There is growing concern that children orphaned in the south Asian tsunami disaster are being sold as forced labor or even sex slaves. It is a dark part of the region’s history, and something that has long been an issue for human rights advocates. For years, it’s also caught the attention of Ricky Martin. The singer leaves for Thailand on Monday. CNN’s Betty Nguyen had a chance to speak with Martin this weekend to talk to him about his works as a child advocate. Read on for a transcript.
MARTIN: The Ricky Martin Foundation created a project called People for Children. And our mission is to stop traffickers from committing crimes as they are doing right now in Asia.
The biggest problem right now is sexual exploitation. A lot of children in Thailand became orphans after the tsunami. They are perfect preys for the traffickers to go on with their business. We cannot let this happen. I am in a very lucky position, being able to go there with Unicef as an ambassador of goodwill. And just to be able to educate people about child trafficking. And I’m going to be talking to the victims themselves and local officials.
We need to work on laws. We need to create new laws. If not, we need to enforce the laws that are already written in a constitution. It’s going to be a very intense trip, but I am very happy to do this. This is my mission, like I said.
NGUYEN: Well, give us a sense of exactly what is happening over there. How young are these children? And what’s being done to them?
MARTIN: Well, these are newborns who, you know, until maybe the ages of 17, 18. 600,000 children are victims of the tsunami. These are 600,000 children that could be perfect — could be preys for the traffickers. We’re talking about a third of the population of the victims. They can be abducted. They can be forced into prostitution. They can be forced into child pornography, organ trafficking. It is a really scary business, but this business is generating $7 billion a year. It needs to be stopped.
And the only way we can do this is with the help of the government officials. And even local citizens that are aware of that — this issue can be happening, and maybe they can take (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the problem and maybe point out.
NGUYEN: So how exactly are you going to help stop this problem once you get there in Thailand?
MARTIN: Well, awareness is the most important thing. There is a lot of denial about this issue. This issue is so dark. People don’t want to even hear about this.
And I just need to be very, very stubborn about this issue and talk. Talk, repetition, I think, is the most important thing that we can do to educate someone.
NGUYEN: All right, Ricky, we are almost out of time. But for those who want to support your cause, how can they do that?
MARTIN: Peopleforchildren.org. Educate yourself. That is the most — that’s the biggest tip you can take at this moment with this battle. Peopleforchildren.org, drive you to the Web site. And you have all the information and everything that is happening all over the world with the problem — with the issue of trafficking.
NGUYEN: And your foundation, the Ricky Martin Foundation, also supports this cause.
Ricky Martin, we appreciate your time with us today. Safe travels.
MARTIN: Thank you very much.