Reflections on my time in Northern Thailand

My week in Northern Thailand was both enriching as well as an emotionally exhausting, frustrating experience. From an intellectual standpoint, while I am not new to the issue of human trafficking, I gained new insights into how it is so intimately connected to human vulnerabilities like statelessness. From an emotional perspective, I could no longer keep myself emotionally distant from the sheer humanness and injustices associated with trafficking. I have to admit that I kept myself at semi-arms-length from such issue because I feared myself. I feared my capacity for being utterly broken once I placed faces and names to victims, requiring a drastic change in how I see the world. Human trafficking, once acknowledged, requires action.

I am not sure whether the experiences of the last week will have a lasting impact, but it has without a doubt left me very raw- raw because I have to fight more intentionally against the sense of hopelessness caused by the enormity of human trafficking and raw because compassion means sharing in the millions of victims’ pain. At the same time, I have been incredibly frustrated at how some development workers who know of human trafficking can treat it without emotion and remain detached. I am not so much disappointed at the fact that they are not personally committed to working against human trafficking (for there are many other equally important causes) as I am disappointed at how it has become just another issue filed away in the brain and void of any feeling. Perhaps that is their way of dealing with the gravity of the issue so that they can move on and do the work they need to do, and if so, I can understand their reason completely. Nevertheless, this trip has thought me the lesson that to be truly effective in a cause, I have to be emotionally invested by having compassion and empathy. While this sounds obvious, this is a personal revelation as my emotional intelligence is not the best and I still struggle to channel many things down from my brain and into my heart.

Drawings by some of the girls about their troubled pasts and what they have learned through New Life Centre's human rights training. This is one Christian ministry really doing some awesome, transformative work in lives in this region

Another cause of discomfort is my deep sense of frustration that many Christians are apathetic to the injustices and pains of people abused, raped, and sold into slavery at a daily basis. Injustices have become tolerated. I know this is largely an issue of awareness but I see social justice as so integral to the message of the Bible that it needs to become a bigger focus:

“Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

However, the trip also gave me hope. I was encouraged some wonderful folks from the New Life Centre[1] and Aimee George of the International Justice Mission[2] at Chiang Rai because they were examples of Christians making a very real and tangible difference to the lives of many in Thailand. I know that Christian organisations like Justice Acts[3] and the Rahab Centre in Patpong,[4] Bangkok are doing really inspiring work, but somehow I am very relieved that there are more Christians getting their hands dirty and rescuing victims from the exploitative sex and forced labour industries. Perhaps it is because I am personally drawn to the rescue work associated with counter-trafficking and that was one large reason why I became a prosecutor several years back. If it was not for the fact that I have a husband who over-worries about my physical recklessness (ie my driving) and enjoyment of adrenaline sports, I think the spy-work of TRAFCORD[5] would have suited me!

In the meantime, I hope to make a difference in this world by sharing what I have learned. I ask that you also help by sharing what you have learnt with others too.

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3 Responses to “Reflections on my time in Northern Thailand”
  1. Stephanie Chung says:

    Keep up the good work Elaine. I understand where you are coming from. Though it is very disheartening to see that human trafficking continues to prevail in some countries like Thailand, we have to count our blessings and continue to pray for their situations.

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