Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Road of Lost Innocence

As most of you know, I’m in Thailand living in a home with forty-five Thai girls who have been rescued from the sex slave trade. It’s an ongoing issue about which I feel very passionately and, turns out, America has to too because President Obama has declared January to be Human Trafficking Prevention Month.[1]

This is Nana. She's 12 and sings like
a dream.
I’m going to be writing about sex trafficking and posting links to documentaries and to articles by people who can write better than I can and who have more information. At least for this month, I beg you to join me in spreading the world. I’ll do my best to convince you of the necessity, but my words always fall short.

Misconceptions about the sex trade both in SE Asia and worldwide are appalling and systemic. I’m going to start with a rather lengthy quote I’ve found in a Thailand travel guide written by one Roger Jones:

“Moralists are sometimes shocked at the number of Thai girls working in massage parlors, bars, and similar institutions. A survey by Chulalongkorn University estimates that there are 200,000[2] commercial sex workers in Thailand. However...the job holds many attractions for the girls: it pays better than most other jobs; the working conditions are better; and it is far more enjoyable than working in a factory or planting rice. ..A fair proportion are country girls who hope to make their fortune and return to their villages one day with money jingling in their purses.”

He goes on to say that “visiting a massage parlor can be an intriguing experience,” offers helpful hints on how to find the bars that cater to “all tastes,” and warns that “visitors caught having sex with anyone under the age of eighteen could land in prison.”

I do wonder if he thinks the moralists are being fussy when they are shocked about people eager to buy sex with twelve-year-old girls.

I also wonder exactly how much research Roger did into this field. I offer, instead, the writings of Somaly Man. She writes about the sex trade in Cambodia—very similar to Thailand’s—as a former prostitute who was sold to a brothel to pay off her “caretaker’s” debts.

She writes here about her first days working as a slave and the punishment she received for fighting both of the first two men who had paid for her:

“Afterward, they took me down to the cellar. They kept animals there, snakes and scorpions. They weren’t meant to kill us—they kept them to frighten us. It was a small room, totally dark, and it stank of sewage. They tied me up and before they left, they dumped the snakes on me.”

Though she was left there for roughly a day, she continued to rebel. She tried to run away once and even risked punishment to set two new girls free.

“Li [the man in charge of her brothel] beat me with his cane and tied me naked to a bed. Anyone who came was given the pleasure of looking at me. Despite everything I’d been through I was fundamentally modest, and this experience was horrible. That night his brother and all their friends took their turn with me while I was still tied up. It went on like that for a week. I was sick, shaking with night Li dumped a bucket of live maggots on me. Hideous maggots, like the ones on meat. When he realized how much they frightened me, he began dumping them into my mouth and on my body...I have nightmares about [it], even now.”

Of course not all prostitutes suffer as Somaly did, but neither her young age nor the terrors she endured are exceptional. Somaly is quick to downplay her own horrors in light of the current tragedy:

“My punishment was harsh, but the way they punish prostitutes today is far worse than anything I ever had to suffer...Now I see girls in brothels with nails hammered into their skulls. That sounds unbelievable, but we have photos. Girls are chained, beaten with electric cables. They go mad.”

One-third of the prostitutes in Phnom Penh, Cambodia are young children.

Please keep reading this month and please help me spread this information. Give me any comments, ask any questions.

Somaly Man quotes were taken from her book “The Road of Lost Innocence.” As you can tell, it’s a graphic read, but extremely well-written and a fantastic introduction into the SE Asian version of the sex trade epidemic. (A book review I believe to be helpful is here:

[2] This is a ridiculously low-balled number, perhaps because the book is old. But it had better be older than 1974, because the study in ’74 done by the same university reported between 500,000 and 700,000. The 2004 estimate is 2.8 million.


  1. Hi Elaine! I've been blog friends with Cindy Steinbeck for a long time, and I live in Chiang Mai, working with an organization to prevent child trafficking into prostitution. She sent your blog to me, and I thought I'd just say hello. I see you've arrived in Thailand recently...if you would ever like to meet up over coffee sometime and chat, just let me know. I'd be happy to show you around a little more, if you'd like. You can find my blog at:

  2. Elaine, Thank you for taking your 'break' time to get involved, light your candle [better than cursing the darkness] to shine a light upon the plight of these children.

  3. Hi Elaine! Thanks again for taking the time to keep all of us back in the "safe and comfortable West" informed about the realities of the rest of the world.

    Perhaps the most effective way to illustrate the power of the Gospel of Christ is to call attention to the differences between societies (admittedly very imperfect) where Christianity has been the dominant social force, and those where it has been either unknown or of limited influence. The ease with which societies in Asia, Eastern Europe, etc. come to tolerate atrocities perpetrated against their most innocent and helpless people is simply incomprehensible. The West is by no means perfect and, in some ways, is more to blame because we supposedly "know better". Nonetheless, many people here are (rightly) horrified at the apparent non chalance with which such things are accepted in other lands, to the point where even the authorities seemingly can't be bothered to do anything about it.

    The only way to understand it is to say, as the Bible says of such people, that "The god of this world has blinded them, lest the light of the Gospel of Christ should shine upon them." (2 Cor. 4:4). BC