The island of Phuket is one of Thailand’s top touristic destinations. Every year, more than three million people travel here, drawn by the beauty of local beaches, traditions and nightlife. But the region’s growing leisure industry has its own drawbacks. And among those affected are the children.
Some of the tens of thousands who arrived in the past years in Phuket are seasonal workers or poor people from other regions of Thailand. They come looking for a better life, for a chance to earn more, but while tourism in the area is booming, so are prices. Since many foreigners are willing to spend top money during holidays, costs associated with everyday life have been going up, while salaries have stayed at the same levels. Many young parents find themselves in the impossibility to provide for their children. This is where Phuket’s child protection workers and organisations come in the spotlight.
“Workers from other poor areas, they move to Phuket, and when they start to work here, they find out that they cannot take care of their kids,” Vilaiwan Dienel, a director at the Phuket Sunshine Village Foundation, told reporters of ABC Australia.
The Foundation based in Koh Sireh is one of the few remaining aid agencies in the island. They take care of more than a hundred children aged 2 to 18, most of them abandoned by their families or with just one parent unable to support them. The other children are abandoned, orphans or saved from abusive families.
And their numbers are growing, a situation caused in part by the rapid development of tourism in the area. Another reason is the closing of most of the aid agencies which appeared in Phuket after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, in which more than a thousand people lost their lives in the area alone. At that time, there were 25 to 30 aid organisations in Phuket. Now there are 4 or 5. And when a foundation closes its doors, the children who were aided there have to be taken care by the remaining agencies, said Ms. Dienel, or they will end up on the streets.
The Director of the Sunshine Village added that local people should get involved more, or the fate of those children in dire need of care is at risk. And by involvement, the aid agency expects financial aid, more than goods and items.
“All the small foundations [that closed] had a lot of back-up, a lot of people donating goods and items, but they didn’t get cash. So they couldn’t pay for their electricity, water and staff. That’s why they had to close. It wasn’t because there wasn’t demand any more, no. There is huge demand,” said Franco Ferri, another director of the Sunshine Village Foundation.
The only hope for Phuket’s poorest children is for local people to get involved more, to donate more cash, concluded Ms. Vilaiwan Dienel. “Our hope, is we can help this new group of kids be good kids,” she added.