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Child Prostitution A Major Risk To Asean Tourism

June 28, 2000 · 

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Bangkok — ASEAN nations working to stamp out child sex tourism must form national task forces to co-ordinate efforts to fight the abuse, a World Tourism Authority (WTO) official said.

The task force proposal was one of the recommendations made at a two-day conference of child protection activists, tourism authorities and legal experts, which concluded in the Thai capital recently.

Organisation’s chief of quality tourism development Henryk Handszuh urged authorities in the WTO’s 138 member states to co-operate in fighting against the scourge of child sex abuse at tourist
resorts.

Thailand had shown an especially strong determination to fight the problem by responding “energetically” to the issue and trying to change the nation’s image as a destination for sex tourists, he said.

Handszuh said the nature of child sex tourism worldwide had also changed in recent years, from an industry organised through tour companies to one that has taken root locally in tourist destinations such as Thailand.

“Sex tourism, especially among children, has stopped to be organized within the tourism industry,” he said. “Now it’s everywhere. Thanks to the Internet, paedophile groups work together to help one another.”

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) director of market services Suraphon Svetasreni said he hoped to establish a new “Action Awareness Network” to monitor and report child sex offences.

Suraphon said Thai authorities wanted to stop child sex tourists before they set foot in Thailand, adding that the crime was a widespread social problem and not the sole responsibility of the tourism industry.

“We want to stop it if we know one particular group is going to travel (here) for the sexual exploitation of children,” Suraphon said. “We want to stop them before they go, not try to tackle it when they’re here.”

Attorney General’s Office executive director Wanchai Roujanavong urged Thailand’s national carrier and other airlines to show in-flight videos warning travellers not to engage in child sex tourism.

“They don’t want to disturb the customers with this heinous or unpleasant story, but we have a different view,” he said at the conference. “We think the airline that shows this kind of campaign shows that it is a responsible airline, that it can speak openly and say it doesn’t want to support this.”

TAT governor Pradech Phayakvichien opened the two-day forum, saying that the problem was a core issue for the industry.

Pradech said about one in five of Thailand’s estimated 70,000 to 200,000 prostitutes were under the age of 18, meaning there are some 14,000 to 40,000 child sex workers in the country.

(From the files of Agence France Presse)

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