BANGKOK – Disturbing footage showing Burmese sex slaves being violently attacked by a group of men has gone viral on the internet, prompting calls for more to be done to help such women.
The four-minute clip, which was shown on Thai television news last night, shows a group of defenseless young women being punched and kicked repeatedly by several men.
One of the women who is singled out after she tries to call or text someone on her mobile is practically beaten unconscious by the men – who some said were police officers – in what appears to be a closed room.
The film, which seems to have been shot on a mobile phone and has been viewed on YouTube 40,000 times, is accompanied by a voice over of Thai newscasters who report that the men are not Thai but Burmese.
The newsreaders say the men are sending the women back to Myanmar (Burma) for ‘misbehaving’. However critics in Thailand have suggested the men are Thai, and possibly even police officers.
The horrifying footage highlights the plight faced by thousands of young Burmese women who are trafficked to Thailand to work in the sex trade there.
An estimated 20,00-30,000 young Burmese women work as prostitutes in Thailand, most of them from ethnic minorities, and 60 per cent of them are thought to be under 18.
Women, often from remote, rural locations, are lured into the industry with the promise of high wages, good conditions, and job security.
But the reality is very different. The women are paid very little, and kept as virtual slaves by the often violent pimps. Clients frequently refuse to use condoms, and disease is rife.
Rights organisation HumanTrafficking.org says: ‘Burmese migrants make up the bulk of migrants in Thailand, often fleeing from military oppression.’
It says corruption is still ‘widespread’ amongst Thai law enforcement personnel, adding: ‘There are also reports that Thai police and immigration officials extort money or sex from Burmese citizens detained in Thailand for immigration violations, and sell Burmese people who are unable to pay to labor brokers and sex traffickers.
Comments on the YouTube footage called for the men involved to be identified and hanged, with one viewer saying: ‘They always pick on the new girls who seem to be the strongest – warning not to run away and to listen.
‘It comes with the job – the pimps are the scum of the earth.’
Another viewer wrote: ‘I hope someone can take serious action and get these men so that they wouldn’t torture anyone any more.’
By Andrew Drummond and Harriet Arkell