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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. 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. Once the deal is done, the boys move to a side alley to wait for their clients.
If no one passes muster, the men head to one of dozens of bars and karaoke lounges that offer boys for sex. Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Of these, at least 40 percent are under 18, and a significant number are boys, according to rights groups. A significant number are boys, campaigners say. 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. Agents prey on boys at bus stations, or go to villages to recruit them. 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.
The boys also display self-harming and suicidal tendencies, said Russell, who pawned her engagement and wedding rings to set up Urban Light. A Global Slavery Index, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, estimates that , people live in conditions of modern slavery - including sexual slavery - in Thailand.
It also runs vocational training for at-risk young people, and operates hour hotlines, said Krittat. But most of these efforts are focused on girls and women, leaving boys and young men vulnerable, activists say. 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.