JOHOR BARU - The Sultan of Johor's consort Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofia Sultan Idris Shah has revealed an alarming statistic 126 children have been reported missing in the state since January.
She said the figure released by the state police must be viewed very seriously.
"Although the statistics are lower compared to that of neighbouring countries, the figures are still frightening," she said, adding that the children were aged 18 and below.
Raja Zarith said the bulk of the children reported missing were girls aged between 13 and 17 (91 cases), adding that 50 children had since been found.
"We can only imagine the agony of parents who are still waiting and yearning for the return of their children," she said during a Family Safety Forum held at Stadium Pasir Gudang here yesterday.
Raja Zarith had called for the forum following the disappearance of five-year-old Nurul Nadirah Abdullah whose charred remains was later recovered by police at a palm oil estate in Nusa Damai here on March 12.
"Parents need to educate their children as the world is no longer as safe as it used to be," she said, adding that there were also more international and local syndicates who lured children, kidnapped them and then turned them into beggars or prostitutes overseas.
Raja Zarith said everyone needed to play their part in preventing such events from occurring, and advised parents to always be aware of their children's whereabouts and who they were with.
"I hope that through this forum, governmental agencies and NGOs present will discuss how we can better protect our children," she said, suggesting that one way could be to teach children at school level on what they should do to protect themselves when faced with challenging situations.
Nurul Nadirah's mother Roselyn Alan, 25, who was at the forum, said she was glad that efforts were being undertaken to prevent other children from disappearing just like her daughter.
"I am thankful that at least other parents will be able to learn from what my family had to go through," she said.
A police spokesman said the bulk of the missing cases were not related to kidnapping.
"Most of the cases involved teenagers aged between 13 and 17 who ran away from home for various reasons such as disagreements with family members,'' she added.