A total of 251 children went missing from home last year, the highest in four years and an increase of 25% from 2021, according to the Mirror Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to addressing the problem of missing children in Thailand.
Chief of the Missing People Information Centre at the foundation, Eakalak Loomchomkhae, says 61% of the children who went missing from home ran away, while 21% had mental development problems or other mental disorders. Two were kidnapped.
157 cases were in the 11-15-year-old age group, followed by 67 in the 16-18-year-old age group and 28 who were under 10.
Bangkok recorded 70 missing children, followed by 17 each in Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan, 16 in Pathum Thani and 9 each in Chon Buri and Nakhon Pathom.
Eakalak admitted that it is very difficult to trace missing children and to bring them home.
Pol Maj-Gen Saruti Khwaengsopha, commander of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, said that missing children are a global problem, although most of them have run away from home.
Nevertheless, he said that it is the responsibility of the police to trace and to try to bring them home, because the missing children are easily exploited and may end up being victimised by human traffickers.
The police and the Mirror Foundation cited the case of a boy, identified as “Geo”, who was lured by a gang and then forced to beg for money. Fortunately, he was ultimately rescued by police.
Children aged between 4 and 8 are the most vulnerable to kidnap and police have warned parents not to leave their children alone in public places or with strangers.
The Criminal Records Division is now using an age progression sketching technique, to create sketches of children who have been missing for several years. This can assist in tracing them as they grow up.
During Children’s Day this Saturday, parents are advised to take pictures of their children before they leave home and to write their names and contact numbers on a card or a piece of paper and to put it in their trousers.
If their children do go missing, parents should call 1191 immediately.