On August 10th, 2017, the Thai Community Development Center commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the infamous El Monte Thai Garment Workers Slavery Case. The program included an archival display, a 5-minute meditation session, remarks, and a short theatrical performance piece devised by playwright Henry Ong. The theme of this year’s event was “Thread of Our Stories.”
[Historical note: Thai CDC along with local, state and federal agencies raided a manufacturing compound on August 2, 1995, liberating 72 Thai nationals who were found locked up in the El Monte duplexes, some for as long as seven years. Each year, Thai CDC commemorates this tragic incident to raise awareness of human trafficking.]
The event paid special tribute to one of the deceased garment workers, Boonsom Phalat, in a theatrical presentation of the “Brief but Spectacular Life of Boonsom Phalat” and in whose memory the “I Matter” Fund has been established. This fund hopes to educate the public on the topic of sexual assault with the particular aim of eradicating the associated shame that victims encounter. Boonsom’s story was told through spoken word and a dance/movement. Donna Eshleman choreographed the piece and cellist Longo Chu composed the original music and performed on the cello. Sandy Yu provided the voice of Boonsom Phalat and Jackie Nii performed the dance/movement that reflected the internal feelings of Boonsom’s experiences.
Speakers included Congressmember Judy Chu, LA College Board Trustee, Mike Eng, Thai CDC Executive Director, Chancee Martorell, El Monte Survivor, Rotchana Cheunchujit Sussman, and Thai CDC Directing Attorney, Panida Rzonca.
The theatrical performance was created by Henry Ong, an internationally produced playwright who dramatized the story of the Thai garment workers slavery case in his play, “Fabric”. All exhibit art pieces and photographs were provided courtesy of Judy Branfman.