FBI joins Thai agencies in fight against child trafficking

photo courtesy of www.thephuketnews.com

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have joined forces with the Thai police, child protection agencies and child advocacy groups in a multidisciplinary campaign to fight child sexual exploitation and trafficking, establishing a regional Child Advocacy Center in Phuket to cover southern Thailand last week.

“Phuket is an area of Thailand that attracts tourists, but Phuket also attracts people who exploit children. So we want to make that our team is here to support and help them,”Joe Fonseca, the FBI’s Assistant Legal Attaché in Thailand, told the Phuket News newspaper.

The Thai government in consultation with the United States Embassy in Bangkok named Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai as locations for the first three Child Advocacy Centers they plan to open. Police General Tammasak Wicharaya said they were prioritizing tourism centers to discourage foreign pedophiles from mistaking Thailand as an easy location to prey on children. Gen. Tammasak heads the Royal Thai Police’s Thailand Internet Crime Against Children (TICAC) division.

Thai and U.S. law enforcement and security agencies have pledged to step up their bilateral cooperation to fight a range of transnational crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling and terrorism. The pledge was initially made during the administration of President Barack Obama, but is continuing under the presidency of Donald Trump.

Last year, the FBI ran a series on its website about the child sex trade in Southeast Asia in which it said the Thai government “has taken significant steps to address the sexual exploitation of children and to focus more attention on victims.”

Along with the FBI, Homeland Security and TICAC, other partners in the Child Advocacy Centers include For Freedom International Foundation (FFI), an advocacy group. “We aim to create a safe and child-friendly environment where child victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation are able to speak to a trained forensic interviewer about trauma that the child has experienced or witnessed,” said Darren Herbold of FFI.

“We assist officers working on the ground using cutting-edge techniques, in conducting cases against offenders, starting from the initial interview process, finding and collecting evidences and witnesses, through to arrests and prosecutions,” Herbold added.

Fonseca said that he is confident the center will be a success and that children there will be receive professional and excellent care. “Thai people should understand that this is specifically for them. It shows them that the Thai government values their children. They want to make these children feel comforted,’’ he said.

photo courtesy of  www.thephuketnews.com