Thais are taught from their earliest years to defer to those older and more entrenched in society than themselves.  I had not fully understood the truth of that statement until I had lived here for a few years.  After living here for 4 years I bought a house and the student who lived with me and I moved into my new home.  She turned down the opportunity to join Interact saying that she would be the newest member and not be allowed to do or say anything. 
Prior to that time, I was teaching as a contract teacher and there was a young teacher who had some solid ideas worthy of consideration.  I suggested that she share them at the staff meetings.  She said that she was the newest and youngest so couldn’t say anything.  In frustration, I went to the director and asked what the truth was.  His answer was that if she tried to do anything on her own, no one would help her.  Turning on my heel and muttering “how stupid”, I left his office. 
 With that, I returned to the young teacher and said, “I am the oldest person on staff.  Tell me your ideas and I’ll suggest them and we’ll see what happens.”  That’s what we did and it was a successful ploy.  We were able to institute many of her ideas. 
Another, and more dangerous example, concerns 2 young girls from Myanmar.  As the oldest siblings in fatherless families, they were expected to provide the food for the other children.  A relative said he would take the girls to Thailand to work and they could send money home.  He took them to a Long Neck Karen village where they posed for pictures and earned a little money.  In fact, they were put in costumes including brass rings, not allowed to leave the village, not receive any education, nor do anything to improve their lives. 
A group of nuns asked if they wanted to return home and when they said they did, we worked together to get the girls to safety and then to their homes.  They girls were taken back by a nun and because of that, were accepted freely by the villagers.  It was discovered that not only had no money been sent to their families, but the man who trafficked them was able to build himself a new home.  The villagers thought the girls were being taken to Thailand to become prostitutes. It turned out that the mother of the older girl had agreed to the arrangement due to the fact that the trafficker was her older brother and she couldn’t refuse to do what he said. 
To most westerners, the idea of agreeing to allowing their children to be sold into prostitution is an anathema.  We are taught to think for ourselves and act accordingly. 
 “No” is a powerful word and should be used wisely.  Each situation is different and requires careful thought and consideration.  If the situation proves detrimental, then say “No” and do the right thing. 
Traffickers take advantage of the policy of deferring to anyone older.  They prey on the vulnerable and anyone not thinking for themselves is highly vulnerable.  This deferment practice not only makes the business of trafficking much easier, but is highly detrimental to the country as a whole. 
Following are several examples of when “No” is appropriate and ways to say it politely: 
  A new friend you have been chatting with on the  Internet asks you to provide personal information. 
     “I have a policy that I do not share any personal  Information to anyone I do not personally know.” 
  A friend offers you some drugs. 
    “No, thank you.” 
  You are invited to a party at the home of a friend whose parents are out of town and will not have any adults present. 
    “No thank you,  I have other plans for the evening.” 
  When anyone suggests something that appears too  good to be true. 
       “That sounds just too good to be true, so I think I’ll  pass.” 
   A parent, other relative or good friend urges you to do something you know is wrong. 
     “I’ll pass, thanks.”  If necessary, say “No” firmly.  Go to the police if necessary. 
   You are offered the possibility of a good job out of town.   The job sounds interesting and the pay is good, but you know very little the about the job. 
      “That really sounds good but I think we need more Information before we do anything.  What is expected  of us and what guarantees do we have about the job?” 
  There are many times when “no” is the appropriate word.  Use it. 
Carol Acosta
President, Rotary Club of Maechan, District 3360 Thialand