Part of our Faces of Human Trafficking Series
“Fasai”*, a Lahu girl, comes from a broken family. The Lahus, a semi-nomadic hill tribe, originated from China and Tibet before migrating to Thailand, mostly the northern provinces.
In Fasai’s case, her father never recognized her as his daughter. Eventually the marriage ended and Fasai’s mother later remarried. Divorce is fairly easy to obtain and often occurs without stigma in the Lahu community in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. At the time of separation, the parents decide who is going to take care of the children. Due to a turn of events, Fasai’s mother began viewing her daughter as an obstruction in her plans of starting a new life. Eventually she remarried, and her new start didn’t include her daughter.
Hope came in the form of Fasai’s aunt and older sister; unfortunately Fasai’s happiness was short-lived. This was the beginning of her exploitation and abuse. In the absence of caregivers, Fasai was drugged and sexually abused by her aunt’s husband. The repeated abuse resulted in Fasai becoming pregnant. The pregnancy came as a shock to Fasai perhaps because she was under the haze of drugs while being abused, and also perhaps because her young traumatized mind wanted to protect itself from the incident by blocking all memory of the abuse.
Fasai’s case was brought to the Chiang Mai Home for Children and Families, an institute known for taking care of orphaned and abandoned children. This is where she gave birth, and Fasai’s mother stepped in to raise her grandchild. After giving birth, Fasai was referred to the New Life Center Foundation. NLCF works exclusively with young ethnic minority women throughout the Mekong sub-region (Thailand, Burma, China, and Laos) who are at risk for, or victims of, human trafficking, forced labor, and sexual abuse.
Statistics by Thai Ministry of Public Health tell a grim story. Between January to November 2009, an estimated 25,750 women and children were abused; approximately 12,000 women were above 18 year old and 13,000 were children. Majority of the abused children were girls and most of the cases of those children involved sexual abuse.
When she first arrived at the NLCF, Fasai was in a bad state. She would cry everyday, as she was suffering from postpartum depression, and struggled to articulate the trauma she had suffered. With psychological counselling and rehabilitation Fasai showed signs of improvement and opened up about her abuse. She enrolled in an accounting program and also continued her counseling. Fasai also became a part of rehabilitative activities, such as sewing classes. Interestingly, this is the center from which Made for Freedom sources the CREABELI pants and crossbody bags.
Now, Fasai has adjusted into life at the residence and even leads some activities. She has also started taking classes and has a very satisfactory grade point average. Other than her personal progress, Fasai also assists the residential staff in caring for newcomers to the NLCF community. She keeps in touch with her mother now, and visits with her baby whenever she can. Her dream is to become an accountant and be financially independent.
(* A pseudonym is used to protect the confidentiality of the victim.)