By: Corinne Shark
Freedom work is all-hands-on-deck and part of bringing you to the frontlines means bringing you in the front door of The Exodus Road offices. Today we are shining the spotlight on Panyapat “Som” Piyathamsawat, our Northern Thailand Operations Manager. As one of our national staff members, Som is an integral contributor to the function of the on-ground team in Southeast Asia. Prior to working with The Exodus Road she spent years in research, journalism and media analysis, produced television news, developed programming for USAID, and served as a freelance language translator. Som brings extensive experience in the value of trusted communication between collaborative sectors. She believes in the necessity of building relationships to achieve common goals. Som’s heart for the exploited impacts every aspect of her work and inspires hope in real and tangible ways.
What drew you to the cause of human trafficking?
My background experience in research and journalism made me aware of the infamous issue of trafficking here in Thailand, but at the end of the day the issue was still there. I was able to inform people but I wanted to participate in a concrete result. It was time for me to take the next step toward making an impact on peoples’ lives.
What is the most challenging part of this work for you?
Collecting enough credible evidence to convince the authorities to take action is always a challenge. Our job is to support the local police toward rescues and arrests which requires time, patience, good teamwork and trusted relationships. Good evidence without good relationships with law enforcement is worth nothing and so we work hard to build trust and solid partnerships. The Exodus Road has earned credibility and a positive reputation.
What has been most fulfilling?
Contributing to the team is exciting. For example, a group of 16 female leaders have been active in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in their communities. Some are business owners, one holds an office and others serve their neighbors. I will be helping them understand the different forms of human trafficking and how they can help us identify those being victimized. We don’t know what’s happening in the smaller communities; but they do. Justice really is in the hands of the ordinary. I am an ordinary person and so are they.
ALPHA team in Thailand is comprised of managers, directors, a social worker, and investigators. Som’s role within this structure is to provide leadership and operational oversight, primarily to the investigators. We’re grateful for partners like Messenger International, whose community is helping to fund national salaries, like that of Som. We are also grateful to those who have joined ALPHA team and sponsor nights of investigation in this critical part of the world. This collaborative approach propels all of us closer to a world free of slavery.