A computer-generated image showing what 7-year-old Patawan Insuk, or Nong Da, might look like today is displayed at a Mirror Foundation press briefing about missing children at the Police General Hospital’s Institute of Forensic Medicine on Thursday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Thailand’s missing children record is still too high with 422 cases recorded by the Mirror Foundation last year alone, it said yesterday, two days before this year’s Children’s Day.

The foundation and the Royal Thai Police urged parents to keep a close eye on their kids if they attend any of the festive events planned nationwide tomorrow to ensure they all end up going home safely together, and do not end up getting lost, or worse.

“For Children’s Day, we strongly advise parents to take extra precautions when they take their kids out,” said Pol Col Chaiwat Burana, director of the Criminal Records Division.

“Show them some love and care and they are unlikely to run away.”

Statistics collected by the foundation’s Missing Persons Information Centre show an annual 4% decline in the number of missing children over the past five years.

Those numbers are not good enough to consider the change a significant improvement, said foundation chief Ekkaluck Lumchomkhae.

“We continue to deal with over 400 missing persons cases every year. The number we are sharing today [422] are only those our foundation has documented,” Mr Ekkaluck said.

“It is likely the actual figures per year number in the thousands, which is several-fold more than what our team has projected from our information,” he added.

He said in 90% of cases, the children choose to run away from home or guardians, reflecting the poor state of many family relationships. This is a problem families should address.

Adolescents who run away often become victims of rape, violence and severe emotional distress, he added.

Many foundations that deal with missing persons work closely with the Institute of Forensic Medicine (IFM) under the Royal Thai Police and use state-of-the-art DNA tests to confirm the identity of the kids or their parents.

“The DNA tests which the IFM conducts for us help verify missing children’s parents or vice versa.

“They use the same technology and standards as the United States so it guarantees accuracy,” Mr Ekkaluck said.

The IFM has a database of 1,290 DNA tests of children and adults who are presumed missing and are mostly in foster homes, said Pol Col Watee Asawutmangkul, head of the IMF’s biochemistry division.

“The IMF has largely been successful in terms of verifying missing parents, children and persons. However there are laws regarding human rights which prevents us from collecting DNA tests of children who do not know who their parents are,” Pol Col Watee said.

“This loophole may infringe on individual rights and cause conflict with NGOs. We are discussing ways to solve this problem as such incidents comprise around 5-10% of the total cases,” he added.

Police also use artists to sketch identikits of missing kids based on their photographs and descriptions from people who file a missing persons report.

Pol Col Chaiwat Burana said his division currently now has sketches of seven missing people among its files.

“For missing persons under the age of 18, we re-draw the sketches every two years,” he said, adding they are 70% accurate. “If they are over 18 we do it every five years.”

He advised parents to photograph their kids before leaving home tomorrow and add name tags with contact information to their clothing.

The IMF provides free DNA tests to see if they match with any of the names on its database, he added.

News Reporter

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