Byline: JOHN DINGWALL
RONAN Keating croaks with emotion as he describes the heartbreaking experience of meeting Thailand's orphaned AIDS children.
The father-of-two admitted his visit to the Maechen school in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai province, is one he'll never forget.
The country has been ravaged by the incurable disease, not least in the remote villages which have endured the brunt of the collapse of the country's economy.
It is common for mothers to leave for work in the Thai sex industry in Bangkok and resorts like Phuket to return to their villages with enough money to support their families. But the price they pay is deadly.
Thousands of children in Thailand have become victims of the sex trade, many born HIV positive, others orphaned at a young age.
More than a million people in Thailand have Aids with 60,000 new cases each year.
Now Ronan hopes the next generation may be saved by Unicef's Speak Your Mind initiative, which plans to educate the Thai people of the dangers of Aids.
Ronan said: "In this area in particular, the parents have no money and no jobs so they go to Bangcock to work and get into prostitution.
"They bring Aids back to the ommunity through their job.
"The campaign called Speak Your Minds to make people more aware. Because there is no cure for Aids the only thing we can do is tackle prevention."
The singer was taken to Chiang Mai province which boasts three million rural Thai's, nomadic hilltribe people, along with Burmese and other international migrants.
A population which is facing the Thai Aids epidemic head on.
The disease has destroyed families, leaving a huge number of Aids-affected or infected orphans in its wake.
Orphans are just one aspect of a complex chain of effects caused by Aids in Thailand.
The overrun national medical system is unable to respond to the medical needs of Aids-affected populations.
In addition, the social stigma strongly discourages HIV positive individuals from seeking the support they need.
Ronan added: "My trip with Unicef is part of their Aids awareness experience in Chang Mai. It was unbelievable.
"There are kids with Aids and their parents had Aids. Some of the children are so young the doctors can't detect it yet.
"The situation is heartbreaking. They live in wooden shacks in the middle of nowhere.
"I went to a hospital as well where the children get milk and bread but no blankets. It was weird and strange."
The former Boyzone star, who topped the charts last week with his single If Tomorrow Never Comes, admits he still has trouble coming to terms with what he saw in Thailand. …