The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that of the world’s 215 million child labourers, 115 million are involved in hazardous work, including 41 million girls and 74 million boys; 53 million are aged 5-14, and 62 million are aged 15-17. The number of child labourers engaged in hazardous work between the ages of 15-17 is increasing.
According to a 2011 report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an estimated 200,000 migrant children younger than 17 are in Thailand -– of which less than one third have access to education. Thousands of them come to Thailand unaccompanied by adults.
Under the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the children accompanying their parents across the border as well as those born stateless in Thailand have a universal right to education. In 2005 the Thai government passed a resolution, stating that all children living in Thailand should have access to education regardless of race, nationality or legal status. But for many, this fails to become reality.
Ko Naing Min, Director of the Committee for Protection and Promotion of Child Rights (CPPCR), aims to safeguard the welfare of migrant children in the Mae Sot area, but said that increased caseload of children was putting a strain on resources.
“According to our estimates we can say that between 28,000-30,000 migrant children in the Mae Sot area. 14,000 of them don’t attend school (outside school) making them more at risk to things like sexual abuses, exploitation, child labour and accidents (like getting hit by trucks).” He said these cases were on the increase and that the risks were great for migrant children.
“We focus on two education of these kids and responding to cases of abuse – sometimes this involves rescuing kids from dangerous places and putting them in safe houses.” He added.
Ko Naing Min said that the CPPCR was the only organisation of it’s kind in the Mae Sot area, which meant that children could easily fall through the cracks altogether. “At the moment groups working on the migrant children issue are dropping – in fact CPPCR is the only organisation providing this type of service for children specifically in the Mae Sot area. So the less groups working on this issue is causing more risk for the children involved.”
The children have good reason to seek a life in Thailand, better access to education, healthcare and relative political stability are what brings them across the border – some come to avoid becoming part of Burma’s civil conflicts which have raged for decades. In 2002, Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimated that there were around 70,000 children in the 350,000 strong SPDC armed forces. According to these statistics; one in five soldiers of the SPDC armed forces is a child. A 2013 report by CNN stated that recruiters of child soldiers were still active and that according to analysis from risk analysis company Maplecroft, Myanmar still ranks number eight on the global index, where its use of child soldiers is considered “extreme”.