Project teaches Thai children to protect against predators
Children in northern Thailand are learning how to recognize and protect themselves from online sexual predators thanks to a project led by an anti-trafficking campaigner honored by the United States Department of State and in collaboration with the Royal Thai Police and civil society groups.
Wirawan “Boom” Mosby, the director of the Chiang Mai-based Hug Project, launched the new pilot project with the Police Department’s Thailand Internet Crime against Children (TICAC) division, and Zoe International, an American-headquartered Christian organization that fights human trafficking.
The State Department presented Wirawan with a “Trafficking in Person Hero” award in 2017 for her work and advocacy on behalf of child survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking.
The new project is being piloted at eight state-run schools and three private foundations for about 3,000 students in the Chiang Mai area and focuses on teaching children to recognize predators online and in social media and familiarize them with the tactics they use to try and lure or dupe them into becoming victims. Wirawan said she hopes the Ministry of Education will scale up the project to a nationwide program.
“Their plans are very complex,” Wirawan said about the predators, noting that they target both boys and girls. A recent case study by TICAC uncovered a predator ring that had approached over a hundred teenage boys.
The project is training two teachers in each school to help train students to avoid falling prey to online sexual coercion and extortion. The students will know which teachers they can reach out to, and the teachers, in turn, can report the case to Hug Project officers or TICAC.
“We will use technology to fight technology,” Wirawan said.
In a typical scenario, according to Wirawan, a predator sets up a fake account on social media and uses an image of a beautiful girl as a profile picture to lure the target. After building affection and trust, the predator might then send a clip of a woman masturbating and ask for a similar clip in exchange.
They then sell the clips to groups of pedophiles who strive to keep their networks secret. Because the child is often scared about the clip being leaked, the predator can blackmail him or her into making more videos.
The project also has schools installing OpenDNS on their Wi-Fi routers so they can block pornography and websites deemed “unsafe” from being accessed by devices connected to the school’s Wi-Fi.
Police General Surachet Hakpal of TICAC said the division had investigated 128 cases of child pornography and 39 of child trafficking between 2015 and 2018.
Police rescued 107 children – 33 boys and 74 girls, he said.