Disrupting Harm report in Thailand: Online sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Thailand is underreported

A student sit under a tree to use the internet at Little Bay Primary and Infant school. On Monday, September 7,2020. Little Bay is a mainly fishing community located in the parish of Westmoreland, the western end of the island of Jamaica. An online programme for teachers supported by UNICEF aims to improve remote learning best practices on the island, where schools were closed due to COVID-19. The pandemic put the spotlight on inequities in the local education sector, highlighting the digital divide on the island.

BREAKING –  Online sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Thailand is underreported, with only 1- 3% of children disclosing experience told the police.

“The interview [about my experience of online sexual abuse] took place in the police station at the front desk to receive reports; there were around 10 people there, [including] two male police officers and five of my friends.” – child survivor of online child sexual exploitation and abuse

Ground-breaking research delivered by ECPATINTERPOL, and the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, funded through the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children’s Safe Online Initiative, Disrupting Harm in Thailand is an evidence-led report that outlines the harrowing realities of online sexual exploitation and abuse of children in Thailand.

Key findings in the Disrupting Harm in Thailand report include:

  • Children and caregivers are not reporting online sexual abuse.
    • Between 10% – 31% of children (aged 12-17) who had experienced online sexual exploitation and abuse in the past year did not disclose the most recent incident to anyone.
    • Only 17% of caregivers surveyed said they would report to the police if their child experienced sexual harassment, abuse, or exploitation online.
  • Children are being subjected to horrific experiences of online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Why aren’t they reporting it?
    The main barriers to disclosure reported by children were a lack of awareness around where to go or whom to tell.
  • 47% of children surveyed said they would not know where to get help if they or a friend were sexually assaulted or harassed.
  • What are the experiences of those who are reportingExperiences leave some children feeling ashamed, blamed, and silenced.
    • Testimonies from some child victims interviewed show that they feel they are held responsible for the online sexual exploitation and abuse they endured and are rarely considered to be a victim. They shared they believe these views to be held among law enforcement officials and the general public in Thailand.
    • Victims in Thailand continue to face their abusers in court. Children that had to attend court sessions reported the harrowing ordeal of having to sit in the courtroom and confront their offenders.
    • Despite child-friendly, victim-centric investigation techniques and victim identification procedures being standardized and in place in Thailand, they were not consistently applied by the police.
  • At least 9% of internet-using children aged 12-17  (approximately 400,000 children) were victims of grave instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse in the past year alone.
    • This includes blackmailing children to engage in sexual activities, sharing their sexual images without permission, or coercing them to engage in sexual activities through promises of money or gifts.
    • 7% of 12-17-year-old internet users in Thailand were offered money or gifts to engage in sexual activity in person over the past year. Among the children who received such offers, 76% said they were contacted via social media, most commonly on Twitter followed by Facebook and TikTok.
    • 7% had been offered money or gifts for sexual images in the past year. Most offers received through 84% of these requests that came on social media came on Facebook or Facebook messenger.
    • 10% were asked to talk about sex or sexual acts with someone when they did not want to in the last year. 70% of these children reported negative feelings about this experience, the most common being feeling guilty, scared, annoyed, and distressed.
    • Offenders are most often people already known to the child. Individuals, unknown to the child, accounted for around one-fifth of cases.

Disrupting Harm in Thailand recommends urgent action, education, and support to tackle this issue. The report recommends:

  • The government of Thailand should appoint a government body to centralize and lead online child sexual exploitation and abuse response and prevention. The response should include a dedicated law enforcement unit for online child sexual exploitation and abuse cases, staffed by specialized officers with technical training for prosecutors, judges/magistrates, lawyers, courtroom staff, child protection officers, medical staff, frontline social workers, and teachers to help them better understand their role in cases of online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Destigmatizing conversations about sex and adapting existing awareness and education programs about sexual exploitation and abuse of children to familiarise people with online child sexual exploitation and abuse and the role technology might play in facilitating it.


About Disrupting Harm

In early 2019, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, through its Safe Online initiative, invested $7 million to develop Disrupting Harm, a holistic and innovative research project that aims to better understand how digital technology facilitates sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Safe Online brought together and funded three organizations – ECPATINTERPOL, and the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti – to undertake new research in 13 countries across Eastern and Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. This type of holistic research and assessment is new and unique. The methodology developed for these assessments has been implemented across the 13 countries and can be used by other countries in the future.

The full report can be read here: https://www.end-violence.org/disrupting-harm#country-reports


(*) Definition of OCSEA:
Online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) refers to situations involving digital, internet, and communication technologies at some point during the continuum of abuse or exploitation. OCSEA can occur fully online or through a mix of online and in-person interactions between offenders and children.

For more information, please contact:

Rangsima Deesawade, ECPAT International, 02 215 3388, Rangsimad@ecpat.org

Sirinya Wattanasukchai, UNICEF Thailand, 084 700 0185 swattanasukchai@unicef.org

Photo credit

UN0352057: UNICEF/Ricardo Makyn

The preceding is a press release from UNICEF Thailand. Their thoughts and opinions are entirely their own.

Adam Judd
Mr. Adam Judd is the Co-owner of TPN Media since December 2017. He is originally from Washington D.C., America, but has also lived in Dallas, Sarasota, and Portsmouth. His background is in retail sales, HR, and operations management, and has written about news and Thailand for many years. He has lived in Pattaya for over nine years as a full-time resident, is well known locally and been visiting the country as a regular visitor for over a decade. His full contact information, including office contact information, can be found on our Contact Us page below. Stories please e-mail Editor@ThePattayanews.com About Us: https://thepattayanews.com/about-us/ Contact Us: https://thepattayanews.com/contact-us/