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Saying no to exploitation

Slot Machine rock their fans.

Slot Machine rock their fans.

E.A.R Project performs during the concert.

E.A.R Project performs during the concert.

Bodyslam wowed fans at MTV Exit Live in Udon Thani.

Bodyslam wowed fans at MTV Exit Live in Udon Thani.

MTV Exit holds its latest concert in the northeastern city of Udon Thani

Postponed from March after an accident during stage installation then brought forward to an earlier hour due to the exigencies of the curfew, MTV Exit's live concert finally took place last Saturday in Udon Thani much to the delight of fans.

Two rounds of the free concert, which aims to educate young people about the dangers of human trafficking and exploitation, were staged, the first at noon and the second at 4. The Vesuwan Stadium venue was also ditched with fears of monsoon rains taking the show to Udon Thani hall inside Central Plaza.

The postponement also played havoc with the original line-up and several of the artists were unable to fit the new date into their schedules. Lao rock band Cells, for example, was only able to play the afternoon show so those of us who had planned to take in the evening performance missed the chance to cheer the lads on.

Nonetheless some of the reporters invited to cover the show did manage to catch most the E.A.R. Project's afternoon set. The band is made up of members from established bands from across the Asean nations and includes Malaysia's Pop Shuvit, DJ Slapshock from the Philippines and one of Thai rap outfit Thaitanium. We also saw the closing set by Bodyslam though most of us were wincing at the poor quality of the sound system. That improved slightly in the second round, perhaps because there had been time for some proper sound checks.

The 7,000-strong audience sang along and danced to Kala, who played "Pen Fan Kan Tang Tae Muea Rai" and "Ther Pen Fan Chan Laew" before Yuthapong "Noom" Sangsuwan took up the microphone to say a few words.

"I guess many people don't know much about human trafficking, never mind the MTV Exit campaign," he said.

"In essence human trafficking is when people are deceived into working without wages and as prostitutes. I would like everybody here to acknowledge this problem and help to solve it," he explained before closing out his show with "Mai Hen Foon".

"I saw some victims talking on a TV programme about how they had been conned into labouring abroad," said Palmy, chatting with reporters behind the stage.

"It's one of the most important issues in the world and especially in Asia where lack of education is partly responsible. Police research shows that Udon Thani people are one of the most trafficked groups and that's why MTV Exit organised the concert here."

Slot Machine entertained with a vibrant set that included "Roong" and "Chan Chao" while. E.A.R. Project, the only foreign band during the second round, impressed with their singles "Mantera" and "Fly Away".

But it was rockers Bodyslam most concert-goers were there to see and screams were deafening as singer Athiwara "Toon" Khongmalai emerged on stage, greeting the fans and prefacing "Dharmajati" with a talk about trafficking.

"This problem should be solved by young people and not left to your elders. You should start with your family, friends and society, and share today's beneficial experience with others," he said before leading the band in "Kraam", "Oak Hak", "Rua Lek Kuan Oak Jak Fang", "Sang Sud Thai", and "Yapis".

"I agree that Udon Thani is a source, the midway point and a destination for human trafficking," said Narong Kongkam, of Udon Thani's Social Development and Human Security Office after the show.

"The town is near the border with Laos, making it easy to bring in Laotians with promises of labouring jobs. And Udon Thani traders such as restaurants and karaoke bars are guilty of using Laotians as waitresses and as prostitutes. Prostitution is a part of human trafficking.

"I think that MTV Exit's concert can help people in Udon Thani and other nearby provinces acknowledge human trafficking. I believe that audience members won't be deceived by false promises and would protect their families," Narong said.

Blowing the whistle

_ To report suspected cases of human trafficking and exploitation in Thailand, call 1300, a toll free Thai and English language hotline operated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.


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