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หลังสงครามโลกครั้งที่สอง ในการต่อรองเรื่องอุดมการณ์ระหว่างทุนนิยมและคอมมิวนิส์ ประเทศไทยเป็นประเทศยุทธศาสตร์ที่สำคัญ ในหมู่ประเทศในเขตุเอเซียได้มีการตั้งคำถามและหาทางออกที่ไม่ติดอยู่กับสองอุดมการณ์นี้ซึ้งก็เป็นจุดเริ่มต้นของการหาวิธีสร้างเอกลักษณ์ทางการเมื่องและการปกครองที่มีความเฉพาะต่อภูมิประเทศและวัฒนธรรม จึงได้มีการจัดประชุมหมู่ประเทศเอเซียและแอฟริกาในปี 1955 ที่ Bandung[1] การประชุมนี้อาจเรียกว่าเป็นจุดเริ่มของ Decoloniality การหลุดออกจากค่านิยมที่มาจากอาณานิคมทางวัฒนธรรม แต่ในที่สุด decolonization ไม่เกิด สหรัฐและระบบทุนนิยมได้เข้ามามีบทบาทที่สำคัญในการพัฒนาประเทศไทย สมัยจอมพลสฤษดิ์ เรามีแผนพัฒนาฉบับแรกโดย World Bank รวมถึงหน่วยงานต่างๆที่เข้ามามีบทบาทที่สำคัญเช่น Rockefeller,  Fulbright, Ford Foundation และอื่นๆ fast forward เรามี Quantum Fund ของนักเสรีนิยมประชาธิปไตรที่เหมือนเป็นชนวนวิกฤติต้มยำกุ้ง  ตามมาด้วย เสรีนิยมใหม่ ผ่าน IMF และเสรีนิยมใหม่ก็เพิ่มความเข้มข้นมากขึ้น ภนวกกับความต้องการที่จะไปสู่มาตรฐานสากล การ deregulate และ privatize จนในที่สุดเราก็มาถึงจุดที่เรายื่นอยู่ในปัจจุบัน ความฝันของ decoloniality ที่สูญหาย และทางข้างหน้า เหมื่อนย้อนกลับไปสมัยสงครามเย็น เพียงแต่บริบทเปลี่ยนจาก cold war เป็น trade war ระหว่างตะวันตกและตะวันออก การเลือกตั้งครั้งนี้ เหมือนการวัดใจว่าคนไทยจะเลือกสร้างพันธมิตรกับจีนหรืออเมริกาและอียู เราคงต้องดูกันต่อไป

[1] (https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/perspectives-global-african-history/asian-african-bandung-conference-fact-and-fiction/)

 

 

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I have seen many villagers who used to have many buffalos, cows, and chickens living on five acres of land. They were once satisfied with life and were named successful. And then there were motorcycles, pickup trucks, mobile phones, and processed food in the market. Then they were told what they really needed in life in order to be happy. Things they needed to have. Processed food was better than their chickens and vegetable in their backyards. Their buffalos were not as good as the pickup trucks and their village ways of communication had to be replaced by cellular phones. And they became less satisfied. And they started to think of themselves as the outsiders. And they felt poor and oppressed. They were once again told that to move into the inner circle, to feel better about who they are, they needed to exchange buffalos for trucks, cows for motorcycles, and chickens plus cabbages for processed food. And they started to feel better about themselves owning trucks, riding motorcycles, speaking through cellular phones, and eating hamburgers. They thought life must be better even though they have sold their animals and lost their farms. From self-employed they have become employees. From owning farms, they are employed to work on their very own farms.

When globalization is driven by market capitalism, the world becomes a poorer place to live in because big corporations will always control the market making it impossible for independent farmers to compete.  Soon we will be faced with the world controlled by few major corporations dictating policies for their self-preservation.

We were told that we live in a global village. And interdependency is a necessity. We have to learn to live with one another, depending on one another, selling and buying products from one another. I think interdependency is a great idea. However there is also that false dependency where mutuality is not the basis for ethical conducts. The more we depend, the less free we become. The less we depend on others for our sustenance, the more free we become. The more we need, the less we have. It seems to me the simpler we live, the more space we have.

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This is awesome as it challenges our understanding of what education is all about. It seems that ultimately life is about living and things pertaining to living. And living deals with the every day thing of sustenance. However we have transformed this world through global economy into a world of dependency that takes advantages of our earth and all the resources in order to feed a reality that we build for ourselves. Local economy through local resources seems an option that we have not quite explored enough. This TED talk on an innovative form of education is something to ponder.

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Globalization has not resulted in global prosperity that it has promised. According to the 2006 World Development Report, the gap in income per person between the thirty riches countries and the thirty poorest countries grew from 17 to 1 in 1980 to 27 to 1 in 2002.  People at the top 20% benefit from liberal free-trade policy and the higher they are up the ladder, the higher the profit. However, the lower they are the lower they will lose out in proportion. According to United Nations Development Program, in 1960 the gap between the richest 20 and the poorest 20% was 30 to 1. By 1991 it has grown to 61 to 1 and by 1994, 74 to 1. In 2004 the gap between the top 10% and the lowest 10% was 103.

What is the effect of globalization on labor? Here are some examples:

Globalization and Agriculture

Globalization and Factory Workers

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When one starts exploring social issues, one becomes more aware of their complexity.  This was true for me when I started out looking and researching the topic of human trafficking.  The dark side of human trafficking is more complicated than just mere black and white dichotomy.  There are many shades of gray in between.  The public discourse on the topic some time has over dramatized the issue.  Not that it isn’t bad but dramatizing distorts the actual picture and may cause greater harm to victims than not.  So here are some points that I believe need some clarification.  

1. According to the 2005 report by the International Labor Organization, of the 9.5 million in forced labor, only 10% of these were victims of sex trafficking. The overemphasis on sex trafficking can generate its own problems. David Feingold (2005) offers an example:

The focus on the sex industry may galvanize action through moral outrage, but it can also cloud reason. A recent example is the unsubstantiated press reports that tsunami orphans in Indonesia’s Aceh province were being abducted by organized gangs of traffickers. How such gangs could operate in an area bereft of roads and airstrips remains unclear, but that did not stop some U.S. organizations from appealing for funds to send “trained investigators” to track down the criminals. Although the devastation wrought by the tsunami certainly rendered people vulnerable—mostly through economic disruption—investigations by the United Nations have yet to identify a single confirmed case of sex trafficking.

2. Sometimes traffickers just transport recruiters to their destinations and do not know what happen at the final destinations.  Sometimes they do care about the people they smuggle into another country.

3.  Sometime the definition of trafficking itself becomes problematic. 

 The concepts of smuggling and trafficking are often confused.  Particularly for the situation of girls who cross the borders from Burma, Laos, Cambodia and

China into Thailand, it has been said that girls are not trafficked, but they become trafficked.6  Technically in many cases, the girls and women agree to be transported across a border (smuggled) to work as prostitutes, domestic servants and factory workers, but become “trafficked” when there are elements of force, fraud or coercion in the transaction. This includes girls and women who may know that they will be prostitutes in Thailand, but when they arrive, they find themselves in conditions they did not expect. This is the problematic nature of the concept of trafficking, which must be taken into account if anti-trafficking policies made are to be effective.  The problem in the Mekong sub-region, as in many other places,s is that it appears that, in the vast majority of cases, the actual movement across borders, by and large, is “voluntary” in the sense that the person has made the decision to travel for work, within the often limited range of choices available. It is the end outcomes—the nature, the terms and conditions, of work at the destination point, which defines most cases as trafficking.[1]

 4. Then there is the issue of statistics: Under the heading FACTS in LibertadLatina.org:

 Brazil is considered to have the worst child sex trafficking record after Thailand. According to the recently released Protection Project report, various official sources agree that from 250,000 to 500,000 child live as child prostitutes. Other sources in Brazil put the number at up to 2,000,000 children.[i]

 And in Wikipedia, it states, “Thailand and Brazil are considered to have the worst child sex trafficking records.”[ii] If you look at the citation, you will find reference to LibertadLatina.org. Pasuk Pongpaijit, professor of economic in Thailand, pointed out that various studies on prostitution in Thailand cited numbers ranges from 65,000 to 2.8 million prostitutes.[iii] According to 1990 population census in Thailand, 8.3 million women were in the fifteen to twenty-nine age range, which is the most common age range among sex workers.[iv]  Further, prostitution is an urban phenomenon.  If there are really 2.8 million prostitutes, it implies that 24 percent to 34 percent are sex workers or every women in urban areas of Thailand.  Jenny Godley, in 1991, estimated the number of sex workers at 700,000 in this age range or roughly 24 percent of urban women.[v] Sittirai Veerasit and Tim Brown’s ethnographic studies in 1991 estimated the number to be between 150,000 to 200,000, or 1.8 to 2.4 percent of the women in this age range and 6.3 to 8.3 percent of urban women.[vi]  When it comes to child prostitution, approximately 17 percent of prostitutes visit health clinics.  Based on this figure, Phasuk Phongpaichit estimated the number of child prostitution to be at 25,500 to 34,000.[vii]  If the estimation of child prostitution cited by Wikipedia is correct in stating that Thailand has the worst child sex trafficking record (250,000 to 500,000) and factoring in the fact that of the 2.8 million women within the age range of fifteen to twenty-nine live in the urban areas, we are looking at an unrealistically high percentage of children in prostitution.  If we were to hypothesize that one-third of the 2.8 million are below the age of 18, we are looking at one in every two or one in every four children from the age of 15 to 18 in urban areas. 

 Last year while I was interviewing various NGOs and GOs on the issue of human trafficking, the first two things I became aware of were: sex trafficking is only a small part of the problem of human trafficking in Thailand and that no one really wants to talk about numbers. 


 


[1] Christina Arnold and Andrea M. Bertone, “Addressing the Sex Trade in Thailand:

Some Lessons Learned from NGOs, Part I,” Gender Issues, Winter 2002, 32.

[i] http://www.libertadlatina.org/LA_Brazils_Child_Prostitution_Crisis.htm.  Access Jan 12, 2010.

 [ii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking.  Access January 12, 2010.

 [iii] Phasuk Phongpaijit, Sungsidh Piriyarangsan, and Nualnoi Treerat, Guns, Girls, Gambling, and Ganja: Thailand’s Illegal Economy and Public Policy (Chiangmai, Silkworm Book, 1998), 200.

 [iv] Wathinee Boonchalaksi and Philip Guest, Prostitution in Thailand (Bangkok: Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, 1994), 29-33.

 [v] Jenny Godley, “Prostitution in Thailand,” in NIC: Freezone of Prostitution (Bangkok: Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, 1994), 148.

[vi] Veerasit Sittirai and Tim Brown, Female Commercial Sex Workers in Thailand: A Preliminary Report (Bangkok: Thai Royal Red Cross, 1991).

[vii] Phongpaijit et al., 200.

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I’ve just returned from three months of research on human trafficking in Thailand.  I have done 26 interviews with individuals working on the issue of human trafficking from government agencies, to UN, to NGOs in Central and Northern Thailand.  I also had the priviledge of talking to a girl who was a victim of sex trafficking and two wives whose husbands fall into the category of human trafficking as well.  These three months meeting different people have given me hope about humanity.  There is a deep admiration on my part for those I interviewed, the commitment, the passion, the determination, the saccrifice, the amount of energy invested to help and assist and protect.  And for the “victims” I met, they were more than  victims.  They were people determined to make things work even though the odds were against them.  They intend to fight until they can solve their unresolved situation.   This study is not only a study.  It is about people and about humanity and how my life has been influenced by their stories and how I come to regain a sense of hope in the midst of human tragedy.

I’m in the process of writing and alth0ugh this writing project is mainly about organizing information and critically reflect, I still think about the people I have met, and the stories they told, and the lives they’ve touched, and the determination not to give up on people.

The issue of human trafficking, the further you explore, the more complicated it gets.  It is not just about preventing people from migrating, or prosecuting pimps and traffickers, or designing good anti-trafficking laws, or implemeting policies and resolutions.  And all the numbers that have been mentioned in relation to the issue are often not as reliable as we think they ought to be.  The issue lies alot closer to home than we realize or want to acknowledge because it disrupts our comfort zone.  At the very core of human trafficking is exploitation.  And when we explore what actually constitutes exploitation, the line is no longer distinctive.  When we take a very close look at exploitation, it has a life of its own and often there are sociological, cultural and psychological factors that feed into its life.   It stands as a critique of the very existence of our civilization or perhaps our ideal of a civilized society from which we all are a part of.  And traffickers are just one extreme form of factors among many other players in this movement toward our understanding of civilization.

I asked Plew, a police officer in Chaing Mai, how can we best address the core of this issue.  Her answer was profound and simple, “If we all could live a simple life…”

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I received an invitation from Trisha Famisaran to attend a conference on Feminism and Ecology and had the privilege of listening to a presentation by Rosemary Radford Ruether.  It made a profound impact on me as I ponder the meaning of eco-feminism.  I do not know if I got it right but it does not seem to matter at this point because the concept has allowed me to draw some meaningful conclusion about life.  It makes me think that perhaps we got it all wrong.  All these things about going out and helping the poor because we have all the knowledge and wisdom and technology.  But isn’t all these technical knowledge and the colonial logic destroying us and our world?  Aren’t we not suffering now because of our advancement and the pursuit of the rational in manipulating the world that we live in?  We have caused more damage to the world and our environment than the poor.  We have created more conflicts and caused more depression among our generation.  The poor did not cause environmental damage.  They were using buffalos and planting rice in the field and live with what they have.  They were simple.  They did not have to consume products that have to be recycled.  They were contented with their buffalos until our technology tells them that there’s something better and that they could earn more money to buy more products.  I wonder if it is the poor that we have to look up to to relearn to live our lives.  And who’s to say that they are poor if it is not our very own need to create categories.  They just live a simple life.  Because we are not simple or cannot live simple, we call them poor.  My professor, Dr. William Clement once said to me, “People like to talk about helping the poor.  For me, they poor have already helped me so much.”  What a profound wisdom.  We always think of someone like Donald Trump as a successful person.  But is this really success?  What if success is defined as a person who has the ability to live simple and live within the limit of what he or she has?

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