All posts by Alexandra Romfoe

Human Trafficking in Thailand

What is human trafficking: Anna

Human trafficking is defined by the United Nations as, “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud, or coercion) for an improper purpose including forced labor or sexual exploitation.” According to UNICEF there are 21 million people around the world being trafficked generating about 32 billion US dollars in profits.


Individuals, especially young persons, are often drawn into the trafficking industry by the promise of security and money. Cambodian, Lao and Burmese victims are often brought across borders to be used as labor, sex workers or to beg on the streets for the benefit of their traffickers. Migrant workers are also common victims of human trafficking as people from other countries often leave their home countries in search of better wages. Thailand is unique in which it is the only country where the government attempts to address the issue of human trafficking. The Thai government works with several different non- governmental organizations to combat the issues that the country faces regarding the trafficking of vulnerable individuals. The hope is that the work that non-governmental organization performs would be transferred over as the work of the government in the future.


What is being done: Ernie
With human trafficking being such a prominent issue in Thailand, especially for the vulnerable population such as children and ethnic minority groups, we visited and talked to two non-governmental organizations (NGO) to find out more about what was being done to combat this. The first was Child Safe, an organization that work alongside the government to help children and youths. Children and youths are constantly being exploited for profit. They are used as entertainment/ attraction for tourists, sex, and beggars for money on the street. This is a large issue in Thailand and Child Safe is working to stop that. According to their website, they aim to “protect children & youth from all forms of abuse, to prevent children & youth from engaging in dangerous behaviors and to influence all tiers of society and the international community so they can create positive environments for children & youth.” They do so by educating the public, working with the Thai government, and working with the children on a case by case manner. In educating the public, Child Safe launched a Think campaign that taught the public, through brochures, 7 ways to protect children while traveling. Child Safe also works closely with embassies, ministry of foreign affairs, ministry of social affairs, and ministry of tourism to help protect children and youths. As for working with children on a case by case manner, the organization has a social work team that help identify the children and a reintegration team that help the children integrate themselves into society through vocational training. The second NGO we visited was the Hill Area Development Foundation (HADF). HADF primarily works with marginalized hill tribe people in Northern Thailand to end their exploitation, educate, strengthen, and empower the communities. Human trafficking is a big concern for the tribes, many young and beautiful girls are often taken to work in karaoke places and/or sex trafficked. The sex traffickers, or “agents”, are usually someone the villagers know and trust. Often time the agents have been trafficked themselves, they make money, go back to their villages, the villagers see their wealth, they want to know how they made the money, and the mentality around the occupation starts to shift. This is a perpetuating cycle that opens the villagers up to further exploitation. In order to stop this cycle, HADF work closely with villages to educate the villagers against this. They also help the villagers with vocational trade so they can have an alternative option to make a living, build confidence in themselves, and integrate themselves further into the community. This makes it more difficult for the agents to exploit them. Both NGOs, Child Safe and HADF, have done an amazing job in helping children and ethnic minority groups. I am extremely proud and happy that organizations such as these exist to help vulnerable populations. There is still a lot to be done, but their work is truly inspiring.

What is not being done: Liz & Molina  

So far, we have seen many organizations that support the victims of human trafficking such as Child Safe and HADF These organizations aims to help victims recover as their case is being investigated; this can take up to 5 years. Not only do the Thai government support the recovery of victims, they also passed a few acts to protect them as well. The Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act (1996) will imprison and fine anyone who commits or engage in prostitution. These acts serves to protect the rights of possible victims of human trafficking. A lot of communities work with their youths to emphasize the importance of education and work on strengthen their skills. We see prevention of human trafficking but we haven’t seen the steps taken to break down the human trafficking systems in Thailand. A lot of investigations is being carried out, but that’s the last we’ve heard of it. It would’ve been nice to talk to Thai officials about the actions they’re taking to crack down the source of human trafficking. As college students, we didn’t have the access to confidential information and investigations. We’ve been here for only three weeks so there wasn’t much exposure regarding the perpetrators in human trafficking.


Recommendations for solution: Alex

Being that Thailand is a hub for human trafficking, it has been under much scrutiny in recent years, with foreign governments claiming the Thai government is not doing enough to end the issue of human trafficking. However, human trafficking is a multifaceted issue that is extremely complex and unfortunately there is not a quick cure all for this problem. To end human trafficking it will involve extensive collaboration between NGOs, the Thai local and federal governments, citizens, and foreign governments.

Based on what we have observed from our time in Thailand, we have formulated our own recommendations to eliminate human trafficking. Although this is not an all encompassing list, it is comprised of what we have seen first hand success stories for or have seen these techniques work well in other areas of the world. First and foremost, (and this was stressed in every one of our NGO visits) education and increasing literacy rates is imperative. By keeping kids in school longer, we are reducing the chance of them finding themselves in a scenario in which they fall victim to trafficking. Increasing literacy rates and time spent in formal education also will help these at risk individuals find better paying jobs that will once again help them avoid the draw of prostitution (often seen as easy money, and an unfortunately easy way to enter the web of human trafficking).

As another form of education, we believe that it is vital to educate the public about the prevalence of human trafficking and the negative impacts it has on the individual as well as society as a whole. Informing individuals who work in businesses that are likely to come across trafficking victims is also a great idea, and then giving these individuals the proper training on what to do when they come across an individual who may be being trafficked so that they are confident in their own abilities to report cases to the appropriate authorities/ organizations. Such employees include hotel staff, restaurant and bar owners, etc. Fortunately Child Safe has already begun to educate tourist businesses so that they can be deemed “Child Safe”. We all believe that patronizing businesses with the “Child Safe” badge is important so that these businesses thrive, and so that it inspires other businesses to undergo this training and certification process.

One deceiving organization as discussed earlier is orphanages, spreading awareness of the harm that volunteering at orphanages can do is also imperative. Eventually we would like to see the closure of illegitimate orphanages and programming set in place to assist impoverished families so they do not feel compelled to sell their children.

This is by no means an all inclusive list of recommendations, but these are topics that we learned most about during our trip. We do recognize the importance of eradicating corruption in the government at all levels, however as this has been a problem for every nation for as long as humans can remember, we do not have a solution for this problem.

The intimacy of food in Thailand

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Food has always been an element of human existence that brings individuals together, it sustains life, it can bring forth great conversation, and for the Thais it is an intimate experience, from market to table.

On our tour through the fruit and vegetable market, I was enthralled by the countless stalls with heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables, the tanks nearly overflowing with unsuspecting fish soon to meet their fate, and the aroma of fresh fried treats waiting to be eaten for those in a hurry. The experience was so pure and so tempting (I wanted to buy just about everything…except fried chicken heads, I haven’t quite gotten on board with that yet…ahh the sensitive western pallet…it is still within me) As I walked through the stall I wondered how there could be so many vendors selling the same things day in and day out and not have most of their products spoil before they were even considered for purchase.

Luckily our guide stepped in before I even had to ask a question. He told us that historically people did not have a way to keep food fresh in Thailand’s relentlessly hot and humid climate. (Which makes sense, I mean I left a granola bar unattended for 45 minutes and the thing was unpalatably soggy…though I was able to choke it down with some peanut butter) That being said, the only way to enjoy fresh Thai cuisine in your house every day was to prepare the meal right before consumption. This meant going to the market 2 or 3 times a day to buy just enough for whatever was for lunch or dinner. And although the majority of Thai households have refrigerators now, this is a tradition that seems to stand for many.

To me this is truly a beautiful concept. You’re supporting your local “businesses”, spending significantly less than you would in a grocery store for great quality, and getting a fresh cooked meals every day instead of the dreaded leftovers in western society. In my eyes, this makes food a very intimate thing, to go through the careful process of choosing a recipe, selecting your fresh ingredients for that day, cooking the recipe, and then sitting down to enjoy it family style is so wholesome and beautiful in my mind. (although I am sure there are many ‘white collar’ families that may not have this luxury) From my previous trip to Thailand, I learned that eating ‘family style’ is almost exclusively what people do here. They all sit down to a meal to share and talk about their days, in fact, I’ve seen many large circular tables equipped with lazy susans just to serve to this eating style in Thai homes. (Something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in the US and I’ve been in my fair share of suburban households)

I compare this to food preparation in the US and I am severely underwhelmed by our current process as it is far less romantic. You go to Costco (can I get a hooray for screamin’ deals and bulk peanut butter?!?!) buy basically what you need for the month, make a big recipe to last the week, maybe order some pizza or Chinese takeout to break up the monotony of yet another night of Mom’s reheated hotdish, and repeat the process again next month.

Am I saying one process in the grand scheme of things is better than the other? No, they both have their downfalls and they both have their inherent ‘perks’. What I’m saying is, given the choice, I would much prefer going to a fresh market at least once a day to prepare a new and exciting dish to eat rather than meal prep (no offense Mom, your hotdishes are superb in their own realm). In my opinion, the Thai culture surrounding food is one that I hope to implement to a certain degree in my own life. Although my current western accommodations don’t allow for daily market trips, I hope to make an effort to buy from farmer’s markets and to be more mindful about food preparation and eventual consumption hopefully with the other members of my household.

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Blog Post 1

Hi everyone, my name is Pakakun Srimaneekulroj, but you can just call me Ernie. I am a senior at the U, majoring in Biology, Society, and Environment and minoring in Chemistry.  An interesting fact about me is that I have duel citizenship in Thailand and the US.

I was born in Thailand and continued to live there until 2nd grade, when I moved to the US. Originally, since I moved at such a young age, I had forgotten Thai. It was only until my cousin came to live with me in 6th grade that I was finally able to speak it again. I still cannot read or write, but that is definitely a goal of mine someday. Now that I am a lot older and I can travel alone, I visit Thailand pretty often. When I do visit though, it is mostly to see family and we primarily stay in Bangkok, so this trip will be pretty exciting. I want to see different parts of Thailand and experience it in a way I  never have before.

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Blog Post 1


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Well, to start out this narrative, my name is Alexandra V.  Romfoe. Some people call me Alexandra, some call me Alex, and some even call me Al. (which can make my heart happy although I’d never asked to be called “Al”) I am 21 years old which means my quarter life crisis is looming.

In the Fall I will begin what I ever so lovingly call my “victory half lap” (I’m taking an extra semester due to utter cluelessness as a freshman). I am majoring in Biology, Society, and Environment, and minoring in Public Health and Geography, although I’m considering turning the victory half lap into a full lap to bump up my geography minor in to a major (although that may just be the onset of my quarter life crisis talking). Nevertheless, after I get my undergraduate degree(s) settled, I plan to go to Mysore, India to volunteer at the NGO Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement and then begin graduate school to get my Master’s in Public Health focusing on Global Health or Community Health Promotion. Some day I would like to work abroad at NGOs. (Thailand and India are the biggest contenders so far)

As far as interesting facts about myself go, I have one default: I can jump rope and pogo stick at the same time. But I guess I could fill you in on a few more logistics. I am originally from Cudahy, WI ( a suburb of Milwaukee), I have 2 younger sisters, and my family owns 2 King Charles Spaniels named Oliver and Lola. I have an affinity for weight lifting and knitting (a strange combination I know), and I am the vice president of my sorority Kappa Alpha Theta. I also have an insatiable need to travel. Just in the past year I’ve been to Thailand, Singapore, India, France, and Ireland.

While in Thailand there are numerous things I hope to learn. From my first trip I got to learn what everyday life looked like in an upper middle class family in Bangkok, I got good exposure to Thai culture, and way of life. In a few short days when I return, I hope to learn more of the Thai language and continue to learn more about the culture and life in general in Thailand so I can better decide if I would like my future career to take place in Thailand or India.

During our trip, my dear friend Ernie and I will also be collecting information for our senior project about human trafficking. Although it is a heavy topic, I am excited to look at what measures are in place to reduce/halt the practice. I hope that I will learn a lot that can be translatable into whatever public health career I end up in one day.

Until next time,

Alexandra V. Romfoe