Overview: The Causes of, and Methods for Addressing, Human Trafficking in the Mekong Region of South East Asia

March 1st, 2007


“Of Laughter and Forgetting” a Multimedia Essay (7min).

Human trafficking is the transportation of persons for sexual exploitation or forced labor and can occur within a country and across international borders. The victims of this global trade, whose criminal revenue now rivals that of drugs and weapons, are often the vulnerable people found in developing countries, conflict zones, or recent conflict zones.

In the south east asian countries of Thailand and Cambodia, as around the globe, victims tend to be impoverished, uneducated, and in search of a better life. In many cases, particularly when considering the filial piety inherent in asian culture, parents will send their children to areas of promising economic opportunity to earn money to send home. Often times there is an agent who will arrange for the job, the transport, and the visa (if any). Once the victim arrives at the destination the traffickers, for coercion, will strip the victim of a passport (if any) and may beat, rape, threaten with death or death of family. In other cases the parents will sell their child outright; victims can be as young as infants.

It appears that immediate responses to human trafficking are undertaken by local and international non governmental organizations. These NGO’s have intentions ranging from freeing victims to legal advocacy and policy change, housing, psychological counseling, retraining, education, and repatriation.

This project provides cursory reporting on parts of the south east asian sex industry and anti human trafficking agencies. These components are:

DEPDC, Combatting Human Trafficking with Education in Mae Sai, Thailand
Development and Education Program for Daughters and Communities Center (DEPDC), a Thai NGO providing housing and education for youth at risk of being trafficked. DEPDC also works with the Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home, essentially a halfway home for victims of trafficking from northern Thailand’s hill tribe communities.

Sub-story on University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point, students volunteering at DEPDC during their winter break and currently trying to find funding for four undocumented teenage women, who have State Department approval, to attend the university free of charge.

VGCD, Working with Street Children and Sex Workers of Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Volunteer for Children’s Development Foundation (VGCD) works with street youth of Chiang Mai, Thailand, to help keep youth from being sexually exploited or indoctrinated into the sex industry.

Mplus, a Community for Gay, Transgender, and Male Sex Workers in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Mplus works with adult gay, transgendered, and male sex workers in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to promote community and HIV/AIDS awareness. Mplus hopes to change mainstream social norms associated with gay/tg/msm.

Sex Workers of Empower Chiang Mai, Thailand
Empower is a Thai NGO with offices in Bangkok, Pattaya, Mae Sai, and Chiang Mai. Empower has a political voice advocating for recognition of sex work as an industry and career. It also provides education and resources for sex workers. Empower hopes to change mainstream social norms associated with sex workers.

Freelance Sex Workers in a Chiang Mai Karoake Bar, Thailand
An evening preparing for work with the women of the Violin Bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Older Expats and Their Thai Girlfriends
Caucasian ex-patriots relocating to Thailand often marry or have domestic partnerships with Thai citizens. This work is with a group of predominantly Canadian men 55+ years of age and their substantially younger Thai girlfriends and wives.

Anti Sex Trafficking Agency AFESIP in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Acting for Women in Distressing Situations (AFESIP) is a Cambodian NGO based in Phnom Penh founded by trafficking victim and ex-prostitute Somaly Mam. Providing “A-Z” services, AFESIP conducts outreach, provides follow up care to victims including housing, retraining, education, psychological services, and repatriation.

UCKRR, Khmer Rouge Legacy
Cambodian society was brought to its knees by the brutal reign of the Ultra Communist Khmer Rouge Republic (UCKRR) from 1975 to 1979. With a poor and traumatized population, courtesy of the UCKRR, Cambodia became a fairly lawless destination for child sex tourists.

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