Chiangrai Times – One of the most profitable organized crime enterprises on the planet, human trafficking shackles an estimated 1.2 million children and for every victim — child and adult — drawn into the sex trade, nine are forced into inhuman working conditions in homes, fields, factories or on boats.
Many locals and job-seekers from neighboring countries continue to be ensnared in the sex industry or trapped in slave labor despite the enactment of the Anti-Human-Trafficking Act in 2008, “Thailand is still a source, transit and destination in human trade,” Yanee Lertkrai, inspector-general of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, said yesterday.
Several border provinces in the North and Northeast are the starting points. “The victims are sent from there to other provinces in Thailand and often to a third country,” she said.
Today, the victims also come from nearby countries such as Laos, Myanmar and even China. Nukool Chinfuk of Hat Yai University’s Political Science Faculty has conducted research on the problem and found that it is getting very serious in the South.
“Some gangs have brought Myanmar people to Ranong, from where some are sent to Samut Sakhon, while some others are sent to Thailand’s lower Southern region, Malaysia and Singapore,” he said.
More than 120 establishments are offering sex services in Songkhla’s Sadao district alone, he said. Most of the sex workers there come from Thailand’s northern and northeastern regions as well as China and Laos.
“The longer the problem persists, the younger the victims become,” he said.
Many sources put the ages of the youngest victims of prostitution at 11-15. They enter the flesh trade in the hope of providing financial support to their impoverished families.
Pol Lt-Colonel Jatuporn Arun-rerkthawin from the Department of Special Investigation said Chinese-speaking women were now much in demand among customers of brothels in the South.
“Those places serve many Chinese-Malaysians,” he said. “Women from countries north of Thailand have nice skin and good |figures.”
Pol Captain Yin Yin Ae, head of anti-human-trafficking in Myan-mar’s Tachilek, said late last year that joint operations with Thai officials had rescued 36 Myanmar girls younger than 18 from a human-smuggling gang.
“These girls left their home towns without knowing that they would be forced into prostitution,” he said. “After they crossed the border, they were sold to a Thai agent who locked them up and beat them in a bid to force them into the flesh trade.”
Another source said many Myanmar girls were brought into Thailand via Tak’s Mae Sot district or Chiang Rai and sent to a holding centre for training in sex services. “The good-looking ones will be taken to Bangkok and the rest to the southern border provinces,” the source said.
Since Thailand clearly has many human-trafficking routes, it still appeared in Tier 2 of the Watch List of the US State Department’s report on human trafficking this year.
Boys and men are not exempt, because many of them are forced into backbreaking work on fishing trawlers.
Yanee said her ministry was trying hard to suppress human trafficking and urged anyone with a tip-off to call her ministry’s 1300 hotline.
Pol Lt-General Pongpat Chaya-phan, commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, said he hoped that the upcoming Asean Economic Community in 2015 would make |it easier to stamp out human traffickers.
“The loopholes in the different regulations and laws used by each country will be reduced,” he said. When the databases of various countries are linked, prevention of human trafficking will also get a big boost.
“Cooperation will help a lot. We have to do our best,” he said.
The bureau has compiled criminal records and continues to try out new techniques and procedures to raise efficiency in its operations.
“We have sent some staff to Britain and Canada to improve our investigations. We have also worked with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in trying to solve the problem,” he said.