Thai Temple Takes In Children Affected by Drug Addiction, Teaches Life Skills

By Victoria Kim 09/28/15

The Temple of the Golden Horse serves children abandoned by addicted parents.

The Temple of the Golden Horse
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In the northernmost region of Thailand, Chiang Rai, Temple of the Golden Horse is a haven for children affected by drug addiction. The temple, which sits atop a mountain at the heart of the Golden Triangle, serves as a sort of alternative to a rehab center, which are in short supply especially in the north, where the drug problem is reportedly more pronounced.

The majority of novices who join the temple were abandoned by their drug-addicted parents, according to Yahoo News. Methamphetamine has taken over the region, surpassing opium and heroin. More than 1.5 billion “yaba” pills (a tablet containing meth and caffeine) are manufactured in the area each year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

“Hill tribe people have tough lives, it’s partly why they often take drugs and struggle to care for their kids,” said the temple’s principal monk, Pra Sutipong.

Users and dealers are getting “younger and younger” as rampant drug trafficking has taken over, Apisak Wittayanookulluk, deputy director of Thanyarak rehab center in Chiang Mai, told Yahoo. A lack of treatment facilities and social services means the temple is the only option for some.

“Without this temple, I wouldn’t have seen how vibrant life can be … my small village is full of drug problems,” 19-year-old Ponsakorn Mayer, or “Tawan,” a novice at the temple, told Yahoo.

The temple novices spend their days Muay Thai boxing and caring for the animals and the community garden that feeds the monastery. These activities are meant to give the children a sense of discipline, show them they are responsible for their own lives, and teach them life skills they can take back to their communities.

Tawan says he hopes to help children in his community stay away from drugs. “At first I just wanted to stay here, but there are many problems in my home,” he said.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr