On a very special day—my girlfriend’s birthday—we loaded up her friend’s car with over 30 kg of rice, 12 bottles of cooking oil, 12 bottles of fish sauce, and bulk amounts of laundry detergent, bathroom cleaner, and dish soap. We were headed to donate it to the Anti-Trafficking and Child Abuse Center (ATCC) in Pattaya.
Although the center is about a 30-minute drive outside Pattaya, it took us over an hour to get there. Before we arrived, I didn’t know the name of the place in English. As far as I knew, it was an orphanage like any other. I was led to understand that it had something to do with rescuing children from abusive situations. But that was the extent of it. So as we meandered down side streets, under overpasses, ventured into more rural-looking landscapes, wrestled with Google Maps’s completely useless directions, phoned three different people, and pulled about fifty different U-turns, I couldn’t help wondering why an orphanage would be so hard to find.
The answer became clear when we arrived. Once I understood that most of the 30 children living there were rescued from trafficking, I knew that this place needed to be difficult to reach. All sorts of scary characters—from dangerous mafia bosses to creepy Western pedophiles—could be looking for these kids, some of them even by name. The center not only harbors abused children, but plays a key role in informing and aiding police in arresting the men that would hurt them, as well as the legal proceedings that lead to the child’s deliverance and protection and the criminals’ prosecution.
But the primary emotion I felt when we drove through the entrance with its quaint, painted wooden sign wasn’t fear or anger. It was relief, enthusiasm, and tear-jerking joy.
Human trafficking has been my pet issue since it became personal—my girlfriend was kidnapped and nearly trafficked a couple years ago in Malaysia. Even in her case, where nothing sexual happened to her and she was inexplicably freed, she feels shame, fear, and a trauma with which few can ever empathize. So although I’ve always found human trafficking to be a deeply disturbing issue that defies what one would assume to be our basic moral code, it has become real to me in a way I never imagined.
But in my passion for fighting the atrocity of trafficking people, I haven’t seen the face of its noble adversaries. I’ve been to websites like NotForSale.org. I’ve called the Human Trafficking hotline to find out what avenues victims have for rehabilitation and therapy. I’ve watched documentaries and read articles about the things people are trying to do to combat the issue. But the ATCC is the first encounter I’ve had with people who are actually in the trenches. And that’s why it was so moving for me.
At the bottom of this article is a link to the ATCC’s website. Unfortunately they seem only to accept donations of either $100 or $1000. I’m looking into liaising between them and my friends and family (and potentially other donors). But until I’ve worked out a system for doing this without putting myself or the ATCC at risk of charity fraud, this is your only avenue to help. Hopefully I’ll have something feasible set up soon, at which point I’ll post a follow up with the appropriate information.
Now enough of my own explanations. On their property they have a lot of posters explaining their mission and methods, two of which I’ve rewritten in better English:
“Thailand is one of many famous and popular countries around the world for its tourism industry. Many provinces in Eastern Thailand feature many beautiful beaches and islands. There are many tourists coming to visit this part of Thailand. At the same time, when tourism business booms, these areas are also full of local Thais and people from neighboring countries, who migrate from other parts of Thailand to seek jobs. Pattaya is particularly advanced with its high promotion of tourism, with a large number of entertainment places and activities for both Thai and foreign tourists, and often feature facilities with more advanced communication technology. The economic growth develops so fast in this area, and within specific groups, that other areas and groups cannot compete. These gaps are continuously widening. All sorts of people come to Pattaya to make money, seeking various opportunities—some good and legal, others bad and illegal. Many types of crimes are mushrooming, such as exploitation, fraud, cheating, and luring. The most vulnerable group for being exploited and victimized are the weak and the children. This phenomenon happens in Pattaya as well as in other areas around Pattaya (Region 2 under Thailand’s administratively divided regions under the Thai justice system).
Apart from genuine tourists, this growing concentration of tourism brings in many perpetrators, either living temporarily or permanently in Pattaya. Such people include gangs, pedophiles, child abusers, and other child trafficking rings. Some of these perpetrators are individuals with warrants for arrest, either in Thailand or in their home countries, while others belong to organized crime.
The ATCC has been established in Pattaya in order to deal with the problems of human trafficking as well as child sexual abuse. The Director of the ATCC and his team have been working in Pattaya on child protection, child trafficking, and related for more than 15 years, under different names and umbrellas. The main target group is the vulnerable street kids and children at risk of any forms of exploitation and abuse. Until around the end of 2011, this newly established center has become a part of FACE Foundation, whose objectives, activities, and strategies are similar.
The ATCC aims at providing assistance to victimized children of sexual abuse and those who are victims of trafficking—for example, children for are forced to beg, children in prostitution, and children being coerced or lured into being used sexually by foreigners (the traffickers get more pay from foreigners than from locals).
The main activities, therefore, are two-fold:
- Monitoring cases of child sexual abuse in the prosecution process with a concentration on helping the victimized children both in social and legal aspects.
- Provide assistance and help for these victimized children and children of other kinds of vulnerability in order to help them develop with life-skill learning and training in our ATCC center. In so doing, these children can remain in the safety and justice of our protection, as well as grow up with qualitative life-skill development, and thus happily reintegrate into their own family, or into normal society. The activities under this project are called ‘Child Protection and Development Life-skill Center’ (CPLC).
Working on these issues, we normally cooperate and coordinate with the government officials—particularly social workers, medical personnel, the police, and prosecutors.
Beyond case work, we also advocate with concerned authorizes at all policy levels—local (Pattaya City), provincial (Chonburi), and national (Thailand). This advocacy work aims to push for changes and improvement of the laws to build and augment legal and social mechanisms and services for the protection and justice the vulnerable target groups.”
You can read about their objectives and methodology in the photos below.