“First they lied to me; they told me it was a good workplace with a high salary…I believed them…”
When it comes to human trafficking, there’s no rules or road maps on how the $150 billion industry operates and there’s certainly no discrimination when it comes to victims of trafficking.
We often talk about girls and women who are sold into sex trafficking, but the truth is, this deceptive and heinous crime lures and threatens the lives of boys, girls, men and women alike. And those living in Southeast Asia are at an even greater risk.
It wasn’t until recently that Lao-native, Kanoa (not his real name), realized he had been the victim of human trafficking. Only 15 years old at the time, Kanoa found himself working as a modern day slave before risking his life and escaping the horrifying situation. After attending a few workshops at his village’s local youth trafficking awareness center, Kanoa finally worked up the courage to tell his story, for the very first time. Here’s what he said:
“My parents separated when I was young because of alcohol problems and domestic violence. My father drank a lot of alcohol and gambled. After they separated, my father disappeared in the war. Everyone assumes he died, but no one really knows.
My mother went to Thailand many years ago. She never came to visit. Later, she came back for 20 days, and then she died.
When my parent died, I was just five years old. I moved around to wherever I could find a job. Sometimes I would pick coffee beans…or work on a construction site. Other times I would fix motorbikes. Whatever would help me to survive.
One day a family asked me to stay with them. They were so kind to me, so I called them mother and father. I lived with them until I was 11 years old. Then I chose to go work in Thailand illegally. Again, I did everything, whatever an employer asked me to do – like shrimp farming, animal raising, cleaning and construction.
I worked with them about four or five years, and then they sold me to the fishing ship. First they lied to me; they told me it was a good workplace with a high salary. I believed them.
While I was on the fishing ship; people forced me to work without salary and they treated me and other co-workers like animals. They forced us to work very hard and they hurt us like non-living things.
Whenever people couldn’t work for them anymore, including people who tried to run away, they just killed them and threw them into the sea. When people tried to run away and hide, the ship owners would track them down and kill them. Sometimes people ran to the police for help. But the police just sold them back to the cargo ship, again.
I was on the fishing ship for one year. I couldn’t sleep well every single night. I was scared. I was worried. I planned to run away.
One day the fishing ship docked to pick up more workers; while the situation was messy as the crew focused on imprisoning the new workers, I took that opportunity to run away. I ran into the forest. They tried to find me and kill me, but they didn’t find me. I spent 3 days in the forest hiding from them without any food and water.
Finally, I decided to go to the police even though I feared that they would sell me back to the fishing ship. But I was lucky. The police helped me and sent me back to Laos.
It was horrible; the hardest time in my life ever. Sometime I was thought that if I couldn’t run away I would commit suicide by jumping into the water.
I never shared this story with anyone before. The first time I shared was with the youth and World Concern team at the Youth Center.
The reason why I never talk about this story is might be caused from no one asking me about my life in Thailand and I didn’t know who should I talk to. When I came to the youth center I felt that I had friends who would listen to me… I feel safe to share.
At first, it hurt me a lot and I just want to forget it all; I don’t want to talk about it again but I feel better after sharing this story with friends and people around me.
Kanoa’s story is only one of millions of others just like it, and sadly, most of them will remain untold. Kanoa was just 5 years old when he was left an orphan, alone and vulnerable to the countless threats around him. It’s children just like this who we are working to protect and keep safe.
Find out how you can protect a child, just like Kanoa, from becoming a victim of child trafficking by going to www.sos5k.org.