Stop Slavery

Trip Start Jan 08, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

"The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either."
Benjamin Franklin

"You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom."
Malcom X

As I started to get over my unhappiness following the previous trip, I got an email from a group called Not For Sale. Please look them up at:

They are a group that works to stop the slave trade. It is estimated that about 27 million people are in slavery around the world at the moment. More than the amount of African slaves at the height of the African slave trade. That should make me sad I suppose. But I am happy to hear of this group trying to do something about it and I am glad they contacted me to see if we could work together on it.

On Saturday night Mark from Not For Sale will fly into Thailand and stay at my place in Bagkok and on Sunday morning we'll fly to Chiang Rai.

The Hill Tribes in Chiang Rai and the refugees that come into Thailand from Burma are some of the people that can easily be exploited and end up becoming slaves. So we'll see what we can do to stop that happening.

More to follow..........
Ok, trip os over now. Went a bit longer than expected.
Mark got to my house at around midnight then we got up at 03.45 to get to the airport to get to Chiang Rai. We visited Mirror Foundation which he was very impressed with and had a chat to Khun Moo about some of the trafficking issues and cases. The following are two examples that Moo mentioned:

One Hill tribe girl was 12 when her mother took her to Bangkok to work in a shop selling various things. The mother stayed with her for the night and saw that the work and the living conditions were OK and then the mother headed home to the mountains in Northern Thailand. {Perhaps this occurred at a time when the girl could not get access to education anyway, and although we all agree the a young girl working is not best, a poor hill tribe woman with little other choice could think that giving her daughter a job, salary and life in Bangkok was going to be best for all involved}.

The next day, after the mother left, the girl was moved out of the shop and into a brothel where she was then made to work as a prostitute. After the mother contacted the shop and couldn't get hold of her daughter, she visited the shop where she was told her daughter had run away. {Bear in mind that a trip to Bangkok and a night in a cheap hotel could be as much or more than 6 months pay for this woman}.

5 years later when the girl was 17 she was arrested by the police for prostitution. She had no ID card. She and her family were Thai citizens, but when she went to work in the shop at age 12 she wasn't old enough to have an ID card. Assuming she was an illegal immigrant the police deported the girl to Burma. An organisation {I think they were working for women's rights or on prostitution related issues} heard about the case and contacted Mirror to contact this girl who was now just across the border in Burma. Mirror Foundation looked into the case and met the girl. They recognized that this seemed to be the same as a case 5 years ago when a mum told Mirror that her daughter had gone missing while working in Bangkok.

They took the mother to see the daughter. It was her. But at first she wouldn't talk to her mother as she had been told that her mother had sold her into prostitution. This wasn't true and now the girl lives with her family and village in Northern Thailand.

Case 2.

A rich Thai family visited the hill tribes in Northern Thailand. While visiting one family they commented that their daughter was a lovely and good girl. The richer family was interested in taking her in and giving her a good life and schooling. The hill tribe mother found this difficult but decided that it would be best for the girl to go to live with the rich family and have a good life and get education. The girl was 7 years old.

The family then put the girl to work taking care of all the family members, doing the washing and cleaning. She never went to school and wasn't allowed to contact her parents.

Mirror Foundation travels to villages and schools to teach them about the dangers of human trafficking, human rights and to give advice to people considering travelling to the city to work. During one of these presentations, the mother of this girl spoke to the Mirror staff. After hearing the presentation she was concerned and worried about what had happened to her daughter.

Mirror Foundation tried to contact the girl but the family would not allow it. Eventually they convinced the rich family that the girl needed to return to the Northern part of Thailand for government administration purposes. It was then, when the girl was 12 years old that she was returned to her family and it was discovered that she hadn't been able to attend school and that she had been treated as a slave.

Anyway, from Mirror Foundation we headed up to Mae Sai to visit Kru Nam. Have a look at the Not For Sale website and it has a short video that explains who Kru Nam is and it is worth watching. She runs a drop in centre at Mae Sai where the street kids can come and eat lunch and relax and learn a little. Mae Sai has lots of street kids that come from Burma to beg in Thailand or on the bridge in between the 2 countries. I talked to some of the people that were begging as to why. Some said they had no land as the Burmese Army had taken it and they could no longer produce enough for themselves. Many of them were Akha, but also a lot of Lahu and Burmans. Then as we had lunch we watched the kids on the bridge. They are in a bad state and mainly addicted to sniffing glue. Kru Nam's staff pointed out the leader of the gang. A boy about 15 who was really wasted, but we could watch him collecting the money from the other kids who were begging. Then they pointed out his boss. A mum of one of the kids. The older kid gave the money to her. All very plain to see when you know what to look for. Pretty sad. A lot of these kids already have permanent brain damage. We went and met the kids on the bridge and gave out some basic first aid.

We then headed past the Golden Triangle to Chiang Sean where Khru Nam has some of the orphans housed in a couple of houses and she is building a bigger one. We had a chat about things and then headed back to Chiang Rai and then back to Bangkok. Mark had a couple of Methodist pastors coming soon to see what we'd just seen. They plan tbring a group and donate to the orphanage. Although Mark had now seen around, this area was pretty new to him and without any Thai language I could see it was going to be hard. So I agreed to come back with him for the next part of his trip also. Added to that, Mark was a good guy and I was impressed with what Not For Sale is trying to do.

So a couple of days later I was up at the silly time again and going to the airport to meet up with Mark, Kevin and Craig. We went to Mirror Foundation, looked around and had a chat and then stayed the night in Baan Apa, an Akha village. I think Kevin and Craig were a bit out of their depth here, but Mark and I stayed in a house together and had a good night with Daow and the mum of the house, who showed us her weaving and stitching work and told us stories of traditional Akha life. A life much of which is currently in the process of being lost. For example the Akha used to grow their own cotton which the women then spin by hand into thread to make clothes. This ability to spin cotton (not to mention walk and sing at the same time) is now almost exclusively only known by older women. So I suppose we were pretty privileged to watch Mama do it. We all had a go, but the cotton just snaps unless you have the technique correct.

The next morning we headed up to Mae Sai again. This time we stopped in to visit Childlife / Baan Nana and Khru Nao as well. Also an impressive group that takes in orphans and street kids. Kru Nao is probably less adept at getting support if compared to Kru Nam, so it is worth looking at his website and thinking about helping if you are in a position to do so. Khru Nao tries to get to the new kids before they get addicted to glue or to the lifestyle of living free on the streets, but he also has kids that have been doing that for a while. Look up I will copy their leaflet and put it in the photos. Also remember that Childlife run the Nana buffet and restaurant in Mae Sai if you are passing through.

We then visited Khru Nam again and showed Kevin and Craig the orphanage site. Had an interesting chat that included finding out that Khru Nam has brought children in the past for 100 Baht. Why? An example: parents in Burma with a child with TB. There is no medical care available in Burma, so the parents only hope was to sell their child to Khru Nam in Thailand for a nominal fee in the hope the child could get medical help and a decent life.

Anyway we were pretty tired by the time we got back to Chiang Rai and luckily the next day was just riding elephants, getting a massage and going. Or at least for the 3 Americans. I stayed one more night in Chiang Rai and then headed to Chiang Mai to book a hotel for an Antipodeans group.

At night I noticed a Burmese woman begging on the street with her two young kids. I asked her where she was from and she said Mae Sai. I asked her if they wanted to join me for dinner but she couldn't as she was a beggar. She asked if I would give her and her kids takeaway instead which I did. I later brought them toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, milk and some cough medicine and had a chat to the woman. She had land in Burma, but her husband was sick and couldn't work so she came her to beg and get money. She slept on the streets but was able to wash in the temple. She said that she did it all herself and that no one forced her or collected her money. She said she would go back in another couple of weeks.

That's enough. See ya

Oh, one more unrelated thing. Flying into Bangkok today I noticed it is very wet and very flat. It won't take much of a rise in the ocean levels to put all of Bangkok under water. I reckon 50cm should probably do it, and anything under that will still cause lots of flooding and problems.
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