Thai Boys' Activities--Work


Figure 1.--.

Until fairly recently, most Thai children worked. This was the general state of affairs throughout the world until the Industrial Revolution. As Europen countries industrialized, they generated the weath needed to end child labor. This did not occur in the traditinal, largely agricutural countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Slavery was a coomon practice throughout Asia, although it varied in importance. Since ancient days it was quite common for peasant families to sell off some of their children in difficult times or to pay off debts. This system was prevalent throughout Asia, including Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia. European colonial regimes attempted to end this practice. Thailand was never colonized. King Rama V abolished slavery in 1905. He did not, however, change the economic conditions that led to this practice. After World War II, most developing countries entered th modern age with children still largely involvd in labor. This was especially true in rural areas. This is still a problem in Thailand, but increasing oprosperity has mean that more more younger children children are attending school rather than working and many countries are moving to end child labor with legal protections. This has varied from country to country. As part of globlization process after the War, nany freign manufacturrs have transferred manufacturing to lo-income cuntrue, including Southeast Areas. Thailand was ne of these countries and many teenagers were employed in these factories. They hekped to augment family incomes and have played a role in the develoing Thai economy.

Work

Until fairly recently, almost all Thai children worked. This was not just a phenomenon in Thiland. But from the dawn of time, chikdren worked as soon as they were old enbough to peform useful functions. Until the 19th century, not people worked in agriculture. Thus ws necessary becayuse farming technology was so primitive, that many peole had to farm to produce a small surplus that could support a very limited number of urban dwellers. In such circimstances everyone had to work, except the small ruling class. And this was the general state of affairs throughout the world until the Industrial Revolution. Incredibly if younask many Americans what caused child labor, the anmswer you get is industralization and capitalism when in fact it was industrialization that brought vhild labor to an end. We are not sure how Thais answer this question. As Europen countries industrialized, they generated the wealth needed to end child labor. This began in England (mid-18th century and progressed more widely in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars (19th centyury). The same did not occur in the traditinal, largely agricutural countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Thus most Thai children were involved in agriculture well ino th 20th century. After World War II, most developing countries entered themodern age with children still largely involvd in labor. This was especially true in rural areas. This is still a problem in Thailand, but increasing oprosperity has mean that more more younger children children are attending school rather than working and many countries are moving to end child labor with legal protections. This has varied from country to country. As part of globlization process after the War, nany foreign manufacturrs have transferred manufacturing to low-income cuntrue, including Southeast Areas. Thailand was one of these countries and many teenagers from rural ares were employed in these factories. They helped to augment family incomes and have played a role in the develoing Thai economy.

Slavery

We are just beginning to collect information on slvery in Southeast Asia. Although vert substantial, reaching lkevels of classical civiliztions, it is very poorly documented and studied. Some information has been developed in the Khmer Empire. The Khmers had a substantial slave class. It was used to build the magnificent monuments in Angkor Wat, doing muxh of the heavy work. Many of these slaves were captives taken from the mountain tribes. Debt slavery was also important. Since ancient days it was quite common for peasant families to sell off some of their children in difficult times or to pay off debts. This system was prevalent throughout Asia, including Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia. Peaants unble to repay debt to landlords and the ruling class could be sentenced to work as slaves. We believe that the same processes were at work in neigboring states like Thailand. The numbers of people involved were very substantial. One historian estimates that 25-35 percent of the population of Thailand and Burma were slaves (17th - early-20th centuries). War was endemic in Southeast asia before the colonia era. A major source of Thai slaves were war catives. They became property of the king. The Thais not obly enslaved war captives and foreign populations, but were subject the same actions by neigboring forces. Historins recount a Burmese seige of Ayudhya, the Thai capital(1765-67). The Burmese took away some 30,000-100,000 city residents as slaves, resettling them around Mandalay. {Nay Thien and James.] City residents made for valuable slves because many had useful skills. Virtually no data is available before the arrival of the Europeans, but we do have some data on more modern times. One report indicates that KIng Rama III (182451) amassed some 46,000 war slaves. And slave raiders continued to target the mountain people. The Siamese, the Anamites, and the Cambodians reportedly 'hunted incessantly' among the independent mountain people. [Colquhoun, p 53] The Thai monarchy launched a reform movement in an effort to avoid European colonial control. One of the justifications used by the Europeans was to abolish lsvery. European colonization gradually eliminated the intra-state warfare that ha dominted Southeast Asia for centuries. Slavery became increasingly a matter of debt bondage (19th century). [Crulkshank] Rama V (1869-1910) continued his father's reform effort, abolishing slaverya(1905). Debt slavery was also important and unlike slave raiding continued to be important after slavery was officially abolishd. Since World War II, Thailand has been criticised for human traficking. Child prositution based on debt slavery has been a problem. Another issue has been slavery in the fishing industry.

Sources

Colquhou (1885).

Crulkshank, R.B. "Slavery in ninteeth century Siam," (1971). The author was associated with Cornell University. We are not sure where this article was originally published, but it has been archived on the Simese Heritage Tust site.

James (2000).

Nai Thien (1959).








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Created: 2:07 AM 12/27/2010
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