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Author Exposes Child Prostitution in Thailand

Edited by Alia Taliaferrow, 17 Editor: Ariana Hellerman, 15
Reporters: Ben Abelson, 11; Elizabeth Daly, 12; Rachel Falkenstein, 13
Originally published in Children's Express, a column in the
New York Amsterdam News, July 13, 1996

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Can you imagine children being your sex slaves? According to lawyer/writer/child advocate Andrew Vachss, this is how life in Thailand is for many young children, even for some babies still in diapers.

Vachss is the author of several bestselling novels and has a private law practice representing children. Children's Express interviewed Vachss about his new book, "Batman: The Ultimate Evil," which uses the well known caped crusader to expose the sex "industry" in Thailand.

"This book is not about the lives of the individual children, it's about a practice that goes on," said Vachss. "The practice is openly advertised here and extremely well documented. I write about child abuse all the time, and that's because I work with abused children. But in writing about child sex tourism, I'm not writing about the individual victims, but about the governmental practice of it."

In the novel and an accompanying comic book by D.C. Comics, which is scripted by Neal Barrett Jr. and illustrated by Denys Cowan, Batman finds out his mother was an activist against child abuse. She was on the verge of discovering a child sex industry in the fictional land of Udon Khai and was killed when somebody tried to stop her. Now Batman is on the scene to continue her work.

"There's people that would read a Batman book that wouldn't read one of my usual books," Vachss said. "So it's simply in a different way to get the same message out."

In the back of the book there's an essay about how Udon Khai is actually Thailand. Vachss said he got all kinds of threats including complaints from the Thai government and the U.S. State Department for writing this book and for saying the government was promoting the sex industry.

"There's no question that there's organized multi-level corruption where everybody shares in a piece of the kiddy sex tourism industry," Vachss said.

Therefore, Vachss is promoting a boycott of Thai products. "By asking everybody not to buy stuff that's made in Thailand, we're hoping to strangle them economically, as what happened in South Africa," he said.

Vachss has several promotional items for the boycott, including a site on the Internet. An interesting item is a pair of iron-on patches with the words "Don't Buy Thai," and "Ask Me Why," to explain that you're not discriminating against the country, that there is a reason for the boycott.

Children's Express also interviewed an anonymous information officer at the Thai Consulate in Manhattan. He said the government is trying to get rid of the child sex problem and that a boycott would not help anything,

"You cannot say that 100 percent of Thai people are doing this business," he said. "Bad people are running this business and a boycott would not directly affect these people."

The information officer also said it was wrong to call the sex problem an industry, because the government doesn't profit from it.

"Right now, we are trying to come up with a more serious law that will punish those who illegally practice this inhuman behavior," said the information officer. "Not only to punish the gangsters who lure the children to work, but also to punish those foreign tourists who are involved in this child sex abuse."

The Thai information officer told us one way of helping was to report it to the authorities if you see any advertisements for anything that has to do with the sex industry and children, not just for Thailand, but for any Asian boys and girls.

But because of freedom of speech, people involved in child prostitution have been able to advertise the sex "industry" in countries like America and in Europe. Vachss said the slogan that dealers in the sex trade used for Thailand was "Bachelor's paradise." Then Thailand makes money when they get this business—if you can call it a business—from people in other countries who come in and they buy these kids.

"They are literally slaves," he said. "This isn't a career choice, where somebody would say 'Would you like to be a ballerina? No, I'd rather play softball.' They're not treated like human beings."

According to Vachss, abortion rates in Thailand have skyrocketed because people would rather kill their children than have them deal with this thing. "I've never known a child that was forced into prostitution who wasn't full of pain and fear and terror for the rest of their days," Vachss said.

How can a kid turn out normal if they have gone through this? Vachss said that the children who were abused either find another abusive relationship or abuse themselves.

Vachss is saying that child prostitution in Thailand happens. The government is saying it happens. The question left is what can be done to stop it.


Talkabout:

  1. How can using a well known character, such as Batman, help alert people to the child sex "industry" in Thailand?
  2. Do you think a boycott of Thai products will help curb child prostitution? Why or Why not?
  3. What, if anything, can be done to discourage tourists from going to Thailand for its easy access to child prostitution?


Children's Express is a news service reported by children ages 8-18.
For more information call us at (212) 505-7777.



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