This article was first published in the Bangkok Post on 19 January 2013.
At a university dormitory in Bangkok, 21 young people from disadvantaged communities line up to pull the name of a top hotel out of a bag. Behind them, teams of hotel staff in uniforms wait to meet their new apprentices. For 19-year-old Daojai, a cabbage farmer from a Mon hill tribe village in Petchaburi province, it’s an exciting moment. She reaches in and pulls out a piece of paper saying ‘JW Marriot’ and her new life begins.
Although quiet and shy, Daojai is talkative once she gets going. She dresses simply and has a simple haircut, unlike the more fashion-conscious girls from urban areas. “This is only my second time to Bangkok,” she says. “I arrived yesterday by bus with my friend. I’m very excited to be here. I wanted to go to university but my parents couldn’t afford to send me. I’ll need to pay my own way. Working in a hotel will help me do that.”