A middle-aged woman was riding her motorbike roaming the streets of Nongki village. Everything about her appearance looked ordinary and did not illicit any suspicions. She looked around. Suddenly, her eyes fixed on one small house near a barren farmland.
The woman drove to the house and greeted the young girl who was sitting at the front of the house alone. She asked the young girl questions that are typically asked among the people in this area.
“Do you want a new cell phone?” “Do you want to live in a bigger and nicer house?”
The young girl was surprised by the lady’s questions and remained silent.
“If you are interested in these things, I can give them all to you. All you have to do is come work with me. You will earn a lot of money so that you can have pretty clothes to wear and you will have a nice car to drive. It is a very easy job. C’mon. Trust me and come with me.”
“No, thank you,” replied the young girl, Supattra, a 14-year-old Compassion-assisted child. This situation is repeated over and over.
Nongki is a town in northeastern Thailand. It is very close to some of the major cities in Thailand including the capital city of Bangkok and Pattaya. It is no surprise that Nongki has quickly transformed from an agriculture town to one that increasingly resembles surrounding nearby cities like Bangkok and Pattaya.
“One of the significant issues in Nongki is prostitution,” says Ratchaya, director of the Thai Children Development Center.
“Prostitution has crept up silently in our community and has become a very significant source of income over the past three years. There are so many nightclubs, pubs and restaurants that have opened up here, and it is increasing. These places are targeted toward and service the local men who work at the factories or as daily workers in this area.”
“Marriages between Thai women and Westerners working in Bangkok and Pattaya have become increasingly common. It is becoming a major problem, and our center is deeply concerned.
“There are too many cases of poor, working Thai women becoming rich suddenly. They ride in nice cars and build big houses over their small former shelters. These women’s rapid rise to wealth has resulted in influencing young girls from this area to follow these women in their professional footsteps to pursue material wealth.”
A common problem is older Western men moving to Thailand and taking young women as wives. They move to Thailand in their retirement because of the low cost of living, and meet young Thai girls in a club, who become their companion or wife. The Westerner gets a companion, and the girl gets money.
Another problem is the gangs that seek to lure girls into prostitution. It is very easy for gangs to seduce and persuade young girls to drop out of school to work at night in local bars or pubs.
The gangs approach poor, young girls from the early age of 12 or 13, who do not live with their parents. They lure these young girls by talking about the significant amount of money they will earn so that they can buy the luxuries they desire.
Being born and raised in a poor family often makes young children feel they are unworthy, and frequently causes their self-confidence to diminish. They respond to their feelings of worthlessness by turning to material things to reaffirm their identities and self-worth in society.
About half of the young girls from the Thai Children Development Center do not live with their parents, who work in factories in big cities. Often they stay with an extended relative such as an aunt or grandmother. This creates a gap or distance between the young children and their caregivers. Ratchaya says,
“It’s the center’s duty to vaccinate our children and warn them about the seduction and danger of prostitution. We cannot stay calm while these issues are corrupting and ruining our community. It is harming our children. We have to take action.”
The child development center has always emphasized the importance of social awareness both locally and nationally. The center leaders read the news to the children, updating them on what is going on in Thailand every Saturday before the children attend their activities. It helps the children gain a wider perspective of what is going on and what steps they need to take to be prepared to protect themselves and make better choices for their lives.
“We know that many of our children struggle with low self-esteem, so we encourage and teach them that the value of their life does not depend upon how much they have or the amount of money they earn. Rather, we encourage the children to stay grounded in dignity and to do what is right.”
Chonticha, a sponsored child, says,
“A lot of my friends want to have pretty clothes or nice shoes from the latest fashions they see in magazines. They ask money from their parents to buy those things or work in restaurants at night in order to earn more money, which causes them to drop out of school.
“I feel really sorry for them. Before they decide to quit school, I tell them to think twice about their decision and try to stop them. I have learned from the center that when young girls ended up working in a restaurant and neglecting their education, it often leads them into a life of prostitution.
“I want them to come back to study. I asked a friend of mine who quit her school if she was happy and she said no. She has many things she wanted but they mean nothing to her now.”
And Supattra agrees.
“I will not let myself get involved in a risky situation like prostitution because I don’t want to degrade myself. I know that my body is worth more than material things. It is not worth it to trade myself in order to get the latest cell phone or a big house. If someday I ever chose the wrong path, I know I would lose everything, including my pride.”
Compassion Thailand realizes that child trafficking is a crucial issue that needs to be resolved immediately. We’ve worked with International Justice Mission, and they conducted training sessions and workshops on “Child Rights and Child Protection” for all 220 child development centers in Thailand in 2008.
The training taught the staff who work directly with children how to prevent children from being abused and how to protect them from being taken advantage of.
At the workshops, they discussed the common problems of children who are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, trafficking, sexual abuse, domestic violence and lack of citizenship.
They wanted to reinforce the knowledge and skills of the staff to help uphold children’s rights. The workshops were a success. Those who attended gained a deeper understanding about these issues and were able to use the information to write plans on how to protect registered children at their centers.
They created a Child Abuse Protection Network for every center, linking with organizations that can provide help in child protection and child abuse situations. Most important, they now know what to do and who to contact if something happens to any of the children.
Sai Tan Rak Child Development Center is located in the city of Phitsanulok, in an area with a high rate of prostitution. Often, groups look for young girls who hang around an area in the park at night. They persuade and take these young girls into the evil prostitution cycle.
After the center staff attended a training workshop, they brought back useful materials and information to regularly conduct activities for young girls to fight the prostitution. Valia, the center director, says,
“The center teaches young women about sexuality, virginity and how to protect themselves from a risky situation.
“Whenever we learn that our children are in a risky situation, we personally talk to them and do everything to help them from making unwise choices.
“I see changes in them after we train and talk to them. Groups of registered young girls who used to hang around the park at night are decreasing. Girls who are who are vulnerable of being exploited come and tell me that they will not go to the park at night again because they are scared and they don’t want to be victims.”
Jenjira, a sponsored child, says,
“My village is in a danger zone for prostitution. I see too many young girls being lured into prostitution because they desire more money, but they go into it without knowing the consequences.
“Attending the center has been very good and helpful for me because the center teaches me, and now I know how to protect myself from this prostitution.
“If someone were ever to try and persuade me to become a prostitute, I would tell my family or the center staff at the church because they always have good advice and would help me out.”
Parents also play an important role in a child’s life.
At Sai Tan Rak, parents often do not have time to educate or teach their children. They are busy working to earn money day and night. Some parents are not even aware of the prevalence of prostitution in their area. It is the center’s responsibility to inform the parents of the children about relevant issues such as prostitution that could affect their child or children, so that even busy parents can keep an eye on their offspring.
The center staff members regularly visit the children’s homes to raise awareness and have personal time with the parents. If the center knows that a child is vulnerable to trafficking, they will visit quite often.
Unlike the parents of children in Sai Tan Rak, some parents of children in the Thai Children Development Center actually encourage their children to work at a restaurant in Bangkok or Pattaya because working there earns them a lot of money.
“We cannot talk openly to parents about this issue. We made the mistake of doing so in the past and do not want this to happen again. Instead we teach, talk, play videos and give materials for the children to address this issue,” explains Ratchaya.
In the past, if the center learned that a young girl was involved in prostitution, the staff would make several attempts to visit and talk to the parents at home to try and explain the devastating effects prostitution can have on the life of a young girl, and help the child get out of the situation.
Then a few weeks later, the child’s mother would come and ask to take her child from the center. Unfortunately, this would result in the child dropping out of school and working at night.
Some parents work in Bangkok or Pattaya and request that their child stay with them during the summer, when the children are out of school. Even though it may only be two or three months, it can change a child’s life if they are exposed to the world of prostitution.
“If they are ever confronted with having to make difficult choices in their future, I hope that in attending the center it will help them make the right choices for their future,” says Ratchaya.
24 Comments |Add a comment
Yes, this is one problem I think Thailand needs to wake up and od it right
I just heard about Compassion today! I am a Christian worker in Thailand. I just heard of a pastor in Thailand, whose 2 yr old daughter was severely burned in a pot of boiling water, shortly after he signed up to be a center for Compassion. His family is getting lots of persecution for helping girls avoid prostitution, He is in a big spiritual battle over this. Please pray for little Sophia who is severely burned. She is in the hospital for treatment, in a lot of pain, and has the risk of severe infection because of her burns.Praise our god for His compassion on us.
Very well done and enlightening piece, sad but hopeful because of the work you’re doing in making a difference and providing opportunities for the children you sponsor. Its great to see organizations like yours step up to the plate.
At the Genesis Network, we are greatly involved with building schools along the Burmese/Thai border through various initiatives. Feel free to visit us at gnetwork.org.
Best of luck and continued success.
Wow, this human trafficking is so sad and disturbing to hear about. It is good to hear about how Compassion Thailand is really engaging the culture and doing what they can to empower these girls to make good, well-informed, and healthy choices for themselves. I pray they continue to receive the wisdom of God as they perform this vital work in Thailand!
My comment isn’t related to this subject at all but I was hoping it would be read by many sponsors. If you aren’t aware, you can earn money for Compassion by going to http://www.goodsearch.com when you need to search for information on any topic. You will need to designate the charity you wish to receive the money. Yes, it’s only a penney a search but think of how much that would amount to if every sponsor used goodsearch for their searches.
My husband and I feel so very priviledged to be able to sponsor a child from Thailand. Most importantly, is our priviledge to pray to our God who cares even more for these children then we could ever comprehend. We will so blessed to be able to daily lift these precious ones up in prayer. “What you do onto the least of these you do also unto me.”
Human trafficking breaks my heart. I sponsor as many kids as I can afford because I look at an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I am so thankful God has raised up Compassion to help in this area.
It’s sad that this still happens. I was lucky, my family didn’t live in poverty, I was protected and never exposed to any types of ‘human trafficking’. My parents brought me to the U.S. to have a better opportunity. I’m glad I can give back. I, too, sponsor children, in hopes to create a better opportunity.
Awareness of this kind of activity should be made very Vocal! There are many out there who doesn’t believe Human Trafficking still exists. That’s dangerous denial.
I am so glad to hear how much Compassion is doing to educate and help these children. It must be hard for them to resist when they are in such poverty. Because they are so young and don’t understand the long term consequences. God bless Compassion workers in Thailand, and I pray that he keeps you strong and you can persevere in this difficult task.
Yes well when I was there, people worked 12 hours per day 365 days a year for equivalent of $1 day. You figure with inflation, their buying power is about the same. Devastating! And they are such a warm and lovely people. I am sure Thailand is the same.
I sponsor a girl in Thialand. This really has me concerned. I hope that what I do for her helps protect her from these kinds of influences.
@Crystlgib – I haven’t seen what you mentioned, however you were probably not on a Compassion Sponsor Tour as I am so I don’t doubt many forms of prostitution are still going on in the Philippines as well as all over the world. But we did visit a house at a Child Survival Project and the Compassion worker helped the 30 month old girl make finger puppets and these were genuine finger puppets, you might of even called them “fingernail puppets” they were so small and just taped around the finger. It was quite amazing how profound such a simple visit could be. The father works a few hours away by train or bus and sleeps from 10am or so 5pm and goes to work at 7pm. So he woke up b/c we came to visit. His name was Mike like mine. Their living space was not even as large as our dinner table. They shared the whole house with three families and just had the floor space to sleep. Even if they slept diagonal I do not think they could fully extend their legs. It was interesting talking to some of the workers at the Hotel as well, they travel 100km to work each day one way. One of the workers gets 200 pesos for 12 hours of work currently 44 pesos is $1. The workers definitely have a hope/comfort/thankfulness/joy about them despite being paid almost nothing. I can easily see why children beg. I gave a girl about a dollar in change and that is worth 4 hours of adult work at a resort hotel! A taxi driver told me he earns about 300 pesos a day for 10hrs work. I told him “goodness gracious!” I earned about $100-200 a day however I was taking calls 24-hrs. But I see how “the lack of options” comes into play. Lots to tell but I need to go take some more video and pictures 😉 Palaam
So true and sad to hear again about the trafficking but great to hear that Compassion is making such a HUGE difference!!!!!!! My roommate hear in the Philippines said when he went to Thailand with Compassion that they used to to just take the girls and he said Compassion really helped and that was no longer taking place, but sad to see they are still trying to tempt them with material things and promise of a better life. Keep up the GREAT work Compassion Thailand!!!!!!!
@Bob – To respond to Bob’s concern, I would like to offer that you have to understand the family situation that some of the children find themselves in. Some of the parents view their children as a meal-ticket and are not concerned with the wellbeing of their child. In the Philippines we’ve had parents sending their 14 year old daughter to dance nude in clubs to provide money for the family. When parents have crossed that line, I believe we have a responsibility to step in and provide the protection a child needs through training and support even without the parents participation. If the parents find you are potentially taking their money source away, the project could lose the relationship with the child.
It is easily believable how this can happen, but being here in the Philippines…yay!!!!!!! I can see how this is so possible and to many may seem like a great solution to their lack of material wealth.
This is a problem in many countries I am sure. I know when I was in the Philippines 20 years ago there were many young prostitutes. I don’t know if it is the same now, but at that time the age of legal consensual sex was 12 or 13 years of age. I assume prostitution wasn’t even illegal as the girls all wore ID badges with their picture and the date they were last tested for venereal disease. I think the worst part was the people there did not seem to consider this exploitation or abuse. They thought it was normal and were honestly perplexed that we found it disconcerting.
I’ve been to Thailand a couple of times, and it is frightening to think of how children are being targeted in this way on a daily basis. Thank you for reporting on this and raising awareness.
It grieves me to hear what is happening with child prostitution. To hear that Compassion girls are having to face it brings it even closer to home. I thank God that the churches are able to reach out to these girls and, in a culturally acceptable way, to their parents as well. I pray that the girls will come to know how valuable and precious they are to their Heavenly Father and that their self-esteem will surpass that of any earthly princess.
It’s so sad to read about these things — when I first heard about child prostitution in Thailand, I sponsored a girl there right away. Now it’s 13 years later, and she will be graduating from the LDP, Lord willing, next year!
Thank You for sharing this report. It is important to us because we have a 10 year old young girl in a Thai
Center. We will be sure and pray, encourage her, and stay connected to her even more than before. She is living only with her Mother and I am sure that she would be a target.
Thank You Compassion for all that you do to help watch over God’s heart- these little ones. Surely He will see and bless you !!! We are so thankful to be apart of the work you are doing, or should I say the blessing of His service through Compassion! God’s Blessing and provision to all who are apart of Compassion!! Thank you again!
I strongly disagree — education about trafficking and prostitution must involve the child and the parents.
Parents have a tremendous influence on how their child will develop. We only aid the deceptive ways of evil one when we back away fearing that the child will be removed from the project.
Children and parents need to hear from those who once fell prey to this hideous practice; those who now live with broken dreams and shattered bodies. Families need to understand that child prostitution is a joyless existence, filled with endless abuse and continual degradation, where the desire for life destroyed and the soul is extinguished.
I thank God that you are teaching our sponsor children about these evil dangers. Sexual predators can be anywhere. Thank you for working to protect our kids when we cannot be there to do it ourselves. I often think of the first nine chapters of Proverbs and how they could be gender-neutral warnings for all our kids!
So grateful that Compassion kids have a place that is not only a safe haven, but teaches spiritual truth.
‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ 1 Peter 5:8
You know we live in a sick world when young girls are asked to sell their bodies…