Social problems in Thailand & Buriram Province

In 2007 there were 1.5 million reported abuse cases of girl children in Thailand. (Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI), Ministry of Public Health of Thailand)

During a recent survey, almost half the rape and abuse cases reported by one provincial hospital in Northeastern Thailand were girls under the age of 15 years. (Buriram Provincial Office of Social Development and Human Security)

Poverty and hopelessness in rural Asia has resulted in many social problems, including violence and abuse of the vulnerable members of society, such as children, women and the elderly. One result we often see in the news is the trafficking of girl children and women, by unscrupulous and evil people who become rich from taking advantage of the desperation and defenselessness of other human beings. Millions of children are sold into slavery each year. And in even greater numbers, children, particularly girl children, suffer from less publicized problems of abuse that take place within the family and community. Even if they are rescued from abuse, they often suffer additionally the loss of family and community because their homes will never be a safe place for them. In most cases there is no safe place for healing and restoring their lives.

Victims of cruel, selfish and violent actions, these abused children are left with deep and painful scars in their hearts, feelings of no self worth, and a struggle to find a path to their future. Healing will not occur and the painful emotions will not disappear unless they have proper care and treatment. If no one comes to rescue them out of their despair, these victims are likely to remain in the cycle of repeated victimization, easily victimized over and over again, and at times their unresolved emotional traumas may even result in these victims becoming abusers of others.

Thailand and some other Asian countries have begun to address trafficking and child abuse. Improved protection laws have been passed over recent years. The Center for Protection of Children’s Rights (CPCR) has been a key player in this process, working closely with the government and other private organizations in Thailand and other countries to improve laws, legal protection and rehabilitation of victims of abuse and trafficking. CPCR has been an example and inspiration for Opportunity Foundation’s work. These and other organizations are working with government is working to put in place the mechanisms to effectively implement child protection and anti-trafficking laws, and provide care for the victims of such abuse.

Laws and legal processes are important to help protect victims of child abuse, but are not sufficient to give them a good life in the future. In fact, there are large numbers of children who are victims of abuse who have been helped by legal processes, but are not able to return and live safely in their homes. Often their families or communities do not even see the seriousness of the problem. Children coming from such situations really need is to live in a safe and secure environment. Many children remain in temporary or inappropriate, understaffed facilities, and with little or no access to counseling or trauma care resources, and no clear long term options for healthy development of their lives. Opportunity Foundation has established "family" units where the children in the care of the foundation are cared for by staff of the foundation who become "parents", with additional professional services provided by the social welfare and psychology staff of Opportunity Foundation.

Additional legal and social welfare units have been initiated by government and private organizations, but the urgent needs of abused children continue to need increased support from private organizations to develop the financial resources, trained workers and facilities required to restore these children’s lives. Tragically, there is a serious shortage of professional trained and experienced to work with child abuse and trafficking, including lawyers, law enforcement officers, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Opportunity Foundation is committed to developing professional staff and providing care for abuse victims in support for and cooperation with government and international organizations.

Hospitals facilities and staff are also key to identifying and caring for abused and abandoned children, and Opportunity Foundation wants to support and assist them in providing care in services in every way possible. Young teenagers who are victims of abuse or other problems in their lives, may find themselves pregnant and unprepared to be a parent or to care for a child. Hospital and social welfare workers are increasingly pressed to find places able to care for newborn infants. The adoption process for such children takes time, and the first months of life are so important for the newborn’s development emotionally and physically. Some of government workers have taken children into their own families. Some are placed in the custody of foundations. Most of these newborns, as well as abused children who cannot safely go home, however, must be sent to the government orphanages, which have insufficient staff, facilities and services to meet the special needs of abused and abandoned children. It is also sad but true that the prospects for their future adult lives and employment are without much hope, many finding themselves vulnerable to being victims of further abuse. Opportunity Foundation is exploring and developing ideas for ways that we can respond to the needs of the young pregnant girls and the resulting infants.