Lon was only 13 when a tourist purchased her innocence. Read her story and see how you can help protect our children from sharing her fate.
“As the older daughter I had to shoulder much of the responsibility in the house,” Lon explains. “I had very much work to do and not much time to play. My grandma taught me to cook and clean house and hand make many things. I fetched water every day. It was heavy. I took my sisters and another little girl to school on bike – one on front, two on back, and me in middle riding bike. I was very strong. When I was not at school I would catch fish and frogs and other animals in rice field to make up our food supply. I worked in rice field too sometimes. It was also my job to take buffalo to and from rice field.
“Before my sisters were old enough to go to school I would come home and before I reached the house I would call out to them. They would run to me very fast, sometimes falling over in a race to reach me first, calling my name. I would always bring something back for them. A biscuit or flower from my teacher, or fruit I found growing by the roadside. They would always look carefully that they had an equal share. It makes me happy to think of this now.”
But life was hard and money was scarce.
“My grandfather and grandmother were farmers. My mother and father had to go to Bangkok sometimes to find work to earn extra money to survive”, she explains.
As the eldest daughter there was increasing pressure on Lon to help provide for the family. So, when she was just 12 years old, Lon ran away to find work so she could send money home. That’s how Lon found herself alone and scared in the megalopolis of Bangkok.
She spent her days sleeping on the street and scrounging for work.
Hungry and desperate Lon gratefully accepted a job as a cleaner in a bar. “I was cleaning the mess and dirt and collecting glasses and plates. It was not a pleasant job.”
One night a Swiss man came to the bar. Lon noticed the man looking at her. Then he left with one of the older girls that worked in the bar.
“I did not know or understand what exactly was the work of the other girls or the owner’s intentions towards me and my future.”
She would soon find out.
For three nights the man came to the bar and stared at Lon. Finally he spoke to the mama san (madam) and pointed at her.
She was frightened.
The mama san explained that the man wanted to buy her virginity. He offered the mama san 7,000 baht (about $230) to broker the deal and sell Lon’s innocence.
For a small, poor girl the money offered was a large sum that could help her struggling family. Under that kind of pressure, she was powerless to refuse.
Heart thumping, stomach sinking, Lon left with the man.
“He took me to a hotel in Sukhumvit Road. There was a man on reception and a woman in the lobby. They smiled at the gentleman customer then looked down at me with disgusted face, making me know that I was to blame.”
She was only 13.
In the hotel room, alone with this man, Lon became very frightened. She locked herself in the bathroom and stayed in the shower as long as she dared. Finally, the man grew impatient.
That night, Lon’s life changed forever.
Gone were childhood dreams of becoming a nurse. Replaced instead with a life of pain, indignity and spiraling mental health problems.
“Being so young and innocent, I didn’t know what was best for my life. The first time and some time after I felt shock. How can I dare do such things? Now you are a prostitute. At first I feel so dirty, but then seeing so much money for a young girl like myself, I started to believe that is the best way to survive.
“I was afraid. I feel everyone was doing their own thing. Somehow I felt that I had to move on with my own life in my own way, even though I was suffering. No one tried to help me. I was alone.
“At fifteen I tried to get education for myself in Bangkok. I went to college until they found out I was a prostitute. Then I had no choice but to stay in the life. No turning back.
“By seventeen I had learned all the tricks, all the swear words, how to cheat and scam, as all these things had been done to me. My heart was black for years to come. I turned to amphetamines to keep me slim and strong with fake smile. Days were too long, endless days, on and on.”
Imagine how different Lon’s life might have been if that hotel receptionist had seen the truth – that an adult was using money to overpower and sexually abuse a child – and had taken simple steps to help prevent that crime.
All that suffering may have been prevented.
Today Lon is in her early thirties and living in the United Kingdom. She suffers from mental health problems that require institutional care, probably as a result of the traumas she suffered as a child and young woman. Even so, Lon is grateful for her new life and optimistic for the future.
“I came to Europe and do different jobs, some with little pay but it makes me so proud. I feel safe and happy sometimes. I would never go back to the old life.”
Lon hopes to start a small business that would allow her to earn a modest income.
She asks you to do everything you can to prevent her story being repeated and to help protect the next young boy or girl who is afraid and alone and desperate.
“It hurts me to see child prostitution and hear about it. It reminds me.
“Children are innocent. Prostitution is not good for them – it causes a deep pain and, if they begin at early age, it can damage their heart and mind. It can damage their soul and take their loving away, and leave them with hated feeling inside.”
You can help prevent crimes against children by joining The Code.
If you are a tourism company, simply visit www.thecode.org to find out more and apply today. If you are a traveler or concerned citizen you can play your part as well. Please follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook to keep informed about how you can help children like Lon.
Want to know more about Lon?
Her best-selling biography “Only 13 – The True Story of Lon” is available throughout Thailand at AsiaBooks and Bookazine stores in English, French, German and Swedish. Or buy online from www.bamboosinfonia.com. Translations to Finnish, Russian and Thai will soon be available.