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Alien child exploitation denied

Bangkok Post (24 November 1997)
Alien child exploitation denied
Immigration admits begging a problem

Poona Antaseeda

Even though non-government organisations (NGOs) have complained about the
exploitation of alien child labour in Thailand, the kingdom's Immigration
Bureau denies the problem exists.

Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Chidchai Vanasatidya said such children
usually came with their families. His bureau had found few children
working as prostitutes.

He also said there was no policy to train or give the children skills
before sending them back to their homelands.

"Children come with their families, just like northeasterners migrate to
Bangkok. They work with their parents," he said.

However, Pol Lt Gen Chidchai said there was a problem with begging,
especially among Cambodian children, since they were allowed to work in
Thailand for two years.

There are currently 700,000 to 800,000 alien labourers in Thailand with
only 351,706 registered with the Interior Ministry. 

Pol Lt Gen Chidchai said 93,172 illegal workers had been repatriated
between January and October. The number had increased from 25,358 last

Due to the bureau's limited budget and lack of detention areas it had to
push people back across the border as soon as possible. But many returned
to Thailand.

The commissioner said the problems were exacerbated by the failure of
neighbouring countries' governments, saying: "They can't even survive
themselves, so how can they help their people? Worse still, some even
don't count the people as their own."

Now the agency was asking for help from international and non-government
organisations and has given them the green light to coordinate with
neighbouring governments to promote businesses that could employ those
returning home.

"Those countries must respond to the problems of their people. They must
do things to prevent their people sneaking out of their countries and to
provide them with jobs. The problems should be passed on to them," said
Pol Lt Gen Chidchai. 

The officer met with a delegation from the European Union on November 14
and he urged it to cooperate with the NGOs in Thailand to create business

The NGOs, he said, would act as coordinators bringing together countries
such as Laos, Burma, and Cambodia and the EU. They had experience at
grass-roots level of what was needed.

But he said his bureau would not directly deal with such plans because it
could not be seen to be interfering in the domestic affairs of other