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TAT, WTO move against child prostitution in tourism

Senior officials of Asia-Pacific national tourism, organisations met with leading international tourism experts and lawyers in Bangkok between…

Senior officials of Asia-Pacific national tourism, organisations met with leading international tourism experts and lawyers in Bangkok between July 1-2 to discuss ways to help protect children from sexual exploitation in tourism.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand<.> (TAT) and World Tourism Organisation (WTO) jointly organised the regional consultative meeting, which attended by representatives of key tourism-related public and private agencies, non-government organisations, law enforcement agencies as well as media from the Asia-Pacific region.

Among the senior representatives participated were Dawid de Villiers, Deputy Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), Jacqueline de Rey, Honorary President of the Universal Federation of Travel Agents Associations (UFTAA), and Helena Karlen, director of the NGO End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT).

Held at the Asia Hotel, the Meeting featured a number of presentations and workshops designed to update participants with the latest developments in the global campaign against child prostitution in tourism.

One main issue was the appointment of focal points at all National Tourism Administrations (NTA) to monitor each country`s action against sexual exploitation of children in tourism and promote awareness building actions at national and regional levels, in co-operation with partners in the private and public sector.

The Meeting adopted regional guidelines for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in tourism which will be used by the designated focal points to guide their respective campaigns in each country, as per their social and cultural requirements.

TAT Governor Mr. Pradech Phayakvichien commented, Child prostitution is a complex social problem, but we in the tourism industry have to do everything possible to fulfil our responsibilities in eradicating this scourge.

The World Tourism Organisation General Assembly in 1999 adopted a Global Code of Ethics for Tourism in which it condemned the sexual exploitation of human beings, especially children.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are additional legal instruments that were used in drafting the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, which is being implemented by ECPAT with the support of the European Union.

European tour operators have committed themselves to playing an active role in preventing child sex tourism.

The Thai government has also moved to address the problem at the source, especially the poverty and lack of education opportunities that forces children into prostitution.

Through its Education and Labour and Social Welfare Ministries, the Thai government has granted scholarships and long-term, interest-free loans for children in need. This has helped reduce the number of child workers aged 15-17 years in all sectors of the economy from 230,000 in March 1998 to 55,000 in July 2000.

Thai educational institutes and agencies have helped educate parents and/or guardians of children on children-related laws and rights as well as provided vocational and skill development training.

TAT also does its part. Mr. Pradech noted that the TAT vehemently and unequivocally opposes all forms of sex tourism to Thailand.

He added, Over the past many years, we have worked long and hard to discourage all forms of sex tourism and change the former image of Thailand, as a largely male destination. One important way to do this is to step up promotion of family and female travellers, a campaign that is producing results.

In 2000, female visitors to Thailand grew by 12.17% to 3.82 million, much higher than the 9.93% growth in male visitors. Children aged under 15 grew by 10.76%.

This trend continued in the first quarter of 2001 when female visitors rose 8.01% to 1.07 million, higher than the 7.97% growth in male visitors. Children under 15, too, grew by 6.46% to 108,288 in the first quarter of 2001.

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