recovery after human traffickingWhen the organic protein bar company Square Organics found a new CEO in co-founder Sarah Gordon, female empowerment quickly became one of the brand’s driving missions. In 2013, Square Organics embraced a new partnership with the renowned charity group Not For Sale as a means to assist life recovery after human trafficking.

Origins of Not For Sale

Not For Sale began in 2000 when co-founder David Batstone discovered a human trafficking ring in a neighborhood restaurant. While researching for a book entitled Not For Sale, Batstone met a woman in Thailand named Kru Nam who was helping usher children out of slave labor into safety. At the time, the children were living in a field. This compelled Batstone to raise funds to build a house for Kru Nam and the children she saved. When the number of rescued children rose to 150, Batstone expanded housing plans into aspirations for an entire village.

Not For Sale has since developed its focus to aid life recovery after human trafficking. Currently, Not For Sale serves as a fully-fledged campaign to provide housing, access to clean water, and professional skills for survivors of trafficking in twelve different countries.

Thailand

In Thailand, Kru Nam continues to work as a minister at Not For Sale’s two main facilities. Not For Sale’s shelter center offers balanced, nutritious meals; the education house guides victims to healthy, productive lives through therapeutic and educational services. In 2019, Not For Sale Thailand’s rescue center served a total of 500 people, including 235 children.

In general, Children without a defined nationality are denied a government education and, therefore, are vulnerable to exploitation. For these reasons, Not For Sale centralizes the protection of stateless children located in cities around Myanmar and Northern Thailand. Thailand’s Not for Sale program is especially inclusive. For example, the programs’ centers are the first in the country to aid young male survivors.

Above all, Not For Sale Thailand prioritizes children’s education, providing primary, secondary, and even university level schooling. Not For Sale’s learning centers, which include several boarding schools, equip hundreds of child victims of human trafficking with a proper educational environment. The Thai government has praised Not For Sale Thailand as a model program.

Amsterdam

In 2012, Not For Sale started the Netherlands Project, with a strong emphasis on the capital city of Amsterdam. The Netherlands Project trains survivors of human trafficking in culinary skills. Survivors begin the program by cooking and selling soup to women working in the brothels of Amsterdam’s red-light district.

As trainees advance through the program, they transition to paid internships and job placements. One placement opportunity is Not For Sale Amsterdam’s very own restaurant Dignita, which hires graduates directly. Since its opening, Dignita has served over 180,000 meals. By coupling the therapeutic power of cooking with the opportunity of a career in the culinary industry, rehabilitated survivors are equipped with skills that aid life recovery after human trafficking.

In 2020, Not For Sale Netherlands will open its third restaurant in the country. The new restaurant is in partnership with Not For Sale Netherlands’ Buddy Program, which teaches participants to read and write Dutch or English.

Peru

Not For Sale put roots down in Peru with several special projects. Peru sees a massive, detrimental amount of forced servitude. For instance, several thousand individuals in the Amazon region are subject to forced labor across the mining, logging, and agricultural industries. Not For Sale first teamed up with Peruvian abolitionists to create a shelter system for Peruvian survivors. Since it began operation in Peru, Not For Sale has shifted its focus towards creating legitimate work opportunities. This plan will, most importantly, serve to eliminate one of the root causes of Peru’s glaring slave labor issue.

In an attempt to improve the exploitative conditions of Peruvian work culture, Not For Sale partnered with Palo Hawken for the REBBL herbal extract launch. This project hired survivors and at-risk individuals to produce a tonic made of roots, berries, bark, and leaves. A portion of the proceeds made from each bottle sold is used to fund Not For Sale Peru projects. These projects include a new school, a scholarship program, community green spaces, and clean water systems for the Santa Teresita Native Community. REBBL has generated over $1 million for Not For Sale Peru to date.

Square Organics and Not For Sale

Square Organics donates to the Not For Sale campaigns quarterly based on net sales. These steady donations help reintegrate victims of human trafficking into society by stabilizing their life recovery process. The Square Organics company also encourages its consumers to donate directly. Certainly, the increased attention and donations help improve the lives of human trafficking victims and fight to dismantle an industry that still enslaves 45 million individuals around the world today.

– Grace Kim
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Thailand
With the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a relatively wealthy country. Its vibrant culture, delicious food and beautiful scenery attract millions of visitors a year, greatly contributing to its economy. On top of the tourism industry, Thailand exports many commodities like rice, rubber and coconuts. The country also produces goods like textiles, cement and plastics. Though Thailand’s poverty rate has decreased by 65% since 1988, impoverished living conditions are still a pressing issue in the country. The poverty rate fluctuates and currently, it is on the uprise. Here are five facts about poverty in Thailand.

5 Facts About Poverty in Thailand

  1. Poverty is on the rise in Thailand. In 2015, the poverty rate was just 7.2%. This figure has risen to almost 10%. That amounts to 2 million more people living beneath the poverty line, a substantial increase in only a few years. The rise in poverty does not occur in only a few of the country’s regions. Since 61 out of 77 provinces have seen a rise in poverty, one cannot attribute the current situation regarding poverty in Thailand to one specific community or circumstance. It is a widespread problem with profound implications for the livelihood of all Thai people.
  2. The rise in poverty is mainly due to economic reasons. Honing a 4.1% GDP growth rate in 2018 (one of the lowest in the region), the lack of economic progression in Thailand greatly affects its citizens. Additionally, Thailand has the fourth highest wealth inequality rates in the world at 90.2%, meaning there is a huge disparity between the richest and poorest people in the country. Without economic development and wealth equality, cycles of impoverishment will continue to trap the people of the nation.
  3. Environmental disasters have pushed more Thai people into poverty. Agriculturists (who make up 31.8% of the workforce) are already a poor group in the country, but the recent droughts in the past year have impoverished them even more. This combination of economic and environmental factors pushes farmers into even more poverty. Droughts are not the only natural disaster devastating the country. The floods and tsunamis that hit the country throughout the 2000s perpetuated even more poverty in Thailand. These natural disasters are inevitable, yet the lack of safety nets in the country is damaging the livelihoods of farmers.
  4. One of the demographics that poverty affects the most in Thailand is children. As of 2012, 7% of children weighed in as underweight and 16% experience stunting (impaired physical or psychological development due to a lack of nourishment during adolescence). The severe lack of resources could greatly impair future generations in the country. UNICEF is quite active in Thailand, working to alleviate child mortality and malnourishment. Due to its work, the child mortality rate has decreased four-fold; yet, there is still more the country requires.
  5. A solution to the poverty crisis in the country is an increase in social safety nets. Considering that environmental disasters and economic factors contribute to the rise in poverty, government-sanctioned programs to protect the Thai people are one of the easiest solutions to this problem. If Thailand can pinpoint which demographics are most susceptible to poverty, the government can create specific jobs and policies to protect its most vulnerable people.

Despite these five facts about poverty in Thailand, there are still many success stories for the country in terms of poverty alleviation. According to the Asian Development Bank, nobody in Thailand lives in extreme poverty (under $1.90 a day). Everyone in the country has access to electricity, water sanitation is excellent and education rates are high. However, to ensure every single citizen of Thailand is free from poverty, the government must continue to invest in economic development and produce innovative jobs for vulnerable populations. Only then can all be free from the insufferable conditions that poverty produces.

Photo: Pixabay

Children with Developmental Disabilities
Across all countries, 20.4 percent of children have at least one developmental disability. In developed countries like the U.S., many schools have resources for children with developmental disabilities, but in countries where a solid implementation of an education system is struggling to find a foothold, people with learning disabilities often face an additional, invisible hurdle.

Medical professionals conducted a study that screened populations for developmental disabilities throughout the world. A developmental disability is a type of disability that occurs before adulthood. Some of these are learning disabilities, but all of them impact a child during the prime educational years. The study first sorted countries based on HDI (Human Development Index) a score the U.N. gives to countries according to life expectancy, education and gross domestic product (GDP). In general, this means that countries with higher HDI are more developed, and those with lower HDI are less developed.

Out of a pool of 16 countries, this study included 101,250 children averaging 5 years of age. The countries with the highest number of children with developmental disabilities include Thailand, Bangladesh and Iraq.

Thailand has an HDI of 0.755, Bangladesh has one of 0.608 and Iraq has one of 0.685. For scale, Norway has the highest HDI at 0.953. Thailand ranks 83rd in the world for high human development (though still developing), whereas Bangladesh and Iraq lay in the “medium developed” range.

Thailand 

The study concluded that Thailand had 12,911 children with a developmental disability. In Thailand, communities, professional groups and other social institutions provide education and learning centers, which serve as Thailand’s primary agents of education. Thailand has separate schools available for children with developmental disabilities. Thailand gives other resources, like communicative devices, to children with disabilities to aid in education. Thailand has different classifications of disabilities, like intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, and different sorts of schooling options available to accommodate these different groups. The parents and the children can choose which system they would like to use, and it is available as a lifelong educational resource for them.

The Education for Development Foundation (EDF), founded in 1987, started a scholarship in 2003 with the intention of making education more accessible to children with developmental disabilities. This scholarship aims to support the physical, social and emotional development of Thai youth. To qualify, candidates must already demonstrate a certain level of communicative and learning ability.

Bangladesh 

The study also found that in Bangladesh, there were 36,987 children with developmental disabilities. It also determined that the rate of enrollment for a primary school in Bangladesh was 97 percent, but only 11 percent of disabled children received any sort of education.

Approaching education with respect to disabilities, methodical diagnosing and treating physical ailments is not possible. A child’s environment has a larger role in deciding how a disability might appear. As such, many early childhood education specialists recommend an approach that relies more on the stage of development the child is in to see what children with disabilities are capable of learning. Similar to how Thailand’s education system handles children with disabilities, Bangladesh has different types of schools to choose from. Unfortunately, that sort of data is not readily available or consistent.

Many international efforts to improve educational and social infrastructure have aimed to support the needs of children with developmental disabilities in impoverished countries. As a result of the UNESCO Declaration on Education for All (1990), the Dakar Framework (2000) and the Salamanca Declaration on Inclusive Education (1994), Bangladesh is working to offer children with developmental disabilities an inclusive education alongside able-bodied children.

While this sentiment does bring the needs of children with developmental disabilities to light, it is not sufficient in clearing various obstacles that arise. One study surveyed educators on the barriers of educating children with disabilities. The results were that 11 out of 15 respondents answered ‘yes’ to a lack of the proper instruments and learning materials.

Iraq

The study showed that Iraq had 11,163 children with developmental disabilities. Malnutrition, an issue in many developing countries, can inhibit cognitive development, leading to learning disabilities and difficulties.

Further, one in three children suffers from an iodine deficiency in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas. This deficiency can result in a slew of health issues including goiter, learning difficulties and severe mental impairment in the worst cases. Statistics have shown that this environmental factor contributes to the rate of mentally disabled individuals. This adds pressure on Iraq to determine adequate educational accommodations for children with developmental disabilities.

Although, since the Iraqi society is advancing technologically, there are diverse ways to deliver education to children. This means that a wider range of people can receive education, including children with developmental disabilities. The United Nations Children’s Fund launched a series of e-projects in an attempt to standardize accessible, inclusive learning. These projects were available to all students – disabled or otherwise. About 4,000 schools had access to these e-projects, not only making education accessible to all but also providing equity to education.

Solutions

Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI), established in 1981, works on behalf of all disabled individuals to give them a proper place in education, the workforce and society alongside able-bodied counterparts. DPI is active in 139 countries and seven regions, including Africa, Asia and the Middle East. DPI also develops educational materials, promotes the rights of disabled people and collects data on disability issues.

In working with MPhasiS F1 Foundation, the organization is creating a Global Youth with Disabilities Network. This network will advocate for the representation of children with developmental disabilities throughout all levels of decision-making. The organization plans to ensure these youths have access to public transportation, health care, education and employment opportunities.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Thailand
Many nations in the Global South face famine and hunger, prohibiting much of the population from meeting appropriate nutritional needs. In addition to the ongoing crisis of COVID-19, many food security reports are seeing increased malnourishment. Major inequalities have compromised proper access to food—of the 815 million people around the world who suffer from poverty, 6.5 million of those are from Thailand. Despite being a major food exporter that meets both global and domestic demands, hunger in Thailand is prevalent and there is still a worrying amount of households facing abject poverty.

Thailand’s Malnourished Population

Compared to other poorer nations such as Myanmar and Malaysia, Thailand’s malnourished population is considerably high. With ample food production in the country, much of the country’s problems reside in the food being readily available to its people. An estimated 17 percent of Thailand’s population suffers from malnourishment. This could be a direct result of a number of social inequalities, ultimately increasing the people who experience hunger in Thailand. While experts often cite frequent natural disasters and wars as reasons for high food insecurity, there are many other underlying factors, including economic instability and disproportionate ratios of distribution.

Rice in Thailand

Rice, which is the staple export in Thailand, has increased in demand and production over the years, especially during the COVID-19 spread. Thailand had maintained a level of self-sufficiency through its hefty supply of various meats (i.e. beef and pork) and the large scale production of grains. The domestic demand for rice production has increased at a rapid rate that has fueled much of the country’s economy. The number of rice exports increased from 1.3 million tons in 1971-1975 to just about 8.14 million tons in 2006 and 2007. With this in mind, however, a majority of people experience hunger in Thailand, making the nation unable to meet its own nutritional needs.

Battling Hunger in Thailand

In 2017, the government instituted preventative measures to combat food insecurity and hunger in Thailand. The nation announced a social assistance program that would serve as a safety net for poor families. This move aims to improve Thailand’s food insecurity to land amongst the ranks of middle-income countries. The program provides cash allowances and other subsidies for an estimated 12 million low-income families.

To be eligible, families must meet five criteria: being at least 18 years of age; a Thai citizen; unemployed or having an annual income below $3,055; no financial assets worth more than 100,000 Bahts; and no real estate. Once families meet these qualifications, they receive welfare cards that they can use to purchase goods at registered shops and transportation systems, costing approximately $1.4 million. There have been many faults since the program’s implementation; for example, the program does not count some people eligible despite meeting the five criteria.

The social systems in the nation are shifting consistently, meaning that the struggle of hunger in Thailand is evolving rapidly. The economic state that COVID-19 has caused is likely to impact Thailand’s ongoing battle with hunger. There is no certain answer to the issues that will arise among the ongoing crisis. Hunger in Thailand, as well as many other nations, is a lengthy battle.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Hydropower Dams
A once thriving area for fishing and agriculture, the Mekong River Delta sports a dramatically different look than it did just a century ago. The river, historically wide and abundant, is characterized by large jigsaw puzzles of cracked earth where water has dried up and emptied villages where fishermen once thrived. The place has recently seen a mass exodus, with a million people resettling from southwestern Vietnam alone in the last decade.

Harmful Effects of Hydropower Dams

The region has long been one of the world’s largest inland fisheries, supporting 60 million Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotians. It provides Vietnam with 50 percent of its food and 23 percent of its GDP, and Cambodia with 80 percent of its protein intake and 12 percent of its GDP. However, over the last couple of decades, hydropower dams have emerged along the river, threatening local communities and ecosystems while creating large amounts of renewable energy.

According to a UNESCO report, dams on the upper Mekong have resulted in a 70 percent reduction in sediment in the delta. By 2040, estimates determine that these and future dams will block 97 percent of the sediment that moves down the river. This sediment is critical for both rice production and fish life in the Mekong. The loss has been devastating.

Hydropower Dams are Detrimental to the Environment

Even with the detriment to rice production and fishing in the area, the lower Mekong region may still see more hydropower dams. Several countries have created plans to use the area for power, and not without reason. Estimates have determined that dams in the region should be able to produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity, which would be a massive boost to the power capacity of the lower Mekong.

Dams are also an opportunity for foreign investment and could be a huge boost to the GDP of these countries. In fact, the Mekong River Commission’s initial studies estimated that countries in the region could gain $30 billion from dam development, though more recent studies suggest that the area could lose as much as $7 billion from this construction. Despite this, the Mekong River Commission has advised a postponement on the building of these dams until it can further evaluate the risks, and because of the inequitable effects of building the dams, which would likely benefit urban elites while hurting rural farmers and fishermen.

Are there Positive Effects?

Some argue that the presence of these dams may have positive effects on fishing and rice production in the area due to an increased flow of water during dry seasons as dams release water, combatting the effects of drought. Whether this makes up for the loss of nutrient-rich silt and fish life is debatable. However, farmers have recently resorted to using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can be potentially harmful in the long-run, to boost their crop production.

Though it is unclear whether or not countries in the Lower Mekong Region will continue their plans to build hydropower dams, it is certain that farmers and fishermen will continue to suffer as long as the delta is victim to the already present dams in China and the effects of climate change. However, on a lighter note, there has been a recent increase in international aid and development to the Lower Mekong Region, as well as an effort to maintain biodiversity and create sanctuaries for fish and new fish reserves. Hopefully, these countries will manage to balance the poverty-alleviating industrialization that comes with hydropower, and a shift to industrialized agriculture with the interests of rural farmers, fishermen and biodiversity in the region in mind.

– Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in ThailandThailand is home to nearly 70 million people. The Asian country is known for tropical beaches, opulent palaces and lush elephant rainforests. This extravagant subtropical climate is perfect for tourism but also serves as a breeding ground for mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria. Symptoms of malaria range from fever, seizures and even death. 

5 Facts About Malaria in Thailand

  1. Around 45 percent of the population is at risk of contracting malaria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 32 million people are at risk of being infected with malaria in Thailand. The country is filled with more than 46 million acres of thick jungle and rainforest. Many citizens live in these dense ecosystems, along with several species of mosquito. The most dangerous areas of transmission are border regions, like the borders with Myanmar and Cambodia. These regions have an abundant population of highly infectious female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  2. The wet season poses the highest risk. The highest risk of malaria in Thailand lies during the rainy season when mosquitoes are most active. The wet season typically occurs from mid-May to mid-October. During this period the presence of the mosquitoes that carry malaria parasites is much higher than other seasons. Of note, the rural areas of Thailand tend to be more affected while larger cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya do not experience a high risk of malaria even during the wet season.
  3. Malaria control mechanisms greatly reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Mass free distribution of materials such as insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN) and the practice of indoor residual spraying (IRS) reduce the risk of contracting malaria substantially. By eliminating the transmitters, these insecticides are simultaneously eliminating the parasite. The WHO attributes Thailand’s advancement in preventing the spread of the disease to these materials and methods that have proven to provide powerful results.
  4. The Global Fund and UNICEF are helping. In 2010, Thailand’s funding for malaria control exceeded 7 million dollars. Funding has gradually increased year by year, mainly financed by the Global Fund and UNICEF. Thailand, a still-developing country, relies heavily on external aid to support health initiatives. Organizations like Global Fund and UNICEF are saving lives from preventable diseases like malaria through continuous aid.
  5. Cases and deaths of malaria in Thailand are declining. New malaria cases have declined since 2000 and continue to do so rapidly. There are less than 70 annual deaths of malaria in Thailand, which is almost a 90 percent reduction from 20 years ago. The nation’s successes in reducing malaria mortality are attributed to the increased funding for malaria control mechanisms, such as ITNs, LLINs, IRS and other forms of insecticidal materials.

These five facts about malaria in Thailand indicate a positive turn for the developing nation. Although, in rural areas, the disease persists with severity. With continued support from humanitarian aid organizations, Thailand can achieve minimal malaria cases with various control mechanisms.

– Hadley West
Photo: Pixabay

Drought in Thailand
Thailand is currently facing a drought so severe that experts say that it is the worst drought in the previous 40 years. The low-lying water level of the Chao Phraya River, which is the main source of water for Thailand’s capital city Bangkok, has exasperated the current drought in Thailand. The issue is becoming so troublesome that people in and around Bangkok are experiencing water shortages. In addition, the decline in the water level of the Chao Phraya River has resulted in seawater entering the public water source, and many reported tasting salty water dispensed from their water tabs. Water salination not only puts drinking water in jeopardy, but it also affects water-reliant industries such as agriculture and various manufacturing plants.

Key questions that people should consider are: What is the source of the current drought in Thailand? Who does this drought primarily affect? Is this drought a new problem, or a recurrent one?

Climate in Thailand

Thailand’s climate is tropical and typically supplies ample amounts of precipitation throughout the year. From mid-May to September, Thailand actually experiences a rainy monsoon season. On average, the Bangkok region experiences over 150 mm of rainfall during monsoon season. However, from November to mid-March, the country experiences a dry season, thus providing ample opportunity for drought.

The Unpredictability of the Weather in Thailand

Irregular weather patterns in Thailand began as early as 1986 when reports indicated that droughts occurred as a result of El Nino. Experts believe that continued abnormal weather patterns correlate with climate change throughout the last few decades. These irregularities in rainfall have caused great difficulties for the nation’s citizens. Between 1990 and 1993, the rainfall dipped below typical levels. However, between 1994 and 1995, intense rainfall caused one of the worst floods in Thailand’s history.

Agricultural Impact of Weather Patterns

The unpredictable precipitation in Thailand is a major problem, specifically for Thailand’s agricultural sector. Until recently, Thailand was the largest exporter of rice in Asia. Nicknamed the “rice bowl of Asia,” Thailand exported $5.6 billion worth of rice in 2018 or 22.7 percent of the world’s rice export. This sector experienced a great impact from the drought as Thailand’s agricultural sector utilizes 70 percent of Thailand’s total water supply. Another industry facing a huge impact is Thailand’s sugar industry, bringing the Thai sugar output to a nine-year low of 10.5 million tons.

These kinds of severe droughts might raise agricultural prices, making food less affordable to many. The scarcity of agricultural goods will inevitably hurt farmers if they cannot produce, especially those 40 percent living under the poverty line, potentially causing them to face perpetual poverty. The continuous decline in agricultural production might even negatively impact Thailand’s economy.

Thai Government’s Measures to Combat Drought

Drought in Thailand has previously initiated governmental measures. The Thai Constitution of October 1997 established a national push to both conserve the country’s natural resources and use them in a sustainable way.

As a result, the Thai government has promoted projects and campaigns which encouraged water conservation. Thailand has implemented dams and reservoirs to play a major part in relieving drought in the country. Thailand initiated the majority of the construction of its major dams and reservoirs, such as the Chao Phraya Division Dam, the Bhumibol and Sirikit Dams and the Greater Chao Phraya Irrigation, after the Second World War.

In 2019, for example, the Royal Irrigation Department of the Thai government designed two rice planting areas in the central plains to double as water catchment areas. Currently, the government is planning to build 421 water storage facilities to support farmers who are suffering from the current drought. Due to the intensity of the current drought in Thailand, the Thai Irrigation Department is raising slight concerns about the efficacy of these dams and reservoirs. 

Drought in Thailand has been a long occurring issue that affects numerous aspects of Thai society. Specifically, the negative impact on the agricultural sector not only affects the farmers but fluctuating food costs also affect Thai consumers. The irregular precipitation rate, that the climate change of the last decades caused, is further worsening the drought in Thailand, thus creating a cyclic decline of the economy and water sanitation and access.

The Thai government is taking active measures to deal with these issues where the aim is to provide continuous dedication to improving water conservation. The governments’ intention is that eventually, droughts in Thailand will become stories of the past.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Muay Thai for Children
In Thailand, children as young as 13 years old have died competing in kickboxing matches known as Muay Thai. Many children take part in this demanding sport because this is often the only way their families can climb out of poverty. Kickboxing matches in Thailand occur in rural areas and competitors usually do not wear protective gear. However, the deaths and life-long injuries that the sport has inflicted on competing children have inspired a debate on the dangers of kickboxing for children in Thailand. Here is some information that contextualizes Thailand’s debate on Muay Thai for children.

The Current Situation

Currently, the debate over Muay Thai for children has led legislators in Thailand to consider proposals that may raise the age or facilitate using more protective gear for fighters. A major risk for competitors is brain damage or death. On the other hand, families in rural areas oppose this proposal because it could jeopardize their ability to put food on the table. Child kickboxers in Thailand can win up to $150 SDG in one match, the equivalent of about $111 USD if they are professional fighters or are competing in a prestigious competition. For small bouts, in which most Thai children compete, the pay is far less, with the maximum being the equivalent of $60.

Although $60 may seem like a trivial amount, for some families, this sum makes a significant difference in their lives. These winnings are equivalent to almost half of one month’s salary in rural and impoverished areas. Hence, many of the child fighters in Thailand find themselves in matches to ensure they make enough money. Another avenue is to start competing at a very young age so that by the time they are teenagers, they may be able to generate enough income as a professional fighter in Muay Thai.

The Price They Pay

Alongside the newly earned money from Muay Thai competitions, there are still prices the families and children of Thailand have to pay. The competitors and their families must face the constant reality of death and brain damage. According to a study by Thailand’s Mahidol University, permitting children under 15 to box could result in various types of brain damage, such as brain hemorrhages, which could lead to stroke-like symptoms or death if the fighters succumb to the injuries. No matter their age, the lack of protective gear for the fighters prevails as the major cause of injuries during competitions.

The Government’s Response

In response to the recent deaths and the brain damage that has taken place among the youth of Thailand, legislators have found themselves drafting bills that will bar children from participating in Muay Thai kickboxing matches if they are 12 or under.

Currently, the only measure in place to offer safety towards children who kickbox is that boxers must be 15 or older to compete. However, younger fighters are still able to engage as long as there is parental permission, which is why many young children are losing their lives to the sport as there are no enforced restrictions.

What Must Change

A solution to ensure that child fighters remain safe while making a steady income for their families may be for fighters aged 15 or younger to use headgear. Through the debate regarding Muay Thai for children in Thailand, it may be valuable for kickboxing enthusiasts to understand that while including headgear may not provide the same entertaining result, it is vital so that children may win the money necessary from their competitions while also being protected from trauma to their still-developing brains.

Gowri Abhinanda
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts about Education in Thailand
While it has been successful in creating an image as a top tourist destination, Thailand faces numerous challenges. In recent years, Thailand has experienced political instability and demographic shifts, affecting its socio-economic development. A strong education system is critical for Thailand to respond to these challenges. Here are eight facts about education in Thailand.

8 Facts about Education in Thailand

  1. Declining student population: Thailand has one of the world’s most rapidly aging societies, causing a decline in the student population. The combination of this decreasing demand for education and increased competition from international universities are posing threats to the existence of Thai higher education institutions. Some Thai education experts fear that the trends could lead to the closure of up to 75 percent of higher education institutions within the next decade.
  2. Expanding basic education: Every child in Thailand has the right to receive three years of pre-primary schooling and 12 years of free basic education, regardless of their nationality or background. Approximately 95 percent of primary-school-age children attend school, but the number drops to 86 percent when it comes to the secondary school level. The majority of children who do not attend school are from disadvantaged communities, are migrants or have disabilities.
  3. Poor learning outcomes: Despite progress in expanding basic education in Thailand, the learning outcomes have not improved for Thailand. At the end of primary education, 12 percent of children do not achieve a minimum proficiency level in mathematics. Only 50 percent achieve the minimum reading proficiency and 46 percent in minimum mathematics proficiency after completing lower secondary schools. The World Bank estimates that 12 years of basic schooling for a Thai child is only equivalent to 8.6 years. This is a learning gap of 3.8 years due to under-resourced small schools.
  4.  Political repression limits academic freedom: The deep conflicts between Thailand’s traditional political establishment and the rural population majority instigated a long period of political instability in the nation, with frequent military coups in recent years. In the effort to control the chaos, the military government bans political activities and censors the media and free speech. Thai academics also have to work under strict surveillance, constantly afraid of the possibility of political reprisal and arrest.
  5. Shortage of qualified teachers in small rural schools: With falling birth rates and decreasing student populations, the number of small schools increased significantly between 1993 and 2010. These small schools are extremely costly to operate and have a hard time attracting and retaining qualified teachers. Many teachers of these institutions do not have the necessary qualifications, and the majority are inexperienced university graduates. The children receiving schooling from these institutions are often from Thailand’s poorest families and do not receive the quality education that would prepare them for a competitive workforce.
  6. Disparities between students in urban and rural areas: Thailand’s poor rural population and disadvantaged communities have significantly lower enrollment and graduation rates due to the low-performing small schools and a shortage of qualified teachers. The 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment scores revealed that students from schools in big cities made significantly greater improvements than students from small schools. Students studying science in rural areas are behind their peers in urban areas by more than a year of schooling, and more than half of the small rural school students will be functionally illiterate.
  7.  Improved training for teachers: Training used to be centralized with very few urban schools, making it accessible to a selective number of teachers. The Ministry of Education now provides online registration for teacher training courses and aims to offer online training eventually, increasing access for teachers from rural areas. The government also provides $300 worth of credits annually for teachers to register for training courses, and it is working to increase the variety of courses in more places in the country.
  8.  School consolidation plan: Thailand’s Office of Basic Education (OBEC) plans to consolidate half of the small and under-resourced schools with nearby larger schools to provide better learning opportunities for children from the most disadvantaged communities and to solve a teacher shortage. This plan will affect approximately 11,000 small schools if implemented. At least 2,700 small schools considered to be geographically necessary will not be affected and stay open.
These eight facts about education in Thailand show the achievements and challenges of the education system. Despite Thailand’s achievements in expanding access to basic education, the quality of education that the children receive remains a big issue for the nation. Investing in improving the education system is crucial for Thailand to achieve sustainable growth and harness its most valuable and powerful resource: the children.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in ThailandSanitation and hygiene have improved in the past 20 years for the nearly 70 million people that live in the Kingdom of Thailand. Prior to the year 2000, many people lived without access to basic hygiene necessities or clean drinking water. Left untreated the domestic water could pose the risk of infectious disease. In some areas, this surface and groundwater is the primary source of water despite its contamination. Irregular flood and drought patterns could continue to pose a threat to Thailand’s future in terms of water scarcity. This is both a domestic and global issue that needs to be addressed before water resources are endangered any further. These five factors that affect water quality in Thailand highlight the country’s progress with regard to sanitation quality and practices as well as the problems they continue to face.

Water Quality and Scarcity

The Thai government’s Pollution Control Department (PCD) has monitored the state of water quality since 1990. Overall, the trends in water quality in Thailand between 1993 and 2003 were average and stabilizing. With both agricultural and industrial pollution at play, poor water quality was reported in certain bodies of water including the Chao Phraya River, the Tha Chin River, the Lam Takhong River and Songkhla Lake. The following decade’s rise in population size and economic development is now causing a strain on the availability of water resources.

Waterborne diseases can be contracted through eating or drinking contaminated substances from the local economy. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E and Typhoid fever are the three leading infectious diseases in Thailand. All three are viral infections that can easily spread in areas of poor sanitation.

Droughts and Flooding

Thailand’s water resources have diminished over the years due to disappearing wetlands, corroding watersheds and pollution. The climate in Thailand was not always erratic, but now intense flooding during the wet season and droughts during the dry season are commonplace. Wetlands used to be abundant, but today only 2 percent of the original wetlands still exist. Thailand has lost nearly 96 percent of its wetlands. Unless water resource management is improved, water shortages remain a potential threat to Thailand’s future.

Flooding has been just as detrimental to Thailand’s water supply as have repetitive droughts. Standing water from floods poses serious threats. Contaminated floodwater contains many unknown threats that can be harmful to health, causing symptoms like rashes, infections and illness. Severe flooding has left countless dead and thousands displaced. In September 2019, Thailand experienced extreme floods, resulting in 19 deaths. Although an assessment of the total is ongoing, floods have affected more than 150,000 households. The water quality in Thailand is heavily impacted by the continual irregular weather patterns that have taken over Thailand’s climate.

Legislation

Sustainability in terms of water development and sanitation has been a part of Thailand’s legislative value since 1980. The nation continues to support and attempt to improve sustainable natural resource management and environmental protection. It believes both are vital tools for the sustainable development of resources. Legislation has also placed value on addressing sanitation inequality by recognizing proper sanitation and water access as a human right. In addition to laws and efforts on Thailand’s part, the U.S. has dedicated resources to improving sanitation in countries around the world as part of their Millennium Development Goals

Sanitation and access to clean water have a profound impact on the quality of life, especially in more impoverished areas. It has been shown that United States money that is invested in sanitation in developing countries is reintegrated at a rate of more than five times the original value since people are more likely to be happy, healthy and able to work. Promoting investment in global sanitation will help improve the quality of water in Thailand and have a lasting impact on Thai citizens’ lives.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Wikimedia Commons