Following up on my blog post "Child porn goes beyond Bangkok's sleazy street vendors", I have been corresponding with an NGO called Heart of the Street (HOTS), a community-based organisation in Chiang Mai working to fight the commercial sexual exploitation of vulnerable street children in Northern Thailand.
The comments from my source at HOTS are worthy of their own blog post because they are honest and very much to the point. Have a read:
HOTS is aware that child abuse images (child pornography) have been made available for sale at locations in Northern Thailand in a more discrete manner to that mentioned in the article in the Bangkok Post.
As you may have noticed from our website, we launched a highly visible campaign entitled "Stop the child sex trade. Take action…report offenders" in 2006. The campaign is ongoing in a limited capacity. Although this campaign was considered to be effective at raising awareness and mobilising people to report offenders, we identified major systemic problems that need to be address if any child protection measures are to have any real impact in preventing children from being sexually exploited.
As a community organisation we work with the community — within the limits of local cultural practices and against a backdrop of corruption, poverty, weak law enforcement and indifference to the problem faced by exploited and at-risk hill tribe children. Working within this challenging reality however, has helped HOTS to stay focused on the deeper issues that need to be addressed to help deal with this problem effectively and in a culturally appropriately manner.
Subtle cultural complexities have a fundamental role in this problem and often paralyse or create obstacles to child protection measures — the true extent of this is difficult for foreigners to fathom and for locals to elucidate to those outside their social fabric of existence. Despite this debilitating factor to child protection, there are a few local groups and individuals who are managing to steer a way through this challenging time in Thailand.
The media certainly have a crucial role to play in helping prevent the sexual exploitation of children. However, the media also have to be educated on child protection measures to truly understand how to portray children appropriately whilst trying to shift public perception in an empowering manner, otherwise, the media risk perpetuating the situation for vulnerable children in countries like Thailand. Working to the ethical standard as recommended in the IFJ and UNICEF guidelines for media professionals working with vulnerable children will ensure that the media create a more positive impact for the children they hope to help and protect through their efforts.