Nongkhai is a city in the northeast of Thailand, next to the border with Laos. Around 50,000 people live in this city, which attracts many tourists for its relaxed lifestyle and idyllic scenery next to the Mekong River. Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is only 20 kilometers away. This proximity boosts Nongkhai’s economy, while also enabling the trafficking of drugs and humans.Adults and children in particular are targeted by the criminal industry. They are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. In addition, many girls in the region are still victims of child marriage. .
Since 1994, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Nongkhai.
Thailand records a high number of child marriages. In Nongkhai, 23% of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18. Child marriage is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The emotional and physical damage a child suffers from a forced marriage is profound. There is also an increased risk of child pregnancy and domestic violence.
Child marriages are widespread due to gender inequality and the belief that women and girls are inferior to men and boys. The national goal to end child marriage by 2030 requires a strong push from the government.
Nongkhai is only 20 kilometres from the border with Laos and its capital Vientiane. This favours economic prosperity, but also drug and human trafficking. The main purposes of human trafficking in Thailand are prostitution, forced labour and forced begging. About 100 cases are reported each year, although the actual number is estimated to be higher. Taxi drivers in Nongkhai have been asked to assist in the anti-trafficking mission by reporting suspicious behaviour and conducting passport controls. Children from Laos are also victims of trafficking: they are brought to Thailand to be commercially sexually exploited, to sell and beg on the streets of big cities or to work as domestic servants.