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The commercial sexual exploitation of girls is a global, multi-billion dollar industry, pouring money into the hands of private citizens, tourists, governments and the police. No single approach, in a single country, can entirely solve the problem. Miki Garcia on how to cope with this international hazards. For many girls in Bangkok, these words reflect reality. In some Thai villages, girls are dragged out of school and sold for the price of a television set, and forced to work in brothels.


When the Empower Foundation surveyed migrant women in Chiang Rai about where they would travel if they had the chance, many of them answered that they wanted to see the ocean -- they'd never been before. The women, either working illegally in Thailand or bound by migrant mobility restrictions, dared not leave the Mae Sai or Chiang Rai area.

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So the foundation came up with a novel idea: each woman would make a papier mache doll to represent herself, which would be sent on a symbolic journey on her behalf. The surveyed women were asked their name and the most common answer was Kumjing.

So the Kumjing Project was born. We then put the dolls on a bus and take them to the ocean. We have taken photos of all the Kumjing dolls on the beach and shown them to the real Kumjing in Chiang Rai. They all seem happy about it. The museum was opened five years ago to group visits from Thailand and overseas.

But as of Friday, it officially launched for the general public. Some real-life Kumjing also attended the opening ceremony. The museum's welcoming the public in a bid to improve their understanding of local sex workers and the challenges they face. Inthe Empower Foundation's Chiang Rai office ran several projects to help local migrant women, and found many in border areas came from Myanmar and worked in karaoke bars, massage parlours and restaurants.

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A foundation officer checked the record of their registration and found that at the small entertainment venues, up to 60 Myanmar women were registered as maids to disguise their true vocation. In order to offer them health and sex education, the foundation staged a one-day workshop at their offices.

The women became comfortable with the foundation's work and kept returning for more education classes. The Myanmar women in sex work said they didn't like the job but it paid well enough for them to ignore the type of work they were doing.

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The project focuses on career training for work outside the sex industry. Many of the members have low education levels and the workshops are held once a week.

The skills training includes artwork, from carving sculptures to sewing, as well as repairing electronic appliances. The foundation also gives them Thai-language training so they can communicate with locals or read basic Thai. Of the 70, women who work Mae sai brothels entertainment venues in the border area from Mae Sai to Tachileik in Myanmar, the foundation estimates at least 50, are from Myanmar.

The Kumjing dolls have been used to raise global awareness about human rights and equality issues for sex workers. Ms Chantawipa plans to take the project further. She has started to take Kumjing dolls to many different places in Thailand. One one occasion, she put them on a train for a guided tour through Ayutthaya's old town. When Ms Chantawipa was invited to speak about sex workers in Thailand at a conference in Singapore, she brought along one Kumjing doll with her. The doll travelled by car and passed all immigrant stops from Thailand to Malaysia and Singapore. Ms Chantawipa said she made a "passport" for the Kumjing to enter the different countries which she said was given "immigration stamps".

The travel project received worldwide media attention. Thousands of trips by Kumjing dolls have now been made to at least 40 countries around the world. Many of them have also ed an "adoption programme" where they get to remain in the countries where they travelled to.

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Thai people still think differently and Thai people are still not ready to accept them as part of society. Belying her advanced years, she jumps on a mock go-go stage inside the museum and tentatively swings her body on a silver "stripper's pole". People stigmatise them because of HIV, but no one really cares enough to think about them as normal human beings who are part of our society.

She then jumps off the stage and slowly opens a red toolbox nearby, pulls a brassiere of the same colour out, clips it over her everyday clothes and strikes a pose. They are living in the modern world, they should know what they want for their future.

The museum has on display different aspects of sex work in Thai society from history to modern times. On entering the venue, visitors are greeted with a wall of information about sex work recorded during the Ayutthaya Mae sai brothels to the early history of Bangkok.

Ayutthaya officials were d to run brothels for the elite, with the proceeds going into state coffers. Fees ranged from 50 satang to four baht. There were women working at the establishments, and the main customers were local and foreign dignitaries, sailors and travelling merchants.

Both the brothel and sex workers paid taxes, with the state generating more taxation revenue from the sex trade than gambling houses. Later, during the reign of Rama V, according to a law passed in every brothel or Song Sopenee had to hang a green lantern at the front gate to ify the trade. The hanging of the green lantern was intended as a warning to help prevent the spread of communicable diseases in the general community. No one has bothered to update it to make it relevant to the current situation.

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One of the more puzzling exhibits which draws attention is a boxing ring placed in the middle of the exhibition room. Boxing gloves hang from the ropes, and a large weight is situated in the middle of the ring with the Thai word for justice on each side. A background poster shows a woman fighting obstacles sex workers face such as discrimination, and access to safety and security.

Ms Chantawipa says the ring was chosen as a visual metaphor for boxing, the most popular sport in Thailand, and symbolises sex workers' need to protect themselves from violence and exploitation by customers and law enforcement officers. When to take a step forward or move backward and who to hit as a target with a soft punch or a hard kick. Many of the women work, both legally and illegally, in karaoke bars, massage parlours and restaurants.

For the 30 years Ms Chantawipa has been working in the field, she has devoted herself and dedicated every minute of her life to making a change. Though there's still a way to go, she believes one day Thailand will be able to accept sex workers as a part of greater society. Military government, appointed government or elected government, no one seems to want to help us sincerely," Ms Chantawipa explained.

Once viewed only by UN officials, foreign government officials and students, the main reason the Empower Foundation decided to open the museum to the wider public is because she believes the younger generation can make a difference and provide the answers she has been looking for. What Ms Chantawipa really wants is to allow the younger generation to understand more about the issue and overlook the stigma that people from older generations give to sex workers.

The Sex Workers Museum is open every Wednesday to Friday from noon to 6pm, with an entrance fee of baht. They have travelled across Thailand, including Ayutthaya, where they are pictured at the train station. When invited to speak at different events, she often brings a Kumjing doll with her. Two-thirds of India's population have antibodies against the coronavirus, according to data released on Tuesday from a survey of 29, people across the nation conducted in June and July.

The Social Security Office SSO on Tuesday clarified the latest aid payouts to workers affected by Covid, apparently to dispel confusion over eligibility and compensation amounts. Other Services. Tale of the travelling dolls 1. Tale of the travelling dolls Migrant women are taking an unusual step to see the world vicariously. Photos: Pawat Laopaisarntaksin. Do you like the content of this article?

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