Imagine for a moment you’re trapped. You have nowhere to go, no one to turn to, and no way out.
What do you feel?
In these moments panic often leaves us unfocused, and unsure of the next steps to take.
This is the dilemma facing many young women in northern Myanmar. There’s no work in their impoverished villages, which often leads them to make life-altering decisions that in turn trap them in dangerous situations.
Myia’s* life was full.
She lived at home with her mother and two older sisters and enjoyed attending the local school.
However, her innocence and joy were short-lived.
One day on the way home from school, Myia was stopped by a man driving a truck full of watermelons. She had seen him helping the local farmers, so she walked toward the truck and greeted him in return. The two talked for a bit before parting ways.
A few days went by before Myia saw him again. This time, he came bearing gifts. He made her feel special in a way she had never felt before.
It wasn’t much longer before he proposed. Myia accepted, though she kept her new relationship a secret from her family.
One morning following the proposal, Myia’s fiancé announced they were leaving the village in order to begin their new lives and find better opportunities to earn money.
Myia agreed and off they went. At first it was a nearby capital city, but he soon insisted on venturing across the border into Thailand. It would be fine, he said, he had family in Thailand who could help them find housing and employment.
Though nervous, Myia felt she had no choice but to follow. She had left home without telling her family and was afraid of their inevitable anger if she returned.
So Myia and her fiancé set off for Thailand.
Myia knew something was wrong the moment she arrived. She quickly learned her fiancé was married with two children. Myia wanted to leave, but he would not allow her to go outside the house. Trapped and afraid, Myia did not know what to do.
Finally, Myia got hold of a phone and called her village, spilling all she had kept a secret to her mother.
Enlisting the help of World Concern, Myia’s mother fought for her daughter’s safe return home. A month went by before Myia’s return was secured.
Now safe at home, Myia poured out the horrific reality of what had happened to her. “I was sexually exploited and had been passing sorrowful days with him in Thailand,” she cried. “This is like a nightmare for me and I wish I would forget all. It was really thankful to my family … without them, I cannot imagine how my life would be.”
Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia
Myia is not alone.
Other young girls in this part of Asia have been coerced or trafficked against their will, often into forced labor or prostitution.
One young mother, Nyein, left her two children in a desperate search for work in order to better provide for her little ones. Through a series of short-lived jobs
that took her further and further away from her village, Nyein eventually lost contact with her family.
It was only much later when a neighbor returned to Nyein’s village and reported he had seen Nyein laboring in China. She had crossed the border with only the promise of a high-paying job in hand and was now trapped. Nyein’s employer refused to pay her salary despite her long hours in the fields.
Without the proper paperwork or money to return to Myanmar, Nyein still labors in China with little hope of returning.
The S.O.S. Initiative
If Myia or Nyein knew the realities that awaited them in Thailand and China, they would have never left. But they didn’t know.
World Concern’s S.O.S. Initiative seeks to rescue the most vulnerable from the threat of trafficking, exploitation, and abuse. By teaching children and young people to recognize the lies of traffickers they are able to protect themselves and others in their community. We’ve even heard reports of children warning staff about a parent in danger, preventing their mother or father from being trafficked.
Names of individuals in this post have been changed to protect their identities.