24 October 2014 - A bright colored van filled with educational materials and staffed by trained outreach workers is beginning to make a difference in the lives of street children in Pattaya, Thailand. The van - a mobile training unit donated by UNODC to the NGO Child Protection and Development Centre - provides support and basic school lessons that include sex education to street children living in slum areas of Pattaya, a popular tourist destination. The mobile training unit is also being used to educate parents and raise awareness of the dangers of families living on the streets.
"Street children are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation" said Margaret Akullo, UNODC Programme Coordinator in Thailand.
"In three months, one van equipped with training materials and videos has helped close to a 1,000 children become more aware of the dangers of living in the street - and what they can do about it, and who can help them," said Ms. Akullo.
Most of the street children in Pattaya come from poor families and have been forced to leave home and work on the streets to earn money for their family. Some street children are migrants from rural Thailand and nearby countries, while others are runaways from dysfunctional homes. Many have little access to education. Many of them have been trafficked. All are at a great risk of violence, trafficking, abuse, exploitation, drugs and HIV.
"About 830 children have benefited from the unit since we began using it in July," said Ms. Radchada Chomjinda, Director of the Child Protection and Development Centre that works to combat the sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking among street children. "Many of these children are Thai, with about 100 children from Cambodia and Myanmar."
The training unit will also enable staff to deliver crucial health and food supplies to remote areas. The Child Protection and Development Centre staff have a regular monthly travel schedule, reaching out not only to Pattaya slum areas but also to nearby communities.
In Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia, child sexual exploitation has been closely linked to the ever-growing regional and international tourism industry. UNODC works with member states, law enforcement officials and local NGOs to protect children and combat child sexual exploitation by building local staff knowledge and skills, supporting legislative reform, and enhancing cross-border cooperation so that law enforcement officials can more effectively investigate and prosecute child sexual offenders.