Most of us know our birth dates, where we are sleeping tonight and who are parents are. But for street children of Thailand, those three pieces of information are unlikely to be known.
The United Nations estimated that there is a population of 150 million street children worldwide. Due to Thailand’s growing population and economic issues, a large percentage of the street children reside in Thailand.
Street children in Thailand range from 1.5 to 18-years-old; all living on the street for various reasons. A study by The Nation found that although children are on the street for different reasons, the majority of them are because of family problems.
The economic crisis that hit Southeast Asia in the ’90s sent many families into a panic and scramble for money and resources. Though some street children are living with their families, a good portion of them is separated from their families.
World Street Children News published an article in which they interviewed a 14-year-old boy that was selling cigarettes and candy on the streets while living behind a school. When asked why he was living in such a harsh environment, he revealed that his family needed the money and living on the streets was cheaper.
Children just like this boy crowd the streets in Thailand, as well as other impoverished cities around the world. Begging to clean your shoes or car, sell you any item they can, or simply for money has become the only option for many children.
Unlike the 14-year-old World Street Children News interviewed, it is common that street children were dropped off at doorsteps as a baby and soon either ran away or were kicked out of the establishment. These children have no birth date, no family and no security.
Making matters worse, a majority of children dropped off to live on the street or in an orphanage are not registered at birth. Their lack of government records makes them, as UNICEF calls them, “invisible.”
With hundreds of undocumented children, the government easily overlooks the problems in its streets. Without any type of help or recognition, street children often fall into bad habits or are pulled into dangerous industries.
Drugs, theft and sex trafficking are three of the most prominent issues street children either join in on or are forced into. Drugs and theft are two options that many children turn to because of their situation. Often times older children teach younger ones how to properly steal in order to survive and introduce them to the drugs.
Sex trafficking, however, can be introduced into children’s lives in a variety of ways. Some, desperate for work and a way to live, turn to prostitution. By offering themselves up to the sex industry, they are commonly pushed further into it through sex offenders and traffickers.
A growing issue in Thailand among the sex industry is child pornography. Thailand currently has no laws restricting child pornography, and as a rapidly expanding genre, Thai films are frequently being shipped to countries with stricter laws. As this disturbing fad continues, more and more children are being pulled from the streets of Thailand to be used in pornographic films.
Since the economic crisis of the ’90s, Thailand has yet to return to a level of stability that they once had. By aiding the street children of the nation, Thailand could achieve the economic growth they once experienced.
Children growing up and becoming active in the Thai community would decrease the continual rate of malnourished and impoverished people in Thailand. Putting people back to work could help restart the economy and, in turn, decrease the future number of children living on the street.
Organizations like Kaya Children International, Family For Every Child, and Childlife are working to get children off of the street and into homes and schools where they can survive and prosper.
Providing the essentials to these children will allow them to grow, rather than struggle, and improve their nation and the world.
– Katherine Wyant