Fears that AEC may make problem worse
Inter-state mechanisms within Asean and increased public awareness are vital in curbing human trafficking in the region, Alliance Anti Trafic director Jurgen Thomas has said.
AAT recently hosted a seminar on the matter to celebrate its 10th anniversary of fighting the trafficking of women and children in Southeast Asia. In the past decade, the organisation said it had “saved” some 3,000 women and children.
Thomas said among the women and children lured into prostitution and rescued by ATT, 995 were from Laos, 227 from Myanmar, 157 from Cambodian and 96 from Thailand.
During the seminar, it was revealed that Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia were the main countries whose citizens were tricked into working in Thailand – an origin, mid-stream and final-destination country for human trafficking in the region.
“Workers from Myanmar are usually tricked into [working] in the fisheries industry or prostitution, whilst Cambodians become manual labourers and beggars,” said Pol Major Jatuporn Arunroektawin, head of the Department of Special Investigation’s Human Trafficking Suppression Division 2. “Laotian workers tend to become housekeepers, work in restaurants or be forced into prostitution,” he added.
Jatuporn said a crackdown on Cambodian beggar gangs in Pattaya city revealed that children aged three to seven were sold by their parents.
To eliminate the prevalence of beggars, the brokers who bring in the children must be arrested, he said, adding that some trafficking brokers had entered Thailand over 100 times and each time brought at least 500 people who were mostly children.
“In order to crack down [on human trafficking], brokers and employers that make fake passports must be arrested. Young girls lured in human trafficking have debts to their brokers and so are forced into prostitution,” he said. Many young women from Laos were deceived and ended up as prostitutes due to their lack of awareness of human trafficking, said Malaithong Vorasit from Laos’ Champasak Federation.
“People from Laos seldom work abroad and do not understand what human trafficking is. When given an opportunity to participate in forums on the matter, we discovered that a large number of Laotians had been deceived into working abroad, especially young women under 18.
“These female victims mostly were tribal, financially impoverished, and had no education. After being tricked into prostitution, Laotians who went back home would only talk about the good things, as they were unable to break the truth to their parents.
“This incites neighbours to follow their steps, creating a cycle [of abuse] due to the people’s lack of awareness.”
Thongdaeng Yubonwat, of Tambon Chong Mek’s children and women protection group in Ubon Ratchathani, said good-income jobs, a strong community spirit, increasing human trafficking awareness, and collaboration among all sides were vital to curb the problem. A meeting by Asean states in April showed that many neighbouring countries do not place a lot of importance on human trafficking, said Sirisopa Teunsamruey, head of Kredtrakarn Home’s Social Work Unit at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. “Thailand’s TIP [trafficking in persons] counter measures are more advanced than some neighbouring countries,” she said.
Kowit Kulsuwan, director of the Net Foundation, said he was worried that once the Asean Economic Community came into full effect next year the problem would worsen.