Simon Goff, CEO of the MTV EXIT Foundation

“Human trafficking: No, No, No” rang out the chant from 20,000 people, repeating ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan’s call to action live from stage. They had travelled from across Thailand to be there and braved torrential rain, however, their spirits were not dampened. They were there to see their favorite artists perform and join a fight. A fight that is crucial for their futures.

In Chiang Mai at the 700th Anniversary stadium, MTV EXIT’s 26th concert in Asia was in full swing. The crowd had been treated to performances by Thailand’s top bands including ETC, Slot Machine, Thaitanium, and Australian popstar Kate Miller-Heidke. However, one of the highlights was a local all-girl band called Chaba that had won an MTV EXIT “battle of the bands” competition to perform in front of thousands. If the crowd daunted them they certainly didn’t show it. Between performances crucial information about human trafficking was delivered to the crowd by the artists as well as from the concert MCs, video presentations, and speeches from guests,  including Secretary-General Pitsuwan and the US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney.

As the rain finally began to recede, the excitement amongst the audience reached fever pitch in anticipation of the headline act. Korean superstars Super Junior M were performing for the first time in Chiang Mai. As they took to the stage, they were met by deafening screams from their faithful fans. After performing one of their hits they addressed the crowd through an interpreter giving the all-important messages about the issue. After the concert, the work was not yet done.  The following day, band members had the opportunity to see the issue first hand, visiting a local shelter for survivors of trafficking. It was an incredibly positive experience with two young Thai survivors giving the band a lesson in Thai cooking.

Since 2007, through a unique co-operative agreement, MTV and USAID have created the world’s largest campaign to raise awareness and increase prevention. More than half a million people have attended MTV EXIT concerts and tens of millions more have watched MTV EXIT television programming on air and online. However, the numbers only tell half the story. Seeing first hand how young people are being inspired and coming together to fight this issue shows how important campaigns such as MTV EXIT are as forces for positive social change.

In the days leading up to the concert in Chiang Mai, we produced the first MTV EXIT Creative Youth Forum in Asia. The forum brought together 40 youth leaders, age 14 to 23 years old, from across Thailand for workshops.  Over a period of four days,   media professionals from the film and advertising industries, as well as anti-trafficking experts,  conducted four days of workshops for the youths.   The forum was developed to equip and strengthen their creative skills and knowledge in order to educate their communities back home on human trafficking. They were also challenged to produce a creative video and campaign plan to implement upon returning home.

Over the next two years, MTV EXIT will produce  national campaigns in Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia. We will continue to shine a spotlight on this issue, inspire young people to action, and arm them with the tools they need to prevent and combat trafficking in their communities. We will continue to harness the power of music and culture to have a positive impact against human trafficking.

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