A record number of minors were rescued from online child sex abuse over the past two months in Thailand, with predators taking advantage of kids being at home and online more often due to the covid-19 lockdown measures.
The Task Force Internet Crimes Against Children (TICAC), led by police, announced that they had rescued more than 100 children from online cybersex predators over the past two months.
To put those figures in perspective, the TICAC rescued 53 underage victims from online sexual abuse in the whole of 2018, which was the highest annual figure since the organization was created in 2016.
Pol Col Thakoon Ninsomboon, head of the TICAC, said that unemployment and children staying home from school have contributed to the high number of cases. He said:
“Children aren’t going to school, and criminals are taking advantage of this to look for income during unemployment.”
Another issue is the widespread availability and affordability of high-speed internet and the rise in mobile phone ownership among young people.
These accessible commodities have led children from Thailand to be exploited via live streaming for clients who pay to watch or interact with the child.
Since the middle of April this year, officials have seized more than 150,000 files of underage pornographic and abuse materials.
The worsening situation has led to calls for better child education regarding internet safety for both parents and children.
Since 2016, the TICAC has investigated more than 280 cases relating to online abuse of children. Eighty-one of those cases related to human trafficking.
The HUG Project, a charity that assists trafficked children, has called on the government to provide better care and education for children using the internet in schools and at home.
Wirawan Mosby, Director of the HUG Project, believes that the law needs to stop child grooming before it happens and focus on prevention rather than prosecution after the fact. She said:
“Having such high figures is not something to be proud of, and law enforcement is not solving the problem at the root cause. Since we don’t have this law yet, children need to become victims first in order to press charges (towards the offender). This is why we need to focus on prevention and educating children.”
There have been numerous high-profile child abuse cases across Thailand over the past few weeks, including two young girls gang-raped by their teachers in Mukdahan and a 12-year-old girl who was sexually abused by family members.
Such cases have led to calls for harsher punishment toward perpetrators of rape, including chemical castration.