Country information: Thailland
AT A GLANCE
514.000 square kilometres
65,91 million (July 2009)
Bangkok (6,9 million inhabitants 2006, agglomeration: 11,6 million)
Thai (other languages: English and many regional languages)
Gross national product per capita
US $ 8 500 (2008)
0.62 per cent per annum (2009)
73,1 years (2009)
17,6 per 1 000 live births (2009)
Rate of illiteracy
7 % (2007)
The tourist industry has become an extremely important source of foreign earnings. Individual tourists are just as important as mass tourism, with visitors coming mainly from Western Europe and North America. They are attracted by the varied cultural and religious sights, but also by the opportunities to relax and explore the attractive beaches. According to UNWTO in 2005, approximately 11,7 million guests visited the country and brought 8,1 billion Euro into the country.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism
Prostitution is a relatively new phenomenon in Thailand. In old Siam the aristocracy lived in polygamy, but in the villages monogamy was practised and sexual relationships were strictly controlled. Prostitutes only lived in a few cities, where they and their children were social outcasts. In 1950 there were only 20 000 prostitutes in the whole country, compared with about half a million today. After US military bases were located in Thailand during the Vietnam War, prostitution grew rapidly. With promises of good training or a job, more and more girls were lured from their villages to Bangkok, where debts, threats and violence forced them into prostitution. According to a police report, in 1974 some 400 000 women and girls from rural areas were working in the brothels of Bangkok. When American troops were withdrawn, the "sexual infrastructure" of the country concentrated on western tourists. There has also been an increase in child prostitution. More and more frequently, families from the North and North-east of Thailand sell their daughters to traffickers promising to provide them with well-paid jobs. It is not lack of scruples that leads the parents to take this step, but ignorance and desperation. According to realistic estimates, there are currently some 100 000 to 150 000 children in prostitution, mostly girls.
With increasing demand for child prostitutes, trafficking is a lucrative business, and children are brought to Bangkok from neighbouring countries, in particular from Burma, Laos, Cambodia and even from southern China.
The countries of Southeast Asia have a very high number of victims of child prostitution. According to UNICEF approximately one million children are forced to prostitution.
Prostitution is illegal in Thailand. The age of consent for sexual intercourse is 18, and offenders face up to 6 years in prison. Thailand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on March 27, 1992, and has undertaken to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Since the early 1990s there has been a government programme to protect rural children from prostitution by creating new employment opportunities.
HIV / Aids
With the increase in prostitution there are also fears that HIV and AIDS will spread further. According to estimates by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, at the end of 2007 there were some 610.000 Thais infected with HIV, including 250.000 women and 14.000 children. Thus the prevalence rate (0,9 per cent of the population) is with Cambodia one of the highest in Asia. In the same year, 31.000 Thais died following infection with HIV.
Despite these figures, western tourists still falsely believe that sex with children reduces the risk of becoming infected with HIV. But this misconception actually increases the risks for children, because in addition to the mental harm they suffer from being forced into sexual intercourse with adults, they are also likely to suffer serious physical damage. Few of them can cope with the hopeless situation in which they live. Drugs may help to forget the problems, but they also lower the bodies defences to illness, further increasing the likelihood of infection with HIV.
Terre des hommes-Germany, Co-ordination Office for Southeast Asia
Mr. Bert Cacayan, Ms. Itsaraporn Daoram (Thailand/Laos), Mr. Kanokphan Sarnkul (Burma)
127/4 Soi Charoenporn 2
Phone: +66-(0)2-2791663 or +66-(0)2-2791664
(Coalition to Fight Against Child Exploitation)
P.O. Box 178
Bangkok 10240, Thailand
Phone: +66 2 509-5792 or 947-7307
Fax: +66 2 519-2794
Project OutReach - Thailand
Soi Yamato 219/31 Box 14
Banglamung, Chonburi 20260, Thailand
Phone: +66 38 250 940
Fax: +66 38 250 934
Main contact person(s): G.S. Sean Parlaman (email@example.com)
Development And Education Program For Daughters And Communities
PO Box10, Mae Sai
Chiang Rai 57130, Thailand
Phone: + 66 053 733186
Fax: + 66 053 642415
Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights Foundation (CPCR)
185/16 Charansaitwong 12 Road
Bangkok 10600, Thailand
Phone: +66 2 412 1196 / 0739
Fax: +66 2 412 9833
19 Phra Atit Road
Chanasongkram, Phra Nakorn
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Phone: +662 356 9499 / 280 5931
Fax: +662 281 6032
CIVILIZATION AND CULTURE
State and society
Thailand has been a Kingdom since 1782, and since 1932 a constitutional monarchy, ruled since 1946 by King Bhumipol Adulyadej (Rama IX.). Executive power lies with a government and prime minister officially appointed by the King. There is an upper and lower house of parliament.
Every fifth Thai lives in the cities. The majority of the population live in the country without contact to modern infrastructure, and one third are below the poverty line. Of the children below the age of five years, 13 per cent are malnourished.
85 per cent of the population belong to Thai peoples, including Siamese, in addition there are Shan and Lao. Twelve per cent are ethnic Chinese, four per cent are Malay, three per cent are Khmer. There are a number of other ethnic minorities. The society is hierarchically structured.
Buddhism is the state religion in Thailand, but there is freedom of belief. The King, who is also religious head, must be a Buddhist. 94 per cent of the population are Buddhists (mostly Hinayana Buddhists), minorities are Confucianists and Moslems, few Thais are practising Christians.
The family plays an important role, and there are close lifelong ties to parents and siblings, based on love, respect and gratitude. There are clear hierarchies in the family, and parents and grandparents enjoy the highest respect. This is also a reflection of Buddhist beliefs.
Thailand has a good school system and high literacy rates. Secondary schools are available even in rural areas and state or private grants means that even children from poorer families can attend school for nine years. The government and non-governmental organisations have set up various training centres for school-leavers, in order to help them to find employment and make them less vulnerable to the lure of traffickers.
Thailand is on the threshold becoming an industrialised country and although economic growth has been tangible in recent years, the forced industrialisation has had its downside. New forms of poverty have arisen and the gap between poor and rich has never been greater. Migration to the cities has led to a disruption of village traditions and family structures. Rationalisation in agriculture has brought with it environmental destruction. In addition to rice, the main export product, more recently computer products, textiles and canned foods also play a role. Tourism is important, and is now the country's most important source of foreign earnings. Agriculture only accounts for ten per cent of the gross national product, although 60 per cent of the population are dependent on it.