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Chinese opera manager reveals how he and his wife were both SOLD into the trade as as children

A Chinese opera troupe manager has revealed on how he and his wife were tragically sold into the Thai trade as children – before finding love together and rising through the ranks.

Thatchai Obtong, 52, was tragically sold as a slave for just £145 to the opera company in Bangkok after his mother fell on financially hard times due to a crippling gambling habit. 

Mr Obtong was just seven years old when he was forced to work as a performer to entertain crowds.

Thatchai Obtong, 52, fell in love with his wife Sunee Obtong, 46, after they were tragically sold into the Thai trade as children – before rising through the ranks

One of the perfomances at the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera. Thatchai Obtong, 52, was tragically sold as a slave for just £145 to the opera company in Bangkok after his mother fell on financially hard times due to gambling

One of the perfomances at the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera. Thatchai Obtong, 52, was tragically sold as a slave for just £145 to the opera company in Bangkok after his mother fell on financially hard times due to gambling

Backstage at one the performances at the opera. Mr Obtong didn't have much of an education when he joined the opera at such a young age

Backstage at one the performances at the opera. Mr Obtong didn’t have much of an education when he joined the opera at such a young age

Mr Obtong fell in love with his wife Sunee Obtong, 46, who was also sold into the company as a child.

And after years of hard work mastering the ancient performance, Chinese-Thai born Thatchai rose through the ranks of the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera troupe from performer to manager.

Recalling the heart-wrenching day his mother sold him off, Mr Obtong said: ‘She told me if I’m a good kid and stay with the Chinese opera, I will have a good future.

‘I don’t have much of an education since I joined the opera at a young age, so my job options are limited. This is all that I know.’ 

Mr Obtong fell in love with his wife Sunee Obtong, 46, who was also sold into the company as a child.

One of the performers at the opera house putting on makeup. After years of hard work mastering the ancient performance, Chinese-Thai born Thatchai rose through the ranks of the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera troupe from performer to manager

One of the performers at the opera house putting on makeup. After years of hard work mastering the ancient performance, Chinese-Thai born Thatchai rose through the ranks of the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera troupe from performer to manager

A performance on stage at the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera. The performance  is a mix of martial arts, singing and dancing to traditional Chinese music 

A performance on stage at the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera. The performance  is a mix of martial arts, singing and dancing to traditional Chinese music 

After raising two daughters with his performer wife Mr Obtong lives to preserve one of the world’s oldest dramatic art forms – and insists he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

He said: ‘I don’t have the knowledge for another job, so it is what I will always do, but as long as there are Chinese temples in Thailand, there will be Opera.’

‘People often turn to crime when they have few other options. I feel proud to work an honest job that I enjoy.’

The performance – a mix of martial arts, singing and dancing to traditional Chinese music – traces back to the seventh-century Tang Dynasty, making it one of the world’s oldest of its kind. 

After raising two daughters with his performer wife Mr Obtong lives to preserve one of the world's oldest dramatic art forms - and insists he wouldn't have it any other way

After raising two daughters with his performer wife Mr Obtong lives to preserve one of the world’s oldest dramatic art forms – and insists he wouldn’t have it any other way

The audience watching a show. Mr Obtong was just seven years old when he was forced to work as a performer to entertain crowds

The audience watching a show. Mr Obtong was just seven years old when he was forced to work as a performer to entertain crowds

The audience watching a show. Mr Obtong was just seven years old when he was forced to work as a performer to entertain crowds

Fascinating photographs show performers – including the Obtong’s daughters – applying layers of elaborate makeup and exquisite costumes backstage to transform into gods and goddesses from Chinese folklore.

Bangkok photographer Dax Ward, 38, said he was inspired to see all that Thatchai and Sunnee had overcome when he captured images at one of their shows earlier this month.

Dax, from Arkansas in the US but now working in Bangkok, said: ‘Thatchai’s story is truly inspiring.

Sunnee Obtong backstage doing her makeup who was sold to the opera troupe when she was just a child

Sunnee Obtong backstage doing her makeup who was sold to the opera troupe when she was just a child

Backstage at the performance at the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera. The art form traces back to the seventh-century Tang Dynasty, making it one of the world's oldest of its kind

Backstage at the performance at the Sai Yong Hong Chinese Opera. The art form traces back to the seventh-century Tang Dynasty, making it one of the world’s oldest of its kind

‘To be separated from his family and all that he knows at such a young age and still make such a success of his life is amazing.

‘I got the sense that this happy couple were right where they wanted to be, which is all anybody can ask for in life, really.

‘As well as keeping the tradition alive, he is helping to teach it to young disadvantaged youths to help them make a living.

‘I have a lot of respect for Thatchai, there are not many people that could overcome such adversity.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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