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Sex trade lures girls in early teens, Underage prostitution on rise in Isan

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Published: 12/12/2011 at 12:00 AMNewspaper section: News

A recent upsurge in the number of underage girl prostitutes in some northeastern provinces is causing concern, a children's rights advocate group says.

Many girls in their senior years at primary school (Pratom 5-6) and early years in secondary school (Mattayom 1-3) in the Northeast are engaged in the sex trade, not all of them voluntarily, says the Child Protection Foundation.

The numbers were especially high in Maha Sarakham, Udon Thani and Khon Kaen provinces, said Montri Sinthawichai, secretary-general of the foundation.

On Nov 24, the foundation received complaints from residents in tambon Wangdong of Maha Sarakham's Yang Si Surat district that young girls in their villages had been lured into prostitution.

The foundation's staff discovered many girls in primary school and secondary school were selling sex.

It was widely known that some college or university students were involved in the sex industry. However, Mr Montri said he was shocked to find so many girls under the age of 15 had also entered the business.

"Sex for sale does not happen in urban society only _ it has also spread to districts and remote towns," Mr Montri said. "They do not meet their clients in a department store any more. Now they do it in moo krata eateries [all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurants] instead."

One of the main problems in the teen sex trade was that many buyers did not care whether the girl was an adult or a child.

Teen prostitutes who entered the business for an extended period were also likely to persuade their friends to enter the sex trade too.

More importantly, some parents just did not care about their children.

"Our staff have talked to the parents of those young girls and were astonished that some of them did not feel sorry for their kids," Mr Montri said.

"They thought their child had gone down the wrong path and they could not do anything about it. So they just let it be. This attitude is dangerous."

Most girls entered the sex trade because they wanted money for cosmetics, clothes, mobile phones or other fashionable items, Mr Montri said.

The foundation rescued two 12-year-old girls last month from being lured into prostitution in Maha Sarakham.One of the girls was encouraged by a relative to enter the flesh trade, while the other girl began prostituting herself at the recommendation of a friend.

A police officer identified only as Poong was accused of paying both girls for sex.

Mr Montri has filed a complaint on behalf of the girls with the Crime Suppression Division, asking it to prosecute the officer involved. Other students who worked as prostitutes, who were older than the two girls, did not want help from the foundation, Mr Montri said.

He urged local authorities, especially child protection committees under tambon administration organisations, to play a bigger role in combating child prostitution. Police must find out where teen prostitutes meet their clients and hotel operators must be questioned as to whether they have a role, he said.

"Police may face difficulties making arrests because prostitution in many cases is a matter of mutual consent. The girls want to sell themselves, while the buyers agree to pay," Mr Montri said.


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