The results of the Eastern Seaboard Young Journalist of the Year have just been announced. Salena Khanijou from Garden International School Rayong won the U18 competition with a fantastic article looking at the plight of a Burmese woman trafficked into Thailand. Tim Jantarungsee from Regents School Pattaya was chosen in the U14 competition for a piece exploring the issue of whale hunting.
Judging the competition was Dan Dorothy, editor of the Pattaya Mail and author of Mango Rains. Dan said how impressed he was with the entries. “I’ve read through the entries, and all are amazing. All of them show great signs of talent, and I’m sure if the students would like to continue to write, they all seem to have what it takes to become writers.”
The winners received a 500 baht book voucher and will have the chance to take part in the national competition being held later in the year, where they will compete against students from across Thailand.
For the competition, students in the U14 category had to write a maximum of 500 words about an animal rights topic. Many students chose topics related to Asia and Thailand such as the illegal wildlife trade and bear farming. The U18 category had to write a similar length piece on a topic to do with human rights.
Regents School Pattaya will be teaming up with Amnesty International later in the school year to launch the national version of this competition – so all aspiring junior journalists should keep on the look out for more information!
The following is Salena Khanijou winning entry:
Human Trafficking – Sama’s Story
By Salena Khanijou (Garden International School Rayong)
Sama was a Burmese teenager when she was taken from her home, blindfolded and forced to work in a gogo bar in Pattaya. Here, she tells her troubling story to us in an exclusive interview.
Sama was 18 when she was fooled by an agent. The man promised her and another 29 girls a nice, well-paid job in Bangkok. The innocent young girls were persuaded by the sweet-talking agent and left their homes in Burma, bidding their loved ones goodbye and hoping to earn some money and then come back after a few years. They had no idea that their dreams were about to be shattered.
They were forced to walk through the jungle on their way into Thailand. Once they arrived, things only got worse.
“As soon as we entered the border to Thailand, we were blindfolded, we didn’t know what was going on. We were just scared. We lived in the darkness for a week and when we opened our eyes, we were in some place full of Thai girls wearing short skirts and foreign men drinking alcohol or smoking,” Sama said, as tears started to fall from her numb eyes.
Sama worked in a bar in Pattaya for 10 years, until she became old and wasn’t as attractive as before so no-one cared about her, so she could run away easily. “Those were the worst 10 years of my life, I was forced to do things I nor my family would have ever imagined,” Sama continued.
“Now, I sell ready-made clothes on Walking Street. I hardly get any money to even get a proper meal but I feel proud, I can live with pride, I don’t feel ashamed of anything and I can walk with my body upright,” Sama said confidently.
Sama contacted her family and told them about the awful past and told them not to worry as she wants to live her life in Pattaya, trying to regain her pride and self-confidence.
Sama was fortunate to be able to escape such a life. Every year more than 300 foreign victims are classified as trafficking victims in Thailand, according to the Thai Government. Human trafficking is one of the most controversial issues in the world, and especially in Thailand. Each year hundreds of women, men and children are trafficked to Thailand for sexual exploitation and forced labour. The victims of trafficking have to face all horrible kinds of violations including starvation, torture, rape and also death threats.
A lot of young Burmese girls aged 15 to 17 years are trafficked from Burma to Thailand. Traffickers give false hope to the girls, promising them to dream of a well-paid job in Bangkok, the city of lights, and good accommodation. They recruit girls to work as waitresses or cleaners. However, once in Thailand, all their dreams and hopes are shattered within seconds, as they get forced into prostitution.