Human Trafficking in Thailand
Before taking this course, it is fair to say that all three of us had very little to no knowledge on the topic of Human Trafficking. Through lectures we learned that those who live in poverty are most vulnerable to human traffickers. It doesn’t matter what gender or age anyone can be taken advantage of and forced to do free labor. Most victims are kidnapped and forced to do free labor. Limited opportunities and resources are some main causes for human trafficking. Families who have no way of making an income feel pressure to sell their child to human traffickers in order to receive an income. They will become sex slaves and possibly die young from HIV. young children will do free labor, doing various activities from selling flowers to begging on the streets where most tourists are found. What made all this information real derived from our experiences with human trafficking in Thailand, especially our tour guide Eve’s personal story. We are here to observe the environment and interactions around us; had we been solely vacationing tourists, these realities would probably not have made it to our attention. To proceed, we would like to share our personally observed accounts of Human Trafficking, that have occurred throughout our time in Thailand.
Mai Zong Vang
Thailand is one of the most well-known places for human trafficking, due to the high demand and supply for sex slaves and child labor. During my stay in Thailand I’ve observed several instances that I believe are examples of human trafficking. Some of these instances were of a boy selling flower necklaces and seeing numerous girls sit on a row of chairs outside of the bar and restaurants late at night.
I will never forget an incident that occurred right in front of me. I was raised with morals and values that taught me to always give to those who are in need even if I don’t have a lot. While at the night market in Chiang Mai I met a little boy who seemed to be no older than 6 years selling flower necklaces in the food court. My first instinct was to question why this little boy was working in the middle of the night. But then I thought about it again and wondered if he had to do it to feed his family. So,I gave him 20 baht and told him to keep it.
I went back to the night market again on the second night we were in Chiang Mai and saw the same boy in the same food court. This got me super curious about whether the boy was really working for his family. I started to doubt it and observed the situation. I noticed that he asked all the tourists to buy his flower necklace and most of them did buy them. Then I noticed a lady who was at the end of the food court watching and waiting for him. I kept wondering if that was his mother or not.
On the third night, I saw the little boy again. He was doing the same thing- selling his flower necklaces. Then a police officer came into the food court and I noticed the little boy walking the opposite direction from the side trying to avoid him. The boy exited the food court with the same lady from the previous nights and they both disappear. I asked Mongkon if that could possibly be his mom and Mongkon said maybe. After the police left the little boy came back and did his usual routine of selling flower necklaces to the tourists. Some tourists gave him money then went back to eating and drinking. Mongkon decided to give the little boy some coins and asked if that was his mom, but the little boy didn’t say anything and gave a strange look. The weirdest thing was the little boy’s face expression when Mongkon gave him the money. He had the saddest look, but after receiving the money he smiled and said thank you. It seems to be all acted out like the boy knew exactly what to do to get people’s attention and for them to feel sympathy. Everything seem to all too similar from what I read on the human trafficking website of how “children from neighboring countries are forced to sell flowers, beg, or work in agriculture or domestic service in urban areas. Evidence suggests that the trafficking of men, women, and children into these sectors represent a significant portion of all labor trafficking in Thailand” (Bertone, 2001). It got me questioning a lot about the issue of human trafficking, especially since it’s a universal issue. If human trafficking is such a huge issue throughout the world, what are the government officials doing to limit the number of traffickers? Why isn’t there a collaboration between all the counties to bring down the main pipeline of the human traffickers?
Before this course, I had very little knowledge on the topic of Human Trafficking. It is a topic in which I wanted, in the past, to wither away from because of its gruesomeness. Yet through this past week, I have gone on a journey in which educated me that awareness is crucial. I have learned that Human Trafficking is a real issue. We were shared a very personal story from one of our tour guides, Eve, and her story touched the heart of everyone. Eve came from a place called the Green Zone district. It is one of the most heavily trafficked area in Thailand. She had friends and family who died from HIV in which they contracted from their work in sex trafficking. Her uncle sold her cousins into sex trafficking and they too, died. Her mother worked very hard to keep her out of the business and because of this she was granted a scholarship to ChaingDao School by being the top student of her class. Throughout my trip, we had the chance to meet two villages and the question of human trafficking aroused. Both leaders from the each village stated that trafficking is not a problem with them because of the strongness of their community. In addition to this, we was able to do a tour at the Hall of Opium and something that I learned is that where there is drugs, there is trafficking going on. Many people gets addicted to drugs and they themselves gets sucked into trafficking one way or another. This is why some areas are higher in trafficking than others, like the Green Zone in comparison the villages that we visited. Drugs can destroy a community. It is where poverty is high, education is lacked, resource is limited, and corruption is occurring.
I personally witness trafficking at the Chaingmai Night Bazaar. I met a little boy, about 6 and quite skinny, by the food court. He was going around selling flowers. He didn’t even need to say a word to me to advertise his flower. There was this sadness in his eyes and it lured me in. I went up to him and bought a strand of flower and left. This happened around 10:30 at night and yet this very naive american didn’t think much about it. I was unconscious of what was happening.This happened about one week ago and other students who witness more of this said that the same little boy was at the same food court for three days selling the same thing. He was accompanied by a lady from a distant. This may very well be an example of human trafficking. It was very hard to take this in. A child who is so pure in heart and have so much potential in life is being held back by traffickers. I want to go back to that very moment to take that child’s hand and lead him into a light. Yet, there is a lot more children out there being trafficked the same exact way or worse. Awareness about human trafficking is important and it is happening everywhere. It first takes awareness to trigger some kind reaction toward it and this experience definitely trigger something in me. This is an eye opening experience, one in which will definitely lead to some action in my part.
Before coming to Thailand I didn’t really know what human trafficking was, I just knew it was bad, and thought it had something to do with sex. Now, my idea of human trafficking is much different, and it’s victims can be anyone, it doesn’t discriminate, and can take form in many different ways such as children being sold away from their families for money, it’s not just about sexual interactions.
Our tour guide Eve told us her story, and how human trafficking has affected her and her loved ones. Eve grew up in a village in Thailand referred to as the “green zone,” which is a huge area for human trafficking. Eve has had friends and sisters die from HIV due to human trafficking; and the pain in her eyes was one of the most impacting things I have ever encountered. You might hear in the paper, or an online article about human trafficking, but Eve’s story was up close and right in front of me, that’s something that you can’t ignore. Eve had the chance for a better life due to being at the top of her class in school, so she received a scholarship, if this wouldn’t have happened, she too may have been among the deceased victims. Being able to hear Eve’s story really opened my eyes to the realities of human trafficking, and it makes me want to help fight against this harsh reality. During my time in Thailand I have also witnessed a scenario in Chiang Mai, which seemed like a stereotypical human trafficking incident.
I went to a late dinner with another student in our group, Kya, and we sat out on a patio near a busy road. Just before we finished eating a little boy approached our table trying to sell flowers for 100 Baht; we said “no thank you”, but he was persistent. After he realized we weren’t going to give in, he asked Kya to arm-wrestle him, and if he won she would pay him 100 Baht. There was no way in hell we thought this little boy would win; being probably a mere fifty pounds, so the arm wrestling match begun. The little boy turned out to be much stronger than we thought, and won the match within seconds! Now the question was, what are you going to buy with this 100 Baht? In an infomercial type of way he told us how he was going to buy books for school, that’s when it struck me, there’s something off about this situation, and my gut could feel it. The little boy quickly scampered away around the corner with his money; we’ll never see him again.
Immediately after the situation occurred we knew something wasn’t right, and our observations helped to confirm this. There was a red pick-up truck sitting in the grassy median nearby with it’s lights off, but was in full view of everywhere this boy was trying to sell his flowers. Also, it was almost eleven at night, so what was a young boy of age eight or nine doing alone at this time? Where we’re his parents? Why was he so persistent to get money from us? I can’t say for sure that this was human trafficking, but it looked and seemed like it without a doubt. I will never know for sure what the boy did with the money, or if he is okay, but my heart tells me he is suffering from the consequences of human trafficking.
It’s so easy to overlook these kinds of situations when they are far from home, or read in an article, but when it’s up close and personal, the impact is paralyzing. I think the biggest thing I will take from hearing and seeing these experiences concerning human trafficking is my newfound desire to help other’s who have suffered from human trafficking’s effects. Awareness is key, and my eyes have been opened to an enormous issue; one of my duties now is to bring back this information and share with as many people possible. It is impossible to combat human trafficking with one person; the more who know about this issue, the better.
These are our personal accounts on Human Trafficking that each of us witnessed. With a bit more knowledge on the problem of human trafficking and personal eye-witness, we all have a better understanding. Trafficking is a problem not only in Thailand but globally. Though we are doing our studies in Thailand, it is important to note that the United States is the second most heavily trafficked country; in specific, women and children. In an article we read. “As many as 50,000 trafficked victims [women and children] annually”(Garrett-Akinsanya), which include sex and labor trafficking. In specific, the Twin Cities rank 13th in the most heavily trafficked area in the US (Garrett-Akinsanya). Now that we are all more aware of human trafficking, our next step is to get involved one way or another to stop this. A person has the right to live their life to the fullest, and trafficking denies people this right. Let’s all work together to make people aware of human trafficking and help prevent children, women, and men from ever being trafficked. Awareness is key. There are many agencies in Minnesota that are helping fight against human trafficking, and also providing aid to its victims, including: The International Institute of Minnesota, Breaking Free, and the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force.
Antitrafficking. (n.d). Human Trafficking. Retrieved from
Bertone, M. (2001). Human Trafficking.org. Academy for Educational Development. Retrieved
Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Human Trafficking in Thailand. (n.d). Not for Sale.
Retrieved from http://i.ytimg.com/vi/qDRvxa31VoY/0.jpg
Garrett-Akinsanya, Bravada. “Human Trafficking: The New Slavery.” Insight News RSS. Insight
News, 12 Mar. 2102. Web. June 2015.