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Dear Women Leaders, Please Safeguard Children in Business and Tech

On 25 June 2022, hundreds of women business and ministerial leaders from 60 countries gathered at the Bangkok Convention Center for the closing of the 3-day Global Summit of Women. During the closing ceremony, the Vice Chairman of SafeguardKids Foundation called on women’s natural leadership ability to help keep children safe from violence online and offline.

Confronting the Global Trafficking of Children

by Khun Suriyon Sriorathaikul, Managing Director of Beauty Gems and Vice Chairman of SafeguardKids Foundation Thailand

It’s an honor to be with you this evening. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. I greatly appreciate this speaking opportunity from the organizers of the Global Summit of Women 2022.

Over the course of this summit, we have shared valuable insights and ideas on expanding business opportunities and highlighting women’s distinct role in economic development. 

We looked at ways that we can utilize technology – particularly online technology like social media, cryptocurrency, and metaverses – to grow our businesses. And grow back better after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we witnessed women leave the workforce in alarming numbers. In the US, the number of women who left the workforce was double the number of men. Much of the pressure pushing women out of the workforce was due to increased workloads alongside increased responsibilities at home.

Many families had to work and study together from home. We remained indoors with our children, staring at screens day and night. Children across the globe spent more time online during the pandemic unsupervised. Separated from their peers and restrained indoors, children reached out to people online for social interaction.

Before the pandemic, child trafficking and online child sexual exploitation were already on the radar of law enforcement agencies and child protection organizations across the globe. 

Abusers do not need to be in the same room as the child victim. They can groom a child online and convince the child to share indecent photos and videos of themselves.

Some abusers hire a trafficker to find and coordinate children. For example, predators in Western countries pay traffickers in Southeast Asian countries to arrange children to perform sexual acts live on video calls.

Traffickers may be a close relative of the childor a neighborhood nanny. Ignorance to the impacts of child abuse, poverty, Internet connectivity, and English skills can be driving factors of online child sexual exploitation.

During the pandemic, the number of vulnerable children online surged. In Thailand last year, the cases of online child sexual exploitation recorded by the Royal Thai Police’s Task Force for Internet Crimes against Children involved around 400,000 child victims.

Note that many cases of online and offline abuse go unreported. Reasons include fear of retaliation, shame, as well as not knowing who to trust and how to report the abuse. Child protection organizations like SafeguardKids Foundation, Childline Foundation, and Hug Project raise awareness in Thailand about forms of exploitation and what children can do to keep themselves safe.

Online abuse has no borders. 

Being aware of the transnational nature of child sex abuse, Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, Founder of World Childhood Foundation, shared lessons learned by Sweden with numerous countries, including Thailand. At a 2010 conference by the Thai Ministry of Justice, Her Majesty Queen Silvia highlighted how laws against child sexual abuse materialwere passed in Sweden in 1996 and 2010 to better protect children from sexual crimes.

We listened. We learned. And we lobbied.

In 2015, Thailand passed legislation to criminalize the possession of child sexual abuse material. 

Offenders can be imprisoned 5 years for possession, 7 years for forwarding, and 10 years for producing.

This law was passed nearly unanimously, with 193 of 196 parliamentarians voting in favor. The successful lobbying was done by a team of passionate Thai and Swedish patrons who formed SafeguardKids Foundation.

Before this law, Thai police could not detain offenders who were producing and sharing photos and videos of inappropriate interaction with children. Many offenders escaped justice and continued to sexually abuse children in Thailand. These offenders included Thai men and large numbers of foreign men who travelled across the globe for direct contact with children.

Efforts to keep children safe continue until this day. Thai legislators are currently reviewing a bill to extend protection from other forms of online harm to children. The new proposed bill criminalizes online grooming, sextortion, sexting, harassment, cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying. It also criminalizes accessing child sexual abuse material, like Western laws. So far, the draft bill has received positive support fromThai Senate and Cabinet and is under further review by our Ministry of Justice. 

As I mentioned, online abuse has no borders. Child safety is a global cause. We must all take part.

As industry leaders, decision-makers and influencers from over 60 countries, what are we doing to keep children safe online and offline?

The business development technologies we discussed during this summit – from social media, cryptocurrency, and metaverses – areexploited by child abusers.

They exploit social media to find child victims and to bond with other people who share harmful interests.

These abusers exploit cryptocurrency to pay for photos, videos, and live performances of child sexual abuse. They use it to pay for access into private groups in the Darknet where they can trade their collections and give each other advice on how to evade detection and justice. (The Darknet is a special-access part of the Internet where people can anonymously interact and hide their communications.)

Now, as we explore the metaverse of virtual worlds online, we must be aware of harmful interaction between people, especially between adults and children in this realm. Harassment, sexual touch, and rape already occur between players in metaverse, and the victims are psychologically and emotionally impacted.

To ensure children’s safety, we can take advantage of women’s natural leadership skills. Women are designed to think about the collective consequences of decisions on broader society, as evidenced by studies on women in the workforce. 

You here in this room have the power to influence the impact that technologies and your businesses make on society. 

Stay aware of the dangers posed by innovative technologies. Integrate child safety measures into the design of your products and services, contribute to strengthening local communities, support child protection organizations, promote digital literacy and online safety education programs.

During dinner tonight, let’s connect with each other and share ideas on actions we can take to help our children stay safe in the digital world and in the real world. Thank you!

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Therapeutic Programs Ways to Help weSafeguardKids

Sponsor an ET Session

Trauma from childhood abuse can be released from our heart, mind, and body. Scientific research shows the significant impact energy therapies have on releasing trauma, as well as boosting immunity. Energy therapy sessions can be done either in-person or remotely to have an impact.

Sponsor an energy therapy (ET) session for a child.

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Educational Programs Events weSafeguardKids

Rights to Play & Learn

All children have the right to go to school and learn and have fun, regardless of who they are, where they live or how much money their family has.

SafeguardKids has been engaged with a northern Thai school near the Myanmar (Burma) border. We learn from the children and the school staff about their strengths and their needs. 

One current need is sports equipment. If you would like to donate sports equipment in good or new condition for young children, please email us at contact@wesafeguardkids.org.

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Events Partnerships weSafeguardKids

Childhood Webinar 2021 on COVID-19 Action

A free webinar on what we can do to protect children in Thailand during COVID-19 was held in December 2021. World Childhood Foundation, ECPAT International, and Embassy of Sweden in Thailand hosted this webinar. The webinar recording is available below.

The HUG Project of Thailand presented a practical tool they have developed to help keep Thai children safe from sexual exploitation online. Have a look at their English and Thai interactive handbook for children.

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Events weSafeguardKids

Art for Love

Motherhood, Childhood, and Mother Earth

On 10 December 2020 in Ratchaburi, Thailand, Pasaya Textiles revealed its “Rose Garden” textile art collection. The collection includes 12 intricately illustrated roses by the Thai artist Ajarn Phansakdi Chakkaphak. Pasaya has made his illustrations larger than life by machine weaving the roses onto 8-foot tall panels of its finest fabrics.

ในภาพอาจจะมี 1 คน
Photo: Schle Woodthanan, Creator and Owner of Pasaya and Chairman of the SafeguardKids Board of Directors (Pasaya’s Facebook Page)

One of the roses, named in honor of H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden, in collection is graciously given by Ajarn Phansakdi Chakkaphak and Pasaya to World Childhood Foundation of Sweden. During the Art for Love celebration, H.E. Anand Panyarachun, former Thai Prime Minister presided over the handover ceremony. Due to current travel restrictions, the Rose Garden collection was received by Ms. Darin Phanthusak of SafeguardKids until it can be transferred to World Childhood. Proceeds of the auction of the remaining roses will be donated to Seub Nakhasathien Foundation (environmental protection), Mother’s Spiritual Museum, and SafeguardKids Foundation.

Photo: Ms. Darin Phanthusak stands by 1 of 12 textile art pieces in the Rose Garden collection

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Events Technical Services weSafeguardKids

Thai Laws: Online Safety

Thailand upgrades its laws to better protect children online and offline

In December 2015, with initial drafting by Prosecutor Mark Charoenwong, Ph.D., and input from SafeguardKids, Thailand passed legislation to ban the possession of child sexual abuse material. Now in December 2020, Thailand is reviewing additional legislation drafted to protect the safety and wellbeing of children online.

On 17 December 2020, representatives from the Department of Special Investigation, Office of Attorney General, Central Juvenile and Family Court, Supreme Court, and key legal assistance and child protection non-government organizations met again to review the latest draft of “Offenses against Children Online” for inclusion into the Thai Penal Code. This draft covers grooming, unwanted sexting, extortion, stalking, and cyber-bullying, reports of which continue to grow.

This group of experts emphasized the need for wording clarity to avoid arbitrary interpretation, the roles of victims and offenders, as well as the ability to apply this new legislation in real-world practice. The deliberations of this draft will continue early in 2021.

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Inspiring Compassion weSafeguardKids

Broken Hearts, Broken Minds

He walked to a neighbor’s house and asked if there was any yard work he could do. Smelling the alcohol on his breath, the neighbor hesitated and decided to let him inside the back yard.

As she walked him to the back yard, she told him, “The tree needs some trimming. The branches are growing into the electrical power lines. I can only give you $20.”

He smiled and fetched his equipment. This is one of the few odd jobs he could secure around town to pay his bills. Over 50, he was divorced, recently homeless, and struggling to find steady work that would accommodate his drinking schedule.

People judge him, pity him, and look down on him for not being able to stop drinking alcohol. He went to local treatment programs for alcohol dependency, remained sober for a couple of years, and relapsed. Again and again, until the program managers gave up on him.

He drinks to dull the pain of self-worthlessness. He drinks to dull the pain of a deep scar in his heart. He was groomed and sexually abused when he was 4 years old by a male family member he loved, trusted, and respected. He grew up confused about his sexuality, confused about love and sex, and angry after realizing in his teens that he was actually abused. Drinking since his teenage years is how he coped with the trauma.

What would his life be like if he had not suffered abuse? What would his life be like if he had learned positive ways of overcoming the trauma? What would he be like if he were healed?

We want to safeguard children from harm. We want to find alternative ways of healing to help those who suffered childhood traumas. Please join us in mending broken minds and broken hearts.

Update: In mid-February 2021, the man in the above story passed away of a heart attack while helping friends move to a new house. He will remain an inspiration for voicing the impact of sexual abuse on children.

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Educational Programs Resilience weSafeguardKids

Child Safety Online

Children must continually be reminded to not accept friend requests from people they have never met face-to-face. Many child sex offenders create fake online profiles to gain the friendship of children to possibly abuse. They use photos of children of the approximate age they are sexually attracted to and use clues found in the targeted child’s profile to convince the child that they are in the same peer group. Additionally, children should not post photos, texts, check-ins, or page-likes that identify what school they attend, where they live, or where they frequently hang out. These details help child sex offenders make in-person contact with the child possible.

For guidance on how to teach children to protect themselves online from sexual abuse, read the #Netsmart handbook by Save the Children Sweden. This handbook is available in English and Swedish.