In the bustling halls of Chiang Rai’s provincial police office, Paveena Hongsakul, founder of the Pavena Foundation for Women and Children, discussed an urgent matter. Three Thai women, fallen victims to a heart-wrenching trafficking scheme in Myanmar, had been rescued and brought home. Accompanied by her, the anxious mother of one of the victims—a vibrant 23-year-old from Chiang Rai named Mai—waited to be reunited with her daughter.
As the chilling details of their ordeal were revealed, Hongsakul shared how a tempting offer on the popular social media platform, TikTok, had led them astray. The unsuspecting Ms. Mai had responded to an advertisement for a trip to Myanmar’s Kengtung state, believing it was a golden opportunity to explore and perhaps find work. A decision she would later deeply regret.
On May 18, Mai departed for her ill-fated journey to Kengtung state. To her horror, she was sold in Mong Nawng, a Shan state town hidden behind the joyous tourism façade. Her identity – her passport was taken away, her freedom stripped, she was coerced into the dire straits of prostitution and narcotics. Defiance was met with brutality.
Two other Thai women had fallen prey to the same cruel scheme, lured to Mong Pawk under the pretense of a Kengtung tour, only to face a similar dreaded fate.
Desperate for help, Mai’s family reached out to the Pavena Foundation. Thrown into the deep end of a human trafficking case, Hongsakul went to work, bringing together the threads of Thai consular officials and Myanmar police to rescue the trapped women.
The trio were successfully extracted, and thinking themselves safe, they arrived at a local police station awaiting a ride. But their ordeal was far from over. Too impatient to wait for their arranged ride, the women opted for motorcycle taxis, an innocent mistake that led them into the clutches of ransom-kidnappers demanding a staggering sum of 5 million baht.
Through sheer luck, they managed to escape their captors and ran into a surprised male school teacher who, without hesitation, delivered them to another police station. Their relief was short-lived as the law, instead of providing solace, slapped charges of illegal entry against them, fining them 4,000 baht each, locking them behind bars for three long, harrowing months.
The Pavena Foundation, however, didn’t give up. Through these dark times, they sent financial aid and, upon completion of their sentence, repatriated the women back to their homeland, Thailand. What should have been an exciting journey had morphed into a nightmare of trafficking, kidnapping, and jail; a stark reminder of the perils lurking in the shadows of our interconnected world.