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

Transport Infrastructure in Myanmar
One way Myanmar is accelerating economic development, and therefore reducing poverty, is through investing in transport infrastructure. A major side effect of economic development is poverty reduction. Development often results in job growth, higher productivity and improved education. Myanmar, as well as other developing countries, noticed massive poverty reduction that followed economic growth. However, economic growth is not the only solution to reducing poverty. Despite the southeast Asian country reducing poverty from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017, poverty still affects one in four people. Myanmar is currently updating and adding roads in rural areas. Additionally, Myanmar is constructing bridges, highways and railways to increase transport between Thailand, an important trade partner.

Benefits of Investing in Transport Infrastructure

Based on the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 2016 Myanmar Transport Policy Note, the country needs about $60 billion in transport investments between 2016 and 2030 for transport infrastructure in Myanmar to be completely developed. Myanmar has approximately 20 million people who lack basic road access. Further, 60 percent of highways are in poor condition. The ADB also stated that Myanmar’s GDP could potentially increase to 13 percent or about $40 billion if transport infrastructure investments increased to 3 to 4 percent of the GDP. For reference, Myanmar spent about 1 to 1.5 percent of its GDP on transport infrastructure between 2005 and 2015.

Policy for Transport Infrastructure

As part of Myanmar’s Sustainable Development Policy 2018-30, transport infrastructure development is a prioritized area. The third goal in the report relates to creating jobs and boosting the economy with the help of the private sector. The National Strategy for Rural Roads and Access 2016, Myanmar National Transport Master Plan 2016 and National Export Strategy 2015-2019 are three plans focused on upgrading or constructing transport infrastructure in rural and urban areas. Investing in transport infrastructure in Myanmar could improve trade between Thailand and other countries, as upgraded ports, railways, roads and bridges will open up the country for trade.

Bridges and Roads

The second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge is a bridge over the Moei River in east Myanmar that opened in 2019. The $126 million bridge connects the city of Myawaddy in Myanmar with Mae Sot in Thailand. Myanmar expects the bridge will significantly improve business between the two trade partners.

Two bridge projects in the capital Yangon are also underway. The Yangon-Thanlyin Bridge will connect the capital with Thanlyin, a major port city that handles most of the export and import shipments into and out of Myanmar. Estimates determine that construction on the $278 million bridge should end by 2021. Another bridge connecting Yangon with Dala in the southwest costs $188 million. Construction for this bridge should end by 2022. Dala is an underdeveloped and rural area that lacks bridges across the Yangon River; therefore, this forces inhabitants to take a ferry to cross the river. The bridge will not only help locals reduce travel time but also increase trade throughout Yangon.

Railways

Investments also include the construction of railways, after Myanmar noticed that the number of vehicles on roadways doubled from 2012 to 2016. Traffic within Yangon has become two to three times slower within the same time period. Yangon has a population of more than seven million, so reducing traffic congestion is an important issue. This also explains the push for bridge construction within the capital. The result of this observation led to the creation of the National Transport Master Plan in 2014. One part of the plan involves upgrading the $3 billion Yangon-Mandalay rail line. Work began in 2018, and it should be completed by 2023. Travel times between Yangon and Mandalay will likely reduce from 12 hours to eight hours.

Progress

Evidence of further progress in transport infrastructure in Myanmar is clear through the paved highway network, which increased by 35 percent. The country is developing at around 6 to 7 percent; however, according to the ADB, further investment in transport infrastructure is necessary to completely develop the transport sector. Job growth and improved trade are two major results of transport infrastructure investment. As the bridges and railways come to completion in the coming years, transportation within and outside Myanmar could greatly improve.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Laos
Laos is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world and the poorest in its region. Poverty and low levels of education leave its residents vulnerable to diverse sorts of crime and one of the largest crimes the country faces is human trafficking. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Laos.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Laos

  1. Human Trafficking Numbers: Between 200,000 and 450,000 people in Laos fall victim to human trafficking each year. Labor migration within Laos’s geographical region has a link to trafficking as many natives leave in search of better employment opportunities.
  2. The Vulnerability of Girls: Girls aged 12 to 18 make up about 90 percent of trafficking victims each year. These young Lao women must drop out of school to make a living to sustain their families. The girls then willingly seek employment opportunities abroad.
  3. Migration to Thailand: The majority of human trafficking from Laos occurs when its people choose to move to Thailand. One of the reasons that Thailand is a destination is that it is close and shares a similar culture and language. Moreover, people in Laos tend to move to Thailand due to its higher economic standing. Since education levels in Laos are particularly low, its people often seek better lives and are naïve and vulnerable to criminals who trick and cheat them.
  4. Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor: The commercial sex trade and forced labor situations are the two most common types of human trafficking that Laotians face. Since young females are the main people migrating from Laos, traffickers often take them to countries like China to sell them as brides. Others receive false promises of high paying jobs but end up trapped in slave work.
  5. A Tier 3 Rank: These conditions have manifested due to the Laos government’s failure to meet the minimum standards to end human trafficking. In 2018, the U.S. downgraded Laos to a Tier 3 in terms of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). Tier 3 is the worst rating a country can have.
  6. UN-ACT and Ending Human Trafficking in Laos: Human trafficking remains one of Laos’s most significant struggles, but positive headway has been developing over the years. Laos’s government has started to tighten its border security. The police force is now receiving training from organizations like the United Nations Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT). UN-ACT has implemented the three P’s protocol including prevention, protection and prosecution, to deter human trafficking in Laos.
  7. Raising Awareness: Not only is awareness spreading through law enforcement, but it is reaching civilians too. Officials have launched campaigns to spread information about human trafficking at border crossings. This initiative educates individuals on what to look out for and how to avoid potentially dangerous situations while traveling.
  8. The Lotus Project: While the government has started to do its part, other private organizations have lent Laos efforts too. The Lotus Project, founded in 2008, has a mission to support and provide young Loa women with education. Since the Lotus Project’s start, it has been able to impact 80 families and keep those girls from falling victim to human trafficking.
  9. Lao Women’s Union: Lao Women’s Union is the country’s largest support association. Not only does it focus on trafficking victims, but also on domestic violence victims. To serve the women of Laos, the LWU is an active advocator for women’s rights and their ability to prosecute traffickers.
  10. Village Focus International (VFI): In Laos, there are three shelters for trafficking survivors and two of them are a result of Village Focus International. At the shelters that VFI established, girls receive safe accommodations, food, health care and emotional support to repower themselves. VFI has been able to aid over 500 lives over the years and is helping make Laos a safer country for its residents.

The people of Laos, and especially the young women who live there, face great dangers when seeking employment opportunities abroad. As expressed in these 10 facts about human trafficking in Laos, however, the country is making positive strides. Thanks to recent government efforts and groups like LWU, The Lotus Project and VFI, more Laotians are able to avoid those hardships or receive rescue.

– Ariana Kiessling
Photo: Flickr

 

Cervical Cancer in Thailand
Cervical cancer is one of the greatest threats to women’s lives globally. With an estimated 570,000 new cases in 2018, it ranks as the fourth most frequent cancer in women. In the South-East Asia region, it is the third most common type of cancer. Last year, there were an estimated 158,000 new cases and 95,766 cervical cancer-related deaths in the region alone. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the countries in this region to speed up their efforts to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030. Thailand, one of the countries in the South-East Asia region, has made great strides towards eliminating the disease in the past two decades. Here are seven facts about cervical cancer in Thailand.

7 Facts About Cervical Cancer

  1. Twenty years ago, cervical cancer was the most common cancer for women in Thailand. Currently, it is the second most frequent cancer among women in Thailand behind only breast cancer. It is estimated that every year 8,622 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Thailand and that 5,015 die from the disease.
  2. According to amfAR, the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly all cervical cancer cases. This makes HPV the leading cause of cervical cancer among women in Thailand. Other factors that could cause cervical cancer are smoking, HIV and hormonal contraceptive use.
  3. In the last decade, cervical cancer in Thailand has seen the largest decline in incidence compared to the other four leading causes of cancer deaths for women. One can largely attribute this to the Safety, Acceptability, Feasibility and program implementation Effort (SAFE) which Thailand adopted in 2000.
  4. The SAFE approach is a single-visit method in which patients receive screening for cervical cancer and obtain treatment if necessary. This makes it cheaper than other screening methods since it does not require advanced equipment. The ease of implementation has seen 32 Thai provinces take up the SAFE approach.
  5. One reason the SAFE method yielded such great results was that nurses in the country were tasked with doing cryotherapy. This was important because, at the time, the ratio of doctors to patients was low at about one doctor per 60,000 people. As of 2018, that ratio had improved to one doctor per 2,000 people.
  6. In June 2018, the U.N. awarded Thailand with the UN Public Service Award for its initiative to provide cervical cancer treatment to women in rural areas.
  7. Another measure taken to prevent cervical cancer in Thailand is the provision of the HPV vaccine to girls aged between 10 and 13 years. Thailand is one of four countries in the South-East Asia region to have introduced the HPV vaccine nationally.

It is quite possible that Thailand will meet the WHO’s request to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030. The country is a good example to other low and middle-income countries on how they can deal with the disease.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

Significance of Street Food CultureThailand has refreshing somtam, Mumbai, India has bhel puri and South Africa has a snack of bunny chow. What do these diverse dishes all have in common? They are some of the most notable street foods in their respective countries and vital to the daily lives of citizens, demonstrating the significance of street food culture.

Resourceful but innovative, street foods have a long history in many countries around the world. The foods are reflective of local and traditional cultures. Around 2.5 billion people eat street food around the world. It is one of the few things yet to be significantly touched by capitalist influence.

Perceived Risks

Not everyone thinks so positively about street food and its vendors. Some government officials around the world are concerned about food safety, sanitation problems, traffic congestion and taking up physical space. The greatest fear is of diseases caused by food lowering tourism rates.

Though these risks should not be disregarded, there is much more to street food culture that should be recognized by the greater public. In 2006, the International Labour Office did a thorough report of street food vendors in Bangkok, Thailand by interviewing numerous case studies from mobile to fixed vendors. Specifically, with fixed vendors, the report says: “More than 80 percent of vendors reported that their earnings were adequate,” and “88 percent reported to be satisfied with their occupation.”

The significance of street food culture in preserving global communities is evident in the following areas of cultural empowerment, employment opportunities and accessibility.

Cultural Empowerment

A large part of the significance of street food culture is its ability to create a familial network within specific global communities and enhance levels of inclusivity. The liveliness of street food makes streets vibrant and daily routines colorful. It catches the attention of those from every social class which breaks down barriers.

Additionally, the street food industry protects traditional recipes that run through ancestry lines. Food stalls are often owned and handled by a family. This makes the business an opportunity for multiple generations in the present and the future. Current generations are able to learn about where they have come from and where their country is going, culturally and socially.

Employment and Business Opportunities

Since street food stalls are micro-businesses, it is possible for newcomers to create their own stalls with only a small amount of money. They also have the potential to earn back gains in the long run. Cooking or selling food is commonly the first job for many migrants and women, providing real-life opportunities. Vendors also aid the businesses of small farms and markets by buying ingredients from them. The street food industry has offered new positions for employment. Therefore, it has prevented vulnerable social groups from slipping further into poverty.

A city authority report in Tanzania found that the street vending industry employed more than one million people in 2014. Also, in Hanoi, Vietnam, street vending makes up a six percent share of total employment and an 11 percent share of informal total employment, making the vending sector a significant employer.

Street food is considered part of the informal sector of the economy. However, the industry has developed its own self-sufficient economy without outside assistance. The underestimated sales of street food are contributing to the economy of developing countries. This is another aspect of the significance of street food culture.

Food Accessibility

The significance of street food culture also includes improved access to food across countries, including their poor communities. In the 1990s, the United Nations recognized street food as an overlooked method of distributing food to communities. Street food provides sustenance and nutrition to major groups of the population and helps to keep food security stable.

Since the cooks have low operation and maintenance costs, street foods are low in cost. People with very little to no income depend on street foods every day to support themselves and their families.

Nonprofits like InnoAid are supporting the street vending sector. The organization co-created an educational toolkit for street vendors in India that promotes alignment with the National Act of Urban Street Vendors. It includes training materials on hygiene, collaboration and workspace improvements. Adhering to these aspects of the project will add to its sustainability and benefits for vendors. The project has already helped more than 600 vendors through these entrepreneurial activities and is in the process of implementing a large-scale development project.

With support and increased research on the significance of street food culture, assumptions and overall suspicion of the industry can be reduced. Improving the reputation of street foods could help to preserve culturally significant recipes, provide employment opportunities and supply low-cost food options.

-Melina Benjamin

Photo: Flickr

Facts about Human Trafficking in Thailand

Characterized by breathtaking beaches, delicious food and stunning temples, Thailand is often called the “Land of Smiles.” As the number one tourist destination in Southeast Asia, it is an extremely popular place for millions of people to visit every year. Unfortunately, with convenient routes that funnel women and children in and out of the country, Thailand has also become a popular destination for human traffickers. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Thailand.

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Thailand

  1. Human trafficking by boat is common – First up in this list of facts about human trafficking in Thailand is the method of transportation. The fishing industry is a major asset to Thailand’s economy, so many ships go out to sea to fish. These boats sometimes do not come back for up to three years at a time. This makes it nearly impossible for authorities to monitor the activity of boats. Thus, many traffickers prefer to travel through the seas, despite the risks it may pose on the trafficked victims.
  2. Thailand’s geographical location makes it particularly vulnerable to traffickers – Land routes from neighboring countries into Thailand are not very well secured and corruption is prevalent. This makes it much easier for human traffickers to smuggle people into the country.
  3. Minorities and migrants are high-risk for being trafficked – Among those at the greatest risk for being trafficked in Thailand are foreign migrants, ethnic minorities and stateless persons. They may experience various abuses including the withholding of identity and work documents and debt bondage. They could even be subject to illegal salary deductions. Language barriers and low socioeconomic status further contribute to the vulnerability of these populations.
  4. There is no one “type” of trafficking offender – Profiles of traffickers vary considerably. They include both males and females, Thai and non-Thai nationals. They can be from organized networks with the ability to produce or buy fake documents and avoid immigration requirements. Additionally, traffickers can act individually, seizing opportunities to profit from coercing vulnerable persons into situations of exploitation.
  5. There are various forms of trafficking networks – Trafficking networks can be well-structured and work across borders through the use of brokers. However, most trafficking cases are facilitated by individual and local level networks of friends, family members and former victims that often begin with voluntary migration.
  6. Most victims of human trafficking in Thailand are, in fact, of Thai nationality – The majority of trafficking victims identified in Thailand are Thai nationals, trafficked both domestically and internationally. Migrants from neighboring countries make up a large portion of identified trafficked persons in Thailand. However, many more victims from neighboring countries are not identified. These victims often willingly migrate from their home countries in search of better opportunities. Some of their home countries include China, Vietnam, Russia, Uzbekistan and Fiji.
  7. Victims are often trafficked into Thailand through established migration routes – These victims come from neighboring states with significantly lower levels of socioeconomic development. Facilitated by long and porous borders, irregular migration is a common trend in meeting the labor demands of low-skilled employment sectors.
  8. Trafficking in Thailand is a $12 billion industry – This makes it a bigger cash earner than the country’s drug trade, according to the International Labor Organization.
  9. More than 900 victims of human trafficking have been rescued in 2019 – According to official statistics released by the Thai anti-trafficking department, since the beginning of 2019, the police have rescued 974 victims of human trafficking. Most of the victims were from Myanmar.
  10. The hotel industry has taken initiative in combating this issue – A French multinational hotel group set up an employee training program to identify and address sex tourism in 2001. Additionally, Airbnb works with the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign. which provides education about human trafficking. Airbnb also works with No Traffick Ahead, a coalition for combating human trafficking.

Efforts to Eliminate Human Trafficking in Thailand

These facts about human trafficking in Thailand reflect the severity of this problem on a global level. The Thai government has pledged to continue fighting the human trafficking epidemic in their country. In the last year, it partnered with airlines and charities to warn visitors against involvement in trafficking. Subsequently, they urged them to spot and report potential cases.

UNICEF has been particularly active in calling attention to child exploitation and in addressing its root causes. This organization provides economic support to families so that their children will not be at risk of sexual exploitation; it improves access to education and is a strong advocate for children’s rights.

Progress in reducing the human trafficking trade has been made in recent years. However, to make a widespread impact, the efforts of these nongovernmental organizations need to be aided by urgent government action. This action is essential to protect Thai citizens and migrant workers.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in ThailandThe education system, and especially girls’ education in Thailand, has continued to improve over the past few decades. Like many poverty-stricken countries, however, Thailand still struggles to provide education for all and tackle the gender equality gap among young boys and girls in school.

  1. Thailand is among the few countries in the world that have never been colonized by European powers, therefore their education system developed mainly on its own. The country focused its efforts on education reform. However, the process was a difficult one. Thailand has had no less than 20 different education ministers in the past 17 years. After the military coup in 2014, the country’s government attempted to regain the education reforms that were interrupted and increased funding for education.
  2. Thailand’s education system gives children and families many opportunities to choose how they want to receive their education. The first nine years of a child’s education are compulsory, with six years of elementary and three years of lower-secondary school. Students can be enrolled when they first turn six and admission is generally open to all children. The government also provides free three years of both pre-school and upper-secondary education that can be completed after students finished their studies, both of which are optional. In 2013, 75 percent of eligible youth were enrolled in upper-secondary school programs. Secondary education starts at the age of 12.
  3. Girls’ access to education is virtually equal to boys’, as the Thai government provides all children with a twelve-year education. In 2006, the ministry of education found that primary school net attendance for boys was 85.1 percent and 85.7 for girls. Currently, enrollment rates are mostly equal for both genders.
  4. Though girls education in Thailand is accessible, girls still face discrimination and other hardships at school. Educational opportunities in Thailand are more of an issue of class and affordability than gender and culture, though both are factors. Some such hardships are the cost of supplies and uniforms. A report by the poverty line found that in higher education, the student’s family could not afford the school fees, uniform expenses, textbooks, meals and especially transportation costs to the school.
  5. The Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., found that girls face discrimination in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields from as early as primary school. A 2015 report published by the UNESCO found that the discrimination in these cases stemmed from gender stereotypes and a lack of female role models in STEM.

UNESCO is now working with Thai educators to improve STEM education and motivate young girls to pursue their dreams in the science fields. This initiative is a part of a 20-year strategy that aims to transform the country to increase innovation, creativity, research, development and green and high-technologies driving the economy.

– Madeline Oden
Photo: Creative Commons