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Child sex abuse and Trafficking in Chiang Mai

Child sex abuse seems to have become the hot topic of the moment with several events occurring that have bought this subject to the forefront globally. In the US, in operation Sunflower one hundred twenty-three victims of child sexual exploitation were identified by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE). Law enforcement agencies arrested 245 individuals during the operation.

Child Sex Abuse - Jimmy SavileHere in the U.K. a joint report between the NSPCC and the Metropolitan Police was released on Friday announcing the results of an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse made against Jimmy Savile. The report outlines abuses over a fifty year period including incidents at 13 hospitals and a hospice. According to the report 214 crimes were recorded across 28 police force areas, including 34 of rape or penetration.

Savile, who was a former BBC presenter and household name celebrity, received a knighthood in 1990 for his charity work. He died in October 2011 aged 84 before the allegations surfaced. The Police operation Yewtree is now focusing on a number of other UK celebrities who may have been involved in child sex abuse and several arrests have been made. However, in celebrity obsessed Britain, the operation has also produced something of a backlash with the victims being forgotten at the expense of a media feeding frenzy.

Following the recent arrest of another Savile associate a possible connection with Chiang Mai has also been revealed. This week also saw a meeting at Chiang Mai City Hall organized by Chiang Mai Office of Social Development and Human Security to plan the Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy. Represented groups included: Chiang Mai Shelter for Children and Families, Royal Thai Police Chiang Mai, Department of Labor Protection and Welfare, Office of the Attorney General, FOCUS Foundation, the Coordination Center in Protection of Women and Children’s rights and TRAFCORD Hopefully this will give the issue much needed new focus.

Another event in Chiang Mai this week was the arrest of a tuk-tuk driver who it is alleged has been procuring young homeless boys for a suspected foreign pedophile living in Chiang Mai. Meanwhile, the subject of child sex abuse in Northern Thailand also attracted local media attention with this well balanced article in Chiang Mai City News.

For those who don’t believe child sex abuse goes on in the paradise city of Chiang Mai, or who like to bury their heads in the sand, this report gives some details. Please take the time to view these videos which give two interesting perspectives. Journey into the child sex trade is an animation produced by HOTS. The artwork and story was produced by street children in Chiang Mai. The animation tells the harrowing story of a boy’s journey into the commercial sex trade.

Around the gay bars behind Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar, known locally as sleaze alley, young immigrants in Chiang Mai, Thailand find work in the underground sex industry which has become a magnet here for foreign pedophiles. One of the boys interviewed tells how he was coerced into the sex industry at only twelve years old (Hint:enable subtitles using CC button).

As gay people who love Chiang Mai we are always saddened to see stories like these about the city. Most of our gay friends in Chiang Mai, tourists, ex-pats and Thais are good people who largely respect the laws and find it abhorrent that a very small minority come to Thailand to exploit it’s vulnerabilities and sexually abuse young children.

Without exploiters and child sex abusers there would be no child traffickers

Part of the problem is the ambiguity of Thai laws, which foreigners exploit to justify their own actions. Their argument is that really the age of consent in Thailand is fifteen so there’s nothing wrong with having sex with a fifteen year old! WRONG! Where an older foreigner has sex with a much younger Thai it is deemed to be prostitution de facto and the penalties for paying someone under eighteen for sexual services are high. Indeed, an oft forgotten or ignored fact is that prostitution is illegal in Thailand period!

Moreover, in Thailand, many hook ups between foreign males and younger Thais occur in bars where the age for admittance and to drink alcohol is 20 years old. Surely encouraging people under twenty to come to bars is in direct violation of that law?

In western countries, even if the age of consent allows it, many regard it as morally reprehensible for a man in his sixties or seventies to have sex with a sixteen year old. Also, the reality is, it’s difficult to find a boy of such age who’s willing to participate in consensual sex. Why then do so many think it is acceptable in Thailand because they have the power and money to get what they want by exploiting teenagers?

Then there’s those who want to bend the rules to justify their actions, “boys of seventeen know what they’re doing so it’s OK, it’s the law that’s wrong”. Nice theory, but a dividing line has to be drawn somewhere. It’s obvious a teenager who is capable of making his own decisions the day after his eighteenth birthday, was equally capable the day before. But, in any civilized country the rule of law must prevail; it’s not for visitors to decide how the laws in a country where they are guests should be applied. Of course, Thai law enforcement is notoriously corrupt which further opens the door for visitors to ignore the law believing they can always buy their way out of trouble.

Chiang Mai has a further dynamic; many of the young men that foreigners meet are refugees from Burma or from a hill tribe without proper ID. Some of the worst excuses are those that foreigners come up with to justify their sexual encounters with such guys who may be under eighteen. “They are only Tai Yai so it doesn’t matter”, “they don’t have ID so who care’s how old they are”, “the Police don’t care about Tai Yai so there’s no risk of getting into trouble”, “they’re drug addicts so who cares”, “I wouldn’t risk it with a Thai, but hill tribe boys are O.K”, “they can’t complain because they’ll get deported”. The list of excuses goes on, and then there’s sometimes an unscrupulous bar owner who gets an ID/work permit for an underage boy that states he’s over eighteen.

With so much delicious mature fruit on the tree there is absolutely no need to pick that which is unripe

Sorry, but all the excuses are just unacceptable bullshit – there is NO excuse for going to another country and having sex with children. There just isn’t, it is that simple…. Let’s all be totally honest with ourselves, which is difficult because most gay ex-pats in Thailand are living in glass houses. Most went to Thailand because of the availability of willing younger Thai guys. A few find true love and have long term relationships, some have relationships based on sponsorship, whilst others enjoy readily available casual sex. Whichever way, there are plenty of available younger Thai gays above legal age who are happy to go with foreigners. With so much delicious mature fruit on the tree there is absolutely no need to pick that which is unripe.

If an older foreigner wishes to have consensual sex with a Thai guy over twenty years old it’s up to them. There is no issue, except to realise that Prostitution is illegal in Thailand and to act within the law. But for the apologists who trot out their excuses for going with younger guys, under eighteen, you are just plain wrong, wrong, wrong! No excuses whatsoever can justify such selfishness. And without exploiters and child abusers there would be no child traffickers.

The recent media coverage of child sex abuse and trafficking has sparked a debate about this issue among Chiang Mai’s gay ex-pats. Some are angered by the damage it does to the reputation of gay people when coverage of pedophilia attracts so much media attention. Others are not at all surprised when certain individuals are apprehended. This leads to the question if someone has suspicions that another ex-pat might be involved in child sex abuse why do they do nothing about it?

Turning a blind eye - childe sex abuse in Chiang Mai

Many ex-pats are unwilling to upset the apple cart in another country. The answers as to why so many child sex abusers in Thailand seem to carry on with impunity and no one does anything are un-palatable and reporting their activities is not easy. Sadly, without major changes in culture and the way laws are enforced, the collective blind eye will continue to be turned.

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