Sunday, 13 March 2011

Human traffick: a shelter for abused children

Yarzar talks to Fahan (not his real name) in a classroom
at Pak Kred Reception Home for Boys.
© UNICEF Thailand/2011/Athit Perawongmeth
Poverty is relative. For families living on the bottom rung of the social ladder in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, the streets and slums of Bangkok promise a lifestyle worth making a long and sometimes dangerous journey for. In the troubled border regions of Burma, meanwhile, there are people desperate enough to sell their own children into slavery. As shocking as it sounds, this is a common enough practice to generate a thriving trade in child trafficking at Thailand’s border towns.

To find out what happens to the victims of child trafficking, we went to Pak Kred Reception Home for Boys at Amphur Pakkret, about half an hour’s drive north of Bangkok. In fact it’s only north of Bangkok in the sense that Sutton is south of London – the urban sprawl thins out a bit but there’s no greenbelt or real sense of when one place ends and the other begins.

I live on the north side of Bangkok, so I flagged down a taxi and made my own way to the shelter. There, I met up with Ann and Yarzar from Peuan Peuan (‘Friends’ in Thai), part of the NGO Friends International, which gets support from UNICEF to work with migrant and trafficked children. Yarzar was a polite, young Burmese man in glasses and a Friends polo shirt. Like Nan, the street outreacher worker we met before, he used his language skills to communicate with non-Thai children and their families.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Friends in need: children living in Bangkok slums

Nuch selling flower garlands on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand.
© UNICEF Thailand/2011/Athit Perawongmetha
Like any large city, Bangkok is multi-faceted and the view you get can be radically different depending on your perspective. Having seen the city from the viewpoint of a tourist and an office worker, my next job was to see the same locations from the perspective of the urban poor: in particular children living in slums and working on the streets.

I went on three project visits around Bangkok with my colleagues from the Thailand office, Tum and Cherry, and a local photographer, Chum. I’m working with Tum and Cherry to create stories for the UNICEF Thailand website on the right to an education, while training them up on producing different types of content, including audio, video and social media.

As well as doing freelance work for UNICEF, Chum is an award winning photo journalist. His pictures from the front line of the Red Shirt riots last year paint a vivid picture of anger, bloodshed and arson among the normally placid Thai people. “It’s hard to get natural shots,” Chum explained. “Even during the violence, people would smile and wave at the camera. These were the best 15 pictures from thousands.” I’d just taken my own photos of Red Shirts on their way to a weekend rally, so it was fascinating to see Chum’s much edgier work.