MORE THAN 3 million vulnerable children in Thailand are waiting for help and support.
Among them are children with special learning needs, young delinquents, dropouts and those who were born to teenage mothers.
“There would be no fewer than 3.17 million vulnerable children in Thailand,” Thai Health Promotion Foundation manager Supreeda Aduyanon said at a forum held to listen to the voices of ignored children in Bangkok yesterday.
He said that about 200,000 children were stateless and more than 100,000 were born to immature girls.
Kamlaeng, 20, told the forum that her dream of furthering her studies in medicine or nursing was unattainable because she is classified as stateless.
“My grade-point-average is at 3.8, but there is little hope for me to go for my dream career,” she said. “Institutes offering medicine and nursing programmes do not accept applications from the stateless.”
Kamlaeng said that she was born in Thailand but her parents had failed to register her birth. Even worse, her father, who separated from her mother and married another woman, has refused to vouch for her.
“He does not accept me as his daughter,” she said.
‘Too much pressure’
A 24-year-old man, who identifies himself only as “Name”, told the forum that he quit school during Mathayom 2 because he felt that studying exposed him to too much pressure.
“I got attracted to drinking, brawling and road-racing,” he said.
Name said that, over time, he fell into using drugs including methamphetamine and heroin.
“To find the money for drugs, I started working as a drug deliveryman by the age of 15,” he said.
He was arrested in possession of 50,000 methamphetamine tablets, convicted and sent to jail.
However, he was able to turn his life around. During his detention, he attended vocational courses and acquired skills that allowed him to pursue his dream job of repairing and trading second-hand motorcycles.
“I have also learnt about mixed farming. One day, I hope I can set up a small farm and a small motorcycle repair shop. Then, I hope I can take in former delinquents and take care of them. It’s a way to pay back,” he said.
Social Development and Human Security Minister Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew, who attended the forum, emphasised that adults should listen to children.
“We can’t leave anyone behind,” he said.
Prof Dr Sompong Jitradub, who heads the Children and Youth Research and Development Centre at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Education, recommended the development of a database of at-risk children.
“With such a database, the relevant authorities could work together to provide solutions,” he said.
Sompong also suggested that the private sector be engaged in efforts to help the vulnerable.
“Where possible, we should improve laws to boost educational opportunities for children. For example, laws should be amended to remove the need for children to produce national identification cards when they move to a new educational level,” he said.
Sompong also suggested that existing funds should focus on empowering vulnerable children rather than just giving them hand-outs.
“For example, you can provide vocational training,” he said.