International Children’s Day – June 1st

Tourist paprazzi interrupt children from a hill tribe whilst playing in a ditch in northern Thailand.

Tourist paprazzi interrupt children from a hill tribe whilst playing in a ditch in northern Thailand

Today, June 1st, is International Children’s Day, so I went through my pictures and found this one taken in January 2013 just north of Chiang Mai.

It made me think about these kids and what their lives will hold for them…

Will they grow up and remain in the village where they were born, and work on the land, farm rice, or make and sell trinkets to tourists for pennies, as their parents have done? Perhaps one of the children is a budding artist who will be able to copy famous pictures and sell to tourists for a few pounds?

How many will finish school? Will any attend university? Are there any future doctors or lawyers in this picture? Will any of them get a degree and then go on to get a job working with foreigners in the big cities – perhaps in a hotel or shopping mall? Will they then be able to send badly needed money back to their ageing parents and families as the rice yields and tourist trade dry up in the village?

Or will any of them be lucky enough to meet, fall in love with and marry a foreigner, one who comes from a more affluent place and who can support them their families through the years?

Those are the good options for them, the options that they and their parents hope for.

The other options are not pleasant at all, though are faced by millions and millions of children in Thailand, Asia and throughout the poorer areas of every country in the world…

Perhaps their parents will send them out to beg soon? Or go and live in Bangkok with relatives, sharing a one bedroom flat with up to ten other family members, and have to work selling roses to tourists for twenty bhat each until from 6pm to 5am on Khoa San Road every day of the year? But there’s a cut-off age for selling flowers. And that age is usually puberty – cute kids sell flowers and trinkets better than spotty teenagers. So what will happen to them then?

Perhaps they’ll be sent to live with an ‘aunt’ in Patpong or Pattaya where they’ll have their hearts and bodies broken as they learn the old trade of all – will any of them have to sell their bodies just to live in a cycle of pain and abuse? Perhaps they’ll change their bodies to fit in with the quirks of the sex trade in Thailand – having a sex change and becoming a Ladyboy can be a profitable but dangerous occupation for young men. Maybe they’ll become HIV positive and die a slow and painful death, or perhaps be stabbed by a pimp or jealous lover.

Maybe one of them will get in a fight and hurt someone, or steal to feed their families, and get sent to one of the worst prisons on earth, where they’ll be forgotten and die of malnourishment or dysentery. Maybe another will drown in a bottom floor flat when the apartment block they live in gets flooded in the seasonal monsoon, made worse by global warming, and maybe their body won’t be found for weeks, when the water finally subsides.

Chances are, these children will die of old age or cancer, or in a car or motorbike accident. But I hope they get to live their lives freely and without pain, persecution and hardship, and get to experience the joys that most of us take for granted every single day.

Today is June 1st, International Children’s Day. But so should every day be.