Of these, at least 40 percent are under 18, and a ificant are boys, according to rights groups. The boys also display self-harming and suicidal tendencies, said Russell, who pawned her engagement and wedding rings to set up Urban Light.
No one would connect the boys to the older, white men - and a pair of Chinese somethings - seated under a tree, or to the young man with the mobile phone leaning on a parked motorbike. Big Story 10 Updated.
But most of these efforts are focused on girls and women, leaving boys and young men vulnerable, activists say. Last year, Urban Light worked with more than 1, boys in Chiang Mai, which Russell said was a record.
A Global Slavery Index, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, estimates thatpeople live in conditions of modern slavery - including sexual slavery - in Thailand. In Chiang Mai, many drive tuk-tuks with the help of loans or grants, Russell said. The boys, aged from 14 to 24, walk in pairs for greater safety, making eye contact with the men, who then communicate their choices to the man with the mobile phone.
Children worldwide are more likely to be preyed upon by residents of their own homeland than foreign tourists seeking illicit sex, anti-trafficking experts say. Although prostitution is illegal, it is tolerated.
Boys in poorer countries are particularly vulnerable, as they are often forced to work to support their families, and end up being lured to popular tourist spots. If no one passes muster, the men head to one of dozens of bars and karaoke lounges that offer boys for sex.
The boys quickly run up debts with bar owners for clothes, drugs and money sent to their families, forcing them to remain in the bars, Russell said. Urban Light and Dton Naam offer counseling, vocational guidance, funds to complete school, and job opportunities.
Poverty drives thousands in rural Thailand and from neighboring countries to the bustling capital of Bangkok, too. A ificant are boys, campaigners say.
Once the deal is done, the boys move to a side alley to wait for their clients. Agents prey on boys at bus stations, or go to villages to recruit them. Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for sexual exploitation.
It also runs vocational training for at-risk young people, and operates hour hotlines, said Krittat. One of them, who goes by the name Joe, entered the trade when he was 15 years old, and worked for seven years, contracting HIV along the way.