2015: 592 kids were reported missing in Thailand.
Thousands of children are currently missing in Thailand. But it's hard to tell exactly how many they are, because a structured approach to keep track of the numbers--and more importantly, to find them--does not exist yet in the country. Many parents are left to search for their missing children on their own, and deal with the fear that they may have been trafficked.
In Bangkok, Dusita Saokaew spoke with a woman whose daughter has been missing since 2010. She also went to Pattaya, a vibrant city where experts say many missing and trafficked children often end up being beggars or prostitutes.
Missing children campaign goes mobile.
Starting next month, five city buses on routes 27, 29, 73, 76 and 79 will feature unusual advertisements on their sides. They are the images of five boys and two girls having been missing. Among them is Chaiyapas, the son of Mrs Soraya, who disappeared when he was 11 years old.
The campaign is being mounted by the Mirror Foundation, taejai.com and Plan B Media Plc to raise public awareness about missing children and, more importantly, to improve chances for their return home.
The seven have been selected because they have been missing for a long time. They include Noppadol Yuennuwong, who was last seen at his house in Krathum Baen district of Samut Sakhon about 14 years ago. Back then he was only 7.
Because of the long time lapse, the campaign features pictures of the children as they were and computer-enhanced images showing what they might look like today.
"The seven children have been picked because given how long they have been missing, the chance of getting public and media attention for their cases was dim," said Ekkalak Lumchomkhae, chairman of the Missing People Centre of the Mirror Foundation. "People have already forgotten them."
Mr Ekkalak hopes that the high visibility of the bus banners could lead to more tip-offs from the public for the foundation to follow up, and improve the chance of the young people being found.
The 105,500-baht cost of the advertising materials was raised through taejai.com, a non-profit, social advocacy oganisation. Plan B Media, which holds a concession from the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority for bus ads, donated free space on five buses.
Each bus runs different routes so public exposure should be high. "This is a new channel for us to get public attention," Mr Eakkalak said.
The parents of the seven children joined the launch of the campaign with a model bus at Major Ratchayothin. All share the same hope as Mrs Soraya.
"I believe that my boy is still alive and I'm still looking forward to seeing him back," she told Thai Rath online, as tears fell down her face.
The foundation has another goal in mind, too. "Parents who see the ads showing missing children on the buses could be more aware of this problem and that will make them better protect their children," Mr Ekkalak said. "That will prevent more children from going missing."