggled into Thailand from Laos, China and Myanmar for prostitution, begging, and other forms of work that the ILO has called the "worst forms of child labour".
Miguel Schapira, ILO TV News
For many people this bridge between the border of Thailand and Myanmar represents a passage to a better life; the hope of finding decent work. But for many, including children trafficked for prostitution, this bridge represents a gateway to hell.
Finding the way back from hell is not easy, but the ILO's Int'l Program to Eliminate Child Labour, IPEC has set up a program to combat child labour in the Greater Mekong Region that is weaving a new meaning into the lives of rescued children.
Prungchit Phanawathanawong, ILO/IPEC coordinator
Before Thai people, a lot of Thai people in this area also have been trafficking towards in the big city like Bangkok or Patuya. But now the trend is changed to target to the hill tribe people.
For Amaleem, reversing the trend means to be back to to the drawing board then back to the hills in his ongoing battle to save the children.