After being stolen and forced to beg for money on the streets by his grandmother for months, a three-year-old boy has finally found his way back to his loving father.
It was a dramatic climax that saw the maternal grandmother arrested, and the boy reuniting with his father but not before legal troubles worried the father for weeks.
Charoen – whose surname is withheld to protect the identity of his child – had spent the last two weeks trying to get back his son. When he took his case to the police, they initially doubted as to whether he might have colluded with the grandmother in making the boy beg for money. Some social workers, meanwhile, were worried that he might not be in a position to bring up the child well and that it might be better for the boy to stay in a state-run shelter.
Charoen is a Karen-ethnic Thai and a worker at the house of a retiree.
“I want my son back,” Charoen reiterated time and again during the past two weeks.
So, when officials at the state-run Rangsit Baby Home finally released his son back into his arms on Wednesday evening, tears of happiness ran down Charoen’s face.
The boy was equally elated, smiling by the side of his loving father. His paternal relatives also showed up to greet him and offer moral support.
Charoen had been shocked to learn that his son was found begging in Samut Prakan province on March 24. But fortunately, he was not without support.
Many of his Karen-ethnic relatives, some of whom were community leaders such as village heads, showed up in Bangkok to vouch for the fact that Charoen is a caring father who had raised his child from birth until the age of 2.
According to Charoen, his relatives and his employer, he married a Cambodian woman, but after she gave birth to their baby, she left him for another man. However, his ex-wife’s family had stayed in touch with Charoen. One day, her mother told Charoen she missed her grandchild and would like to raise the baby for a while.
“I agreed to let her spend time with my son for a while. I didn’t know she would take him away from me and cut all contact,” Charoen said.
For one year, Charoen unsuccessfully tried to locate his son.
He was finally alerted to his son’s whereabouts by the director of the Samut Prakan Protection Centre for the Destitutes, Thanistha Jantanarrek.
“It began on March 24 when someone alerted our office about a child beggar who was seen on a pedestrian fly-over. I came over to check and sensed that something was wrong. Further investigations revealed that the boy is a Thai and had a Thai father. So, I contacted him [Charoen],” Thanistha said.
She said after finding local police in Samut Prakan not very helpful to Charoen, she helped him lodge a complaint with the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division.
Charoen’s employer, a retiree who used to work for Unesco, also volunteered to testify for Charoen because he knew the whole story.
Nipaphan Chaimongkhon, who chairs a foundation promoting the rights of hilltribes people in Thailand, also came forward to help Charoen.
She was with Charoen when he headed to the Rangsit Baby Home on Wednesday to visit his son and to submit a request that his son be returned to his care.
“The boy still remembered his father and they cuddled,” Nipaphan said.
Police have now charged the child’s grandmother with human-trafficking.
Charoen’s child is now at the baby home, pending the disposal of the case.