Posts tagged Thailand

What Rotary is doing about Child Slavery

Ironically, the International conference for all Rotarians from around the world was held in Bangkok, Thailand last week. I’m told around 30,000 people showed up.  I got a report from someone who just returned on a 20 hour trip via Japan. (It took 20 hours to get there too, no thank you long flights over the Pacific!) I am happy to report there are a few Rotarians who are doing something about child slavery. Mark Little represented his concern in the Friendship Hall at his booth from Norfolk, England.  He gave out buttons “Defeat Sex Trafficking.” I believe he was a very lonely voice among all the other action groups represented in the huge hall.  What I find MOST ironic is that the Rotary convention was held in Bangkok which has their highest income based on people from all over the world coming for the sex tourism.

Bangkok is well known for sex trafficking and what my friend told me was she saw very few children on the streets as they made their 45 minute bus trip from their hotel to and from the convention center. She did see much abject poverty while also seeing where the king of Thailand lives. (Supposedly he is much loved by his people.) They went on a tour of the city and their tour guide could not answer questions about the royal family, otherwise she could lose her job.  Her English was good which is probably what saved her from the dismal prospects of any young person growing up in Thailand.

Since Rotary’s inception over one hundred years ago they have been all about saving children from polio, the disease is nearly eradicated.  The organization that has been saving children from polio now finds that children live in poverty and are vulnerable to being a trafficked victim (enslaved) in manual labor or the sex industry. My friend told me something that was an eye-opener.  There are organizations giving out seed money to women so they can create their own industry and sell their own product.  Otherwise, some women will purposely get pregnant in order to later sell their children into slavery.  I can’t even imagine a woman doing that as we celebrate “Mother’s Day” in the U.S. today.  That is how desperate people have become in many countries.

That is why I was happy to find this factsheet from www.racsrag.org where Mark Little is the committee chairman of the “Proposed Rotarian Action Group.”  The following is what I found VERY sobering from his website:

RACS Factsheet 1

12 facts about Modern Slavery

  •  Slavery is not legal anywhere but happens everywhere.
  • Modern slavery shares two key characteristics that distinguishes it from slavery in the past:  slaves to day are cheap and they are disposable.
  • There are 27 million slaves in the world today. The majority are children.
  • Slavery: Forced to work without pay, under threat of violence and unable to walk away.
  • The majority of slaves can be found in India and in African countries.
  • 4,000 slaves are trafficked each year into Britain; 17,500 into USA.
  • Child slaves work in brick kiln works, clothing, firework and glass making factories, stone quarries, carpet looms, mines, brothels and farms – anywhere they can be better hidden from law enforcement agencies
  • The modern-day slave trade is now called human trafficking.
  • The average costs of a child slave can be as little as $40 – $90
  • Slave holders use many terms to avoid the word slavery: debt bondage, bonded labour,attached labour, restavec, forced labour and indentured servitude.
  • Obstacles stand in the way to ending slavery: lack of resources and lack of awareness.
  • Everyone has a role to play in ending slavery – government, international organizations, business, NGOs, consumers, Rotary clubs, YOU.

Old Slavery                                             New Slavery

Legal ownership asserted                                  Legal ownership usually not asserted

High purchase cost                                               Very low purchase cost

Low profits                                                               Very high profits

Shortage of potential slaves                                 Glut of potential slaves

Long-term relationship                                         Short-term relationship

Ethnic differences important                               Ethnic differences less important

Slaves maintained                                                            Slaves disposable

 (to be continued)

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What Hillary Clinton said in Astana, Kazakhstan yesterday

I’m thankful for one blogger who put the script of a town hall meeting with Hillary Clinton in her blog. That way I could read about what is happening a mile from where I live in Astana, Kazakhstan.  We are in the middle of a HUGE summit meeting drawing more than 55 representatives of many countries. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, happens to be one of those people representing the U.S.  Most of my friends and family know that I have never been a fan of Hillary’s. However, after reading this text, Hillary said many things that were obviously diplomatic, measured and informed about Kazakhstan.  I was particularly interested in how she answered the questions to a crowd of about 600 in the audience about human trafficking and also about blogging freedom.  (Naturally the latter would be on my mind because I’ve been a blogger inside of Kazakhstan since fall of 2007.)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started out with general remarks but she highlighted about human trafficking which I had expected her to do.  She had said something about this very difficult issue in Thailand several weeks ago. If you want to read just a portion of the script, here is what she said:

I also would like to commend the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law for its work toward developing the National Human Rights Action Plan and recognize the role that that Evgenyi Zhovtis, a leading human rights activist, played in drafting this important document.

And I would like to salute Galina Morozova, who has devoted herself in the past 12 years to fight against human trafficking. She has sheltered hundreds of women. She has made herself vulnerable, because in the face of death threats she has fought for tougher sentences for traffickers. And she has worked with the government and with law enforcement agencies to change their attitudes and to help them understand that human trafficking is the modern form of human slavery.

There are so many people who have worked hand in hand to advance democracy and human rights. And I particularly was pleased to see some of the women who are on the front lines of change in Kazakhstan, some of whom I met in 1997, some of whom I have seen in other settings, but all of whom I greatly respect.

But I also want to commend the Government of Kazakhstan, because this government has made more progress than any other in the region and has committed itself to continuing that progress. Civil society groups help hold governments accountable, but governments have to be responsive. So I’d like to thank Adil Soz, the International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, for its vital role as a media watchdog, because the OSCE commitments include the right of all citizens to know and act upon their rights. And it takes both brave journalists and independent local monitors to fight violations of press freedom.

Then Hillary answered the question of a woman whose husband was a journalist and is in prison in Kazakhstan (I presume). Read the text for yourself of how Hillary answered that woman’s query. But the following is how Hillary felt about blogging freedom specifically, but also the freedom of the press generally with this answer:

“So it’s a question we’re all going to have to deal with going forward, because it’s a wonderful means of communication. I mean, we can sit here in Astana and have a conversation with somebody in New York, and we can punch a button or move your mouse and get information about anything that you’re interested in. So it’s a great gift to human knowledge and communications. But just as we found in the past, where what you said could be harmful, we have to come up with the right kind of framework.

But we also have to be very careful that governments don’t overreact. Governments could say, “Well, now it’s even worse if you say something bad about us because it’s not just talking to a small group in an auditorium. You can tell everybody in the country, so we’re going to have to throw you in jail.” A lot of governments are throwing bloggers in jail because they get on the internet and they say, “Our leaders are corrupt, or our leaders are dishonest, or our leaders did this, that or the other thing,” and for expressing that opinion they go to jail. So that’s an overreaction, and we cannot permit that.

So somewhere, we’ve got to support that freedom of expression, whether it’s from an individual or from a journalist, but there also have to be some rules of – or some sense of responsibility that has to be inculcated. So that’s what we’re all struggling with, because this is a new phenomenon. This is something that, 10 years ago, we didn’t deal with even. So I think your question is a very important one, and human rights activists, as well as governments, are going to have to come together to understand how best to deal with this. “(Applause.)

The moderator of this event wanted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give a stamp of approval on the progress Kazakhstan has made and if you read to the very end, you will see Hillary clearly dances around giving a huge endorsement.  She admitted there is much work for Kazakhstan to do in the next 10-20 years but there has been remarkable achievements made in the last 20 years.  So it was an upbeat, hopeful message and I can only imagine that the crowd responded favorably to her. [Now, if only Hillary would care more about all those U.S. babies whose lives have been snuffed out even before they freely breathed American air, then I might be a Hillary supporter. But that's a whole 'nother "human rights issue."]

For now, Hillary was careful to say what she can honestly report to her foreign audience in Astana, Kazakhstan and others who were in the group.  I hope at this two day conference more will be dialogued about how to free up those men and women who are slaves right now in Central Asia, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, the Kyrgyz, even Kazakhs themselves from the rural areas.  Both women abused and used in sex trafficking and men hired as “slaves” to build all the grand buildings need protection. These vulnerable people need aid and shelter for the crimes committed against them.  Hillary mentioned that she admired Nelson Mandela greatly.  He had three men who were white, over the course of his 27 years of imprisonment, who had treated him with dignity and respect as a human though they were his jailers.  That is what needs to be given to the women who are trapped in the sex trade and men working for their families back home in other Central Asian countries and paid next to nothing on the construction sites in Kazakhstan.

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Met Author of “Two Kyrgyz Women” at Book Club

Yesterday was a busy day for me, but rewarding.  First, at work, there was a birthday party for a 23-year-old male, and we all trundled down to the conference room to help celebrate with three cakes and other food. Then I went to the Book Club meeting, then I took another taxi to meet my ten students at the American Embassy Resource Center.  The highlight of the day for me was to meet Marinka, with about 10 other international women. She is the author of the book “Two Kyrgyz Women.” However, the highlight for my students was to see the wealth of books (about 800 volumes) and magazines at the Resource Center.

*Much misery is all around us that more westerners should be awakened to if only they cared about their fellow human beings!!!

I’ve looked back a week ago to when I blogged about the eloquence of Marinka’s  writing. She was just as articulate and passionate in speaking on this topic of human trafficking yesterday.  She started talking about internal trafficking that was inside of Kazakhstan.  Many of the saunas that are in the suburbs of Astana really serve as brothels.  Because of the huge gap between the famously wealthy people in Almaty and Astana and everyone outside in the villages or what is referred to as “regions,” Kazakh girls are lied to, thinking they are going to the big city to make some money.  Instead, they are fooled into being victims of sexual exploitation.  Some girls may be at bars where something is dropped into their drinks and they wake up to find themselves in this terrible, compromised situation.

Not only is there sex trafficking happening in epidemic proportions in Central Asia but there is labor exploitation as well.  Many men from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan who can’t find a job in their own country will try to find work in Kazakhstan only to find they are virtual slaves working long hours for very low pay — like $50 a month.  Some are illegal immigrants. Without papers, they are defenseless against the system but they are so desperate to send home money to their families.

Marinka had interviewed one Kyrgyz man who had been virtually a slave in Russia for 3 years.  He was working at a construction site and was with other illegal immigrants who were housed in a barn with animals. These men were barely fed and when he finally returned home to his wife and children, he looked 20 years older.  So, the men we see in busses who are carted around the city from one construction site to another don’t look happy.  One obvious reason would be especially when it starts getting very cold in Astana, they are in harm’s way with not only being malnourished but freezing in the cruel winters of the north.  They are closely guarded property, as if on a chain gang, because whoever hires them extracts much labor without having to pay what they are worth.

Because Central Asian countries are shame-based societies, whether those trafficked people are men or women, once they DO gain freedom and return to their families, they will rarely speak up what tragic ordeals they went through.  Those are the fortunate few who do re-enter their old world of poverty.  For many, that is what got them involved in unwittingly becoming slaves in the first place.  Sadly, deep prejudice goes against those girls who have been sexually exploited so they especially will never say anything about being in the sex industry. A self-perpetuating problem because of the silence.

(to be continued)

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Lions and Tigers and Buddy Bears, Oh My!!!

Hope my faithful readers are enjoying my photos of the Buddy Bears. Sorry no lions or tigers featured in this post. You have to know that it takes a LONG time to download each photo on this blog which would be a zip back in the U.S.  You can’t watch YouTube clips in one piece, it comes in chunks.  That is the frustrating part about living in Kazakhstan.  You might take water, heat and transportation for granted back in the U.S. but on top of that, you have no idea how you may take your phone or Internet connection for granted too.  I don’t have much to write except I want to wish my Dad a wonderful 80th birthday celebration on this day of May 30th.  He was born in 1930 at the beginning of the Great Depression, the youngest son with three adoring, older sisters and an older half brother. My three aunts will be flying to Minnesota from California and Arizona to help my Dad celebrate.  It will be a GREAT family event since my Dad’s oldest sister, Eleanor who is over 96 years old, Ethel is about 93 or 94 and Alta is 90 will all be there, the Lord willing.  I come from a stable line of Scandinavian longevity as my grandma on my Mom’s side lived to be 96 years old.  Happy Birthday Dad, may you have many more years to enjoy your grandchildren!!!

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Stunned Bewilderment over Kyrgyzstan Events (Part II)

Relieved to know that most of my American friends living in Bishkek are okay but am still waiting to hear about two other couples I have known since 1993.  They have lived in Bishkek for nearly 20 years and have sacrificed much to be in this Central Asian country they love. In a piece written by Evgeny Morozov in “Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Analog Revolution’” he helped answer the question for me why this Bishkek event last week which still seems so HUGE to us in Central Asia barely got any attention in the rest of the world media.  I’m thankful for Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other ways that some of the news DID get out about this Kyrgyz revolution.  E-mail seems so twentieth century in this day and age of globalized revolutions.  Here’s Morozov’s take on it.

“First, for obvious geopolitical reasons, pundits are paying much less attention to protests in Kyrgyzstan than they did to protests in Iran and Burma (or even Thailand)…the Kyrgyz revolution is not “trending” as a popular topic.

Unsurprisingly, we don’t see much eulogizing about the Internet’s “revolutionary power” in the Western media either. But this does not mean we have suddenly become more reflective or less cyber-utopian; it only means that “Kyrgyzstan” is much harder to pronounce than Iran and most people couldn’t care less about it; there is no critical tweetering mass that could fuel the kind of collective fantasy that was fueled by “iranelection” on Twitter.”

To continue with yesterday’s blog posting written by my American friend:

“I went straight to the “White House”. A garbage truck had attempted to crash into a side gate, but a bullet had put a hole in one of its tires. I saw the police, they were heavily armed. Many were hiding behind trees or shields. They carried not only AK-47s, but also larger guns. They all wore bulletproof vests, some that resembled Batman’s costume. The gunshots continued. A man in a black leather jacket urged me away. The 100 police at the previous station had blockaded the road so I went down Frunze to the Consul and the Park Hotel and then tried to call people, but the reception wasn’t good. I heard megacom had problems.

I then headed back up and met with my brother (we got separated before). One guy told us to go back home. Joniel saw more police coming and saw a lady whose face was burned off. I asked him if I could have 10 more minutes. So I went to the columns and everyone was gathered around there. Suddenly, everyone started cheering and a few hundred people rushed around the corner of the columns up towards Kievskaya. I saw the puddle of blood and then saw another large puddle of blood. A large jacket was placed on top of it, with a large beating stick and lots of flowers. Obviously, the man had died there. I saw that many people had gathered pretty close to the gates of the “White House”, and that the fires on the trucks had died down. I saw the place where the man was shot. It was obvious that they had dragged him. There was a lot of blood, it was like a river of blood. Lumps of flesh also remained on the ground. There must have been enough blood to fill a bath tub. I’m not exaggerating. I think it would be impossible that he would have survived.

One man was weeping in rage and yelled, “Is this Kyrgyzstan? Is there a Kyrgyzstan? What are we doing?” Other men also joined in, but some yelled at the police “Go home! We don’t want to fight!” I saw men hiding behind trees and shouting in Russian and Kyrgyz at the guards. People were nervous, I could tell. Many smoked and spat all the time, for the others, you could see the fear in their eyes. Some men walked straight into the gate, shouting. Others had to go in there and rescue them. Whenever someone came close, the guards would fire warning shots into the air. I continued along and met with Joniel and then we headed back. I got a text from Rachel that she heard that Go-in was burnt down, so we decided to check it out on our way back. At Jibekjolu, close to Erkendik, we saw about 300 people blocking the road and standing in front of a police station/government building. I could hear dogs barking and people yelling. Many were holding red flags that said “Ata Mekten”.

We passed 7 Dnei and it was boarded up. Go-in was not burnt down, only closed. On front of the closed door, it said, “Muyi Cnarodim”. We got home, and saw that two local tv stations were shut down. We looked on line and found out that 12 people were killed right after we left and the square. We continued hearing more news and seeing more pictures and videos of what was going on. Facebook was all buzz and many people said they were praying.

I noticed that it wasn’t only in the square that there were demonstrations; we could hear things all over the city, even on Jibek Jolu and Kievskaya.

*****************

Today, my brother and I went out again to see what was left of the city after the looting. We saw Go-in was burned pretty badly. Lots of trash littered the floor. It was all black, and light gray smoke was still rising from the inside. We continued down sovietskaya and saw many furniture stores, casinos, and big stores looted with a lot of shattered glass close by. We turned right on Chui and things seemed really busy. It seemed like any other normal day. When we reached the square, we saw many people gathered again. We saw a pretty nice burnt down building close to the front of the square and saw lots of rubble, broken glass, broken furniture, and other stuff. People had already finished looting.

A large furniture store on kievskaya had lots of rocks thrown at it. We went down to the white house, saw the APC with lots of guys on it. I saw a stuffed giraffe in the middle, black from all the ashes. The gates to the White House were open, so we decided to take a tour. I mean, it’s not everyday someone goes to the white house, right? Well, it was chaos. We went to the front and guys with white ribbons around their arms kept us back. The front was a mess, with broken furniture and lots of paper fluttering about. Smoke was still rising from the windows and we could see that some of the top story windows were burned. Lots of shattered glass also. We proceeded to see the side and saw the guard house that was destroyed and the trucks that smashed into the sides. Most had their tires burnt off.

The side wasn’t any better, a terrible mess and people wanting to go in. At the back, it was still messy and they brought in 5-6 fire trucks to put out fires on the top floor. Guys climbed up ladders with a hose. We then went back out, saw some memorials for the dead. Lots of blood stains still and in respect, no one set foot on them. We went back to the columns, and saw lots of bullet holes, with rubber bullets and real bullets. Oh yea, found a bullet case close to the white house. Almost every column had a blood stain with flowers close by. There was a broken apteka at the corner, close to the APC. It was broken into and I went inside and saw bloody bandages, a hat, and the floor had blood splotches.

We saw bullet holes in the walls of the white house too. People were just milling about. Some were giving speeches, others were sleeping, others weredrinking alcohol that they looted, others were sleeping, others were taking pictures, and others were trying to clean up. We tried to help.

We came back, passed by the police station close to Philemon House. Nothing there, and there were policemen there walking about without helmets or weapons. We then went to 7 Dnei and it was wiped clean. Nothing was left, save for some shopping carts and racks. People threw cakes on the walls.”

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Proverbs from Around the World

When I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) in northern Virginia for three years, I had students from all over the globe.  However, during that time from 1995-1998, I do not recall having any students from Kazakhstan.  Perhaps Kazakhs were still dealing with many issues back in their home country after being under communism for 70 years.  I wonder how many of the samples of proverbs I got from my ESL students from around the world during that time, would fit with Kazakh proverbs.  The world would be a richer place if only we knew even 10 per cent of Kazakh proverbs.  Try to figure out the meanings of the following proverbs:

Vietnam – “Near the ink, you will be black, near the lamp, you will be bright.”

 

Thailand – “Love your cow, have to tie it; love your children, have to discipline.”

 

Eritrea – “The person who tries to get butter from water and the person who needs good things from his enemy is the same.”

 

Argentina – “The devil knows more from being old than from being devil.”

 

Taiwan – “When God wants a man to be a great one, He will exhaust his mind, exercise his body and take all the things he has.”

 

Peru – “Each person dances with his own handkerchief.”

 

Brazil – “When you pass away, your body will lie in a coffin and your tongue in a wagon.”

 

Korea – “Three inches of tongue can kill the righteous man.”

 

Ethiopia – “A tongue doesn’t have teeth, but it can break another’s bones.”

 

Iran – “An egg thief will be a camel thief.”

 

China – “Clumsy birds have to start flying early.”

 

United Arab Emirates – “Whoever wants honey should keep up with the bee’s sting.”

 

Guatemala – “Eyes that don’t see make a senseless heart.”

 

Japan – “Monkeys fall from the tree too.”

 

Vietnam – “If the mandarin (orange) skin is thick, there will be a sharpened nail to pierce it.”

 

El Salvador – “Fish and visitor smell in three days.”

 

El Salvador – “The habit don’t make the monk.”

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