Street Children, Prositutes, and Smiling Soldiers

Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
Trip End May 10, 2007

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Life here in Thailand has been hectic to say the least and in the midst of all that is going on here, i've seriously neglected my travelogue with worthwhile entries for my readers. So here is my attempt to catch you up on my life as I know it, ranging from press trips in Myanmar, to a bar opening operated and owned by prostitutes, to boys and back (i'll leave that part out), to military take overs. The past two weeks has taken me from the Northern most point of Thailand to the Capital city, and back again. Here is what's up on my side of the world.

Street Children
Heart of the Streets (HOTS) team of Journalists, Scholars, University Professors and staffers, set out on the weekend of 17 September to observe the current issues facing cross-border street children in Thailand and Myanmar. In an effort to sensitize media professionals to the phenomenon's facing street children, they accomplished just that. In a case of Eyes Wide Shut, we watched a woman sell her eldest son, something that we'd prefer to not have witnessed with wide eyes, but an occurrence we cannot shut our eyes and minds to. As we sat there, a little boy in a faded red t-shirt and a toy gun in his hand, slapped his mothers shoulders clutching her from behind. His little swollen belly beating like a fast heart as tears ran down his cheeks and snot dribbled from his nose, it was a vision of a childhood lost at age 4. The mother sat there, flanked by her two other children, with a seemingly stoic presence. (Excerpted from current article for HOTS)

My eyes could not help but begin to tear as I watched what I had only read and reported about. It is gut wrenching, in the least, to witness the lives of these children, but seeing them smile and hearing them laugh brings with it great rewards. On the second day of our visit, I watched a group of 40 children run about like kids at summer camp - with carefree attitudes, smiles swiped across their faces, diving and swimming in the watering hole, little girls giggles filling the air. It brought a sense of peace to my vision of the phenomenon of street children and their childhood lost.

Prostitutes (or as they prefer to be called, Sex Workers)
"The Can Do Bar's" grand opening on Friday, 16 September stood as not only a new nightspot locale, but as a stronghold for sex workers throughout Chiang Mai. An experimental bar founded by the sex worker rights NGO, Empower, it is run by current and former sex workers. A vibrant energy packed the pub as girls performed skits with topics ranging from condom usage to anti-trafficking rhetoric, music blasted and people danced around the two polls center staged on the dance floor.

The three story structure is painted like a Christmas revival, red with green trimming. From the bottom up, the downstairs hosts a roadside patio, full bar, seating, and dancing polls. The second floor hosts an art gallery and a sex workers museum: with reportedly expensive shag carpeting and Thai triangular pillows on the floor. Red lighting highlights posters on the walls reading "we're not drowning, we're waving" and "its not what we do...its how we do it." Book shelves adorned with titles such as Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl and "SPREAD: Tricking all over the world" line the walls leading to the balcony over looking Chiang Mai land. The third floor has resting quarters for the girls, as well as a counseling room, and a clean bathroom. (Excerpted from current article for City Life)

People came with "warming gifts" of bouquets of condoms- something we normally see at Retail Slut in L.A. or the Pleasure Palace in Springfield, Oregon. Among other journalists there were Al Jazeera (I still cannot figure out why they were there???) and the Democratic Voice of Burma.

Coup de etat
The Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM), which is our new governing body, has issued orders to its soldiers - keep smiling. The soldiers, who man the outposts in greater Bangkok and Chiang Mai, were encouraged to forge a military-friendly image, hoping to maintain a positive image for the council.

Visions of children clad in camouflage pose in front of military tanks covered in roses, living out dreams of being real life G I Joes. AK-47's perched on table tops next to vases filled with flowers are stationed at strategic intersections. Soldier's uniforms are decorated with yellow ribbons and boutiners (I thought were reserved for the Senior Prom?) They even have military cheerleaders, sent out wearing knee high boots, daisy dukes, and camo middriffs, they entertain soilders with poorly choreographed dance routines - they've got nothing on the Laker Girls though.

To me a coup de etat was something that was boring reading in a French history book, it was not something I ever thought I would live through. For now though it seems that everything is coming up rosy.

Other thoughts and things in general
I am so over monsoon season. The rain here puts Oregon to shame.
I found a place that has bagles, lox and cream cheese & that made my day.
At the Burmese border I was told that I needed more pages in my passport if I were to come through again. My passport was full! I had to have more pages put in my passport at the goal I thought.
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