Thailand – “Land of Smiles” (2nd in a 4-part series on Stories of Thailand – Hudson Restoration Journeys to the Land of the White Elephant)

Sharyl Hudson Blog


Imagine waking up one morning and finding out that your brother or sister had been sold for $30 to organ traffickers. This does not even measure up to a nightmare. This…is a complete breakdown of a criminal justice system that turns a blind eye to the rampant issue of human trafficking . In Thailand, which is known as “the land of smiles”, this is an all too real occurrence.
Despite its immense beauty and robust tourist population, Thailand is recognized by the United Nations (UN) as “ a key destination for human trafficking in the Mekong region.” According to the UN-ACT which governs socio-economic and legal policies against trafficking in developing countries such as Thailand “foreign migrants, ethnic minorities and stateless persons in Thailand are at the greatest risk of being trafficked, experiencing various abuses including the withholding of documents (pertaining to) identity and debt bondage subject to illegal salary deductions and language barriers.”
During a conversation with our colleague, Nick Hudson who recently returned from Thailand, one initially gets the sense that Thailand is a peaceful country with its Buddhist faith and its name “Tai” which means, ironically, “free”…Other names associated with this exotic country is“Thailand – Land of the Smiles” and “Thailand – Land of the White Elephants”…On the outset, this all seems entirely possible…but as one gets deeper into the psyche of the country one realizes the very dark secret that Thailand keeps closest to its chest – that of human trafficking.
The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (in Thailand) oversees the implementation of Thailand’s “National Plans of Action (NPA) against human trafficking” as well as acting as the focal point for its nationwide network of victim shelters. Nick Hudson visited one of those shelters during his recent time with “Live Different”, a grass roots operation that “BUILDS” communities, one house at a time.“Seeing the vulnerability of the children and what they have come through was a real eye opener for me….It made me realize the atrocities that are happening right under the watch of developed countries.
The Children’s Shelter Foundation located in the northern and mountainous villages of Thailand and Myanmar “addresses the vulnerability of the northern mountain regions of the country, whose needs are very different from the rest of the country”. The children that come from this region have issues that are unique to their region which include:
– Inequality of opportunity through a lack of rights
– Exposure to poverty or neglect
– Exposure to abuse
– Escape from the military (Myanmar – child soldiers)
– Drug problems of single families or whole villages
– Children without parents (orphans, unwanted children, children of deported or imprisoned parents)
– Organ trafficking
“Depending on which tribe they come from, children may have no ID cards, no right to school, and sometimes no right to residence.” Nick met with some of the teachers at the various shelters who describe the enormous vision for future generations of migrant children:
Despite the monolithic journey ahead of them, grassroots organizations are springing up with a vision for every child’s future,
“Love..courage…hope…
Wings that carry
Good education and strong life skills
Along with a large dose of self confidence….
That is our goal for each of our children