A Chat With @kwanruenb The Child Rights Activist

Human Rights

Despite the incredible heat this morning, I walked eagerly to meet a dear friend: Kwan, an activist. Didn’t let the last minute plans stop me from rushing to the nearest MRT station. Was eager to meet her as it was a rare occasion for her to make the odd trip down to Bangkok. She had a meeting in Bangkok, although scheduled a few hours for me. 

Kwan works with disadvantaged children and refugees near the Burma-Thailand border in an almost isolated location, according to one Bangkok resident. She is a humanitarian worker who specializes in child protection and her approach towards her work has always inspired me, not to mention her sensual smile. 

I was early, not really knowing the exact location, fumbling through the madness of  finding a landmark in Bangkok. Eventually she found me, we hugged and spoke rapidly about her work, some challenges faced by refugees in Thailand Its similar, somewhat, to Malaysia however NGOs in Thailand seem more involved in the rights-based needs of the marginalized community. 

I think about the refugees in Malaysia — the absence of sustainable activism in championing the rights of refugees. Malaysia is a hub for refugees, some coming from the Middle East, and with a growing population of stateless and migrant workers. Those seeking sanctuary in Malaysia are treated as “illegal immigrants” with no rights as refugees in accordance to UNHCR; and there seems to be a bloated community of migrants from Indonesia acquiring citizenship in East Malaysia (i.e. Sabah). Obvious discriminatory policies of the federal and state governments, and yet there is barely a hiccup among Malaysian NGOs on the issues, needs and concerns of the refugee/migrant communities. 

Anyway, back to Kwan — I admire her passion for her work and the community that she represents. Amazing, as working with marginalized children is tough, taxing one’s core abilities in order to do what needs to be done, for the rights of the child.

She is a member of a small circle of child protection activists in her country. At times, I know she works against a monstrous wall of societal apathy, isolated and swamped with cases. However one person can make a difference, hopefully inspiring other Thais to action — an empowerment of justice and human rights. 

I wish her the best, and I look forward to meeting her again, just to listen to her speak, exchange opinions and see her smile.



An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at zashnain.com and @bedlamfury

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