tourism in Thailand
Thailand is a unique country that attracts over 32 million tourists each year. Tourism made up 20.6 percent of Thailand’s GDP in 2016 and supported about 6.1 percent of jobs. Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, was the most visited city in 2017. It is clear the tourism in Thailand is impacting the country.

Thailand’s 2004 Tsunami Recovery

Tourism both aided and hindered Thailand in its post-tsunami state. With a high need for jobs and funds, many luxury hotels were able to reopen within months. Unfortunately, some groups such as migrant workers had a difficult time receiving aid, if they even received any at all.

The event was also a catalyst for the marginalization of those in a lower socioeconomic status as many were barred from returning to their homes in popular tourist areas such as the beach. It is estimated that upwards of 10,000 were either prevented from returning or an attempt was made to prevent them from returning.

The Marginalized in Thailand

The country’s social bias against migrant workers, immigrants and refugees is one of Thailand’s biggest criticisms. People in these marginalized groups are at a legal disadvantage compared to Thai citizens. Migrant workers are at the will of their employer, needing a “termination and employer transfer form” (in other words, permission from their current employer) in order to switch jobs. Research by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2010 found 33 to 50 percent of employers in the fishing, domestic and manufacturing sector used this law to their advantage to prevent losing migrant workers as employees.

There are also multiple reports of migrant workers being punished by law in what seem like uncertain situations. One example is the fourteen migrant workers who filed a complaint against their employer for exploitation, thus damaging the company’s reputation. This resulted in the employer filing a lawsuit against the workers with potential consequences being imprisonment and fines. 

Another unfortunate example occurred in 2015 when two migrant workers from Myanmar were sentenced to death for the murder of two tourists; the case was marred by police misconduct such as the mishandling of evidence and the alleged torture of the workers. While it is difficult to find an exact number of migrant workers convicted of a crime in Thailand, it is becoming increasingly clear to the world that this is a human rights issue that needs to be addressed.

Sex Tourism in Thailand

Prostitution was outlawed in the 1960s, but Thailand still has a growing trade revolving around paid sex. There is no way to get a real number on those traveling for sex tourism in Thailand, but NGOs estimated 70 percent of male travelers were visiting specifically for the sex industry in 2013. Prostitution does not have a social stigma in Thailand like in other countries and many Thais have accepted it as part of the culture, creating growth in the industry despite questionable legalities.

Medical Tourism in Thailand

Many tourists travel to Thailand because of the low-cost medical treatment. In 2006, about 200,000 tourists traveled to Thailand explicitly for medical treatment. By 2011, that number rose to half a million.

According to insurance company Thai Expat Club, Thailand was third in the world as the most likely destination for health tourism in 2016. Many medical tourists are saving at least half of what they would pay in the US. Add on recovery by the beach or in a resort and it is no wonder Thailand has become the medical hub of Asia.

Tourism’s Impact on the Environment

With tourism in Thailand increasing, trash increases as well. Unfortunately, Thailand’s infrastructure has been unable to keep up. A common assessment has been waste left over from beach parties. It is estimated that Ko Phangan Full Moon beach parties leave about 12 tons of debris per day behind which mostly goes into landfills or the ocean.

Many groups are currently trying to highlight this issue which will hopefully create a springboard for biodegradable materials and other environmentally conscious decisions. Some of the organizations partnering with Thailand to address the waste issues are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which collaborates with Thailand to protect environmental laws, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which works on conservation within the country.

Tourism in Thailand is drawing in great opportunities such as growing jobs, a developing medical field and cultural awareness. However, there are some points of contention with prostitution, the waste problem and an increasing awareness of the marginalized in Thai society. Curbing environmental problems and working toward a more equal society will create a stronger Thailand and, ultimately, a stronger world.

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr

The Fight for Freedom: Most Common Types of Human TraffickingThe prevalence of human trafficking is a present-day example of the existence of slavery. This global human rights issue is a billion-dollar crime industry, affecting millions of individuals in almost every nation in the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion… for the purpose of exploitation.”

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of exploitation that has three elements: the act, the means and the purpose. The act refers to the transfer or recruitment of persons. The means is how trafficking is done, which includes the threat, force or deception used to control victims. The purpose of exploitation includes sex, labor, slavery or the removal of organs. According to the Human Rights Commission, the most common types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage.

Common Types of Human Trafficking

Sex trafficking refers to the forced participation of commercial sex acts; women and children are the most vulnerable to this type of human trafficking. This type of trafficking forms a significant portion of the transnational present-day slavery. The commercial sex trade exploits one million children a year. Women and young girls make up 80 percent of the trafficked victims.

Forced labor, or involuntary servitude, is where individuals provide labor through coercion, force or fraudulent means. According to the 2017 Estimates of Modern Slavery, there are 24.9 million victims of forced labor. Millions of enslaved individuals worldwide produce goods in various supply chains under violence and threat. These include the agricultural, mineral, construction and textile industries.

Debt bondage is also one of the most common types of human trafficking in which a person forcibly works in order to pay a debt. Migrant laborers are particularly vulnerable to this form of trafficking, as many regions have systematic schemes designed to exploit workers. Debt bondage involves a debt that cannot be paid off within a reasonable time frame. Also known as debt slavery, the period of debt strips the victim of basic freedom. A cycle of debt is then created and maintained through the abuse of contracts, increasing debt interest, increasing living expenses and higher labor expectations.

Response to the Most Common Types of Human Trafficking

Despite the large number of individuals that have fallen victim to human trafficking, there are many organizations that dedicate their efforts to address human trafficking issues. UNODC has established a comprehensive approach to tackle human trafficking. The strategy can be best viewed as three interdependent components which include: raising awareness, capacity building and maintaining strong partnerships.

Additionally, Polaris is a leading organization committed to the worldwide battle to end modern slavery. The organization’s model places an emphasis on the victims of human trafficking. Polaris provides assistance in the restoration of the victim’s freedom, helping survivors reintegrate back into society.

In other parts of the world, nonprofits continue to investigate core issues, such as the conditions that increase the vulnerability to human trafficking. The Freedom Project is an Australian movement that seeks to empower communities and focus on the prevention of human trafficking.

In response to these alarming human trafficking statistics, global movements dedicated to the eradication of modern slavery are leading the way to freedom.

– Dane de Leon

Photo: Flickr

Poverty and trafficking
According to the United Nations Department of Defense and Crime, the definition of trafficking in persons’ means “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” 

Poverty is a compelling factor in the human trafficking industry.

Human Trafficking occurs in every single country on the globe. It is a global epidemic driven by poverty. The most common countries to which victims are exported are in Western Europe, Western Africa, Asia, Arab Nations and North America. The highest destination countries are Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey and the U.S. The main countries of origin of victims are Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern European countries, former Eastern bloc and Soviet Union countries, Latin America and the Caribbean. The most prevalent among the main countries are Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Lithuania, Nigeria, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Thailand and Ukraine, each with large populations affected by extreme poverty.

Wealth versus poverty is an indicator of migration and trafficked catalysts. Potential victims attempt to move from areas with extreme poverty to areas with less extreme poverty. In these instances, it is the desire of potential victims to migrate to escape poverty that is exploited by traffickers. Control and threatening measures tend to increase once migration occurs for the victims.

Those populations experiencing extreme poverty are especially vulnerable due to their circumstances and familial desperation. These high risk populations become trapped in the desire obtain a better life for themselves and their families. The poor are subsequently preyed upon by manipulative traffickers offering false promises of employment and education opportunities, remuneration in addition to a better life condition. In reality, the trafficker does not follow through on any of the promises. The victims are then forced to do other work—like prostitution or hard labor—receiving little or no pay, resulting in them still living essentially in extreme poverty.

Those suffering from poverty are purposely targeted by traffickers as a means of exploitation. Due to poverty, some parents sell their children. In some instances, victims are told to work to pay off debts and told repercussions include violence, police involvement or immigration. Some victims are sold to many different traffickers. There are two types of labor the victims who are trafficked are subjected to, forced labor or prostitution. Over 32 billion dollars is made annually from human trafficking.

Less than 40 billion dollars can end global poverty. Supporting the Food and Peace Reform Act in order to allow USAID funds to provide support for non-emergency assistance for foreign countries will impact the extreme poverty that leads victims into human trafficking. Combating hunger and food crises can provide a means to assist those facing extreme hunger while not disrupting their agricultural products or local economy. The Act does not interfere with the domestic production in the countries and is proactive means to help to end extreme poverty and hunger to prevent vulnerability to trafficking.

Erika Wright

Sources: Southern Poverty Law Center, The Freedom Project, OSCE
Photo: Flickr

Prostitution has increased during the World Cup as Brazilian women are turning to prostitution for the lucrative duration of the competition, which takes place June 12 – July 13 throughout 12 cities in the host country. Five to 6 of Brazil’s top cities are the targets of these workers, many of whom took up prostitution just before the tournament started.

The women are reported to be taking English classes to converse with clients from English-speaking countries. Interviews with some of the prostitutes revealed that many of them, especially the younger women, have high hopes of being swept off to another country and a more comfortable lifestyle as the result of a transaction.

Maria, an 18-year-old student, stated to a journalist, “I’m here to find a gringo to take me away and give me a quiet life. I do not want luxury but just to live with a little more dignity and to help my family.”

England fans seem to be the biggest target for the girls who can be seen in brothels, near the beaches and amongst street vendors near the football stadiums, some even wearing English football team shirts.

While some of the women have dreams of being whisked away by a wealthy foreigner, all the women have their own reasons for taking up the profession, whether temporarily or permanently. Some women have seen an opportunity to earn extra money; some have a more severe need for the income.

One woman, according to social worker Cleide Almeida in Vila Mimosa, took on prostitution as a second job due to financial necessity after her husband passed away. It is legal for women in Brazil to sell sex if they are over the age of 18, but women as old as 77 are reported to work in the industry. Many foreign clients are looking for something they can’t get legally, however, and underage workers are often available by delivery to various hotels.

There are 120,000 sex workers in the state of Rio, and Almeida expects trade to double to 10,000 serviced men per day during the World Cup. Women are charging the equivalent of about $27 for a half hour of their time and $44 for an hour.

The World Cup is one of the world’s most celebrated occasions, and for good reason. Through competition, the football tournament unites nations for a month of good sport and excited nationalism. Whether increased prostitution can provide access to money for these women or not, the trend reflects bigger issues concerning demand for sex work and lack of other opportunities.

 — Edward Heinrich

Sources: IBN Live, Mirror OnlineLiverpool Echo
Photo: Flickr

A third of Cambodians live on less than a dollar a day, economic mobility is limited and shark loans are rampant. Many families have been resorting to prostituting their young daughters out of financial desperation. Often times, brokers—themselves once victims of sex trade—would convince mothers to sell their virgin daughters. Debt-stricken and living below the poverty line, thousands of Cambodian girls are sold by their own mothers to be deflowered. The average price for a virgin is $1,500, an equivalent of about 4 years of income for many Cambodians. Some of the victims are often as young as early pubescent. Many clients belong to Asia’s wealthy elite both from Cambodia and other countries.

Cambodia has an unofficial but written ancient code of conduct for women called the Chbab Srey. The dictates of the Chbab Srey are well inculcated into the social fabric. There are still families who do not view their daughters as having the same value as their sons. There is also a pervasive myth in many Asian countries that through engaging in a sexual intercourse with a young virgin, men will be able to enhance their virility.

In addition, imbued with corruption, Cambodia makes for a very difficult environment for police to operate. It is believed that so far no one—absolutely 0.0 percent—has been convicted for statutory rape for engaging in intercourses with virgin girls. Not only that but, due to the aforementioned cultural code of conduct, female premarital chastity is also highly valued. There is even a national saying that “men are like gold and women are like white cloth,” meaning that men are more valuable than women, and if they are stained they can be washed. Unfortunately, there are still people who live by this maxim. Women, on the other hand, are less valuable and once stained, the stain never comes off. Furthermore, among many poor families, the daughter’s virginity is often seen as an asset that can be liquidated.

Thus, girls who are victims of virginity trade are also ostracized by the society. Many of them are stigmatized and find it extremely difficult to escape prostitution to find other jobs or get married. The case of Kieu—a girl who was 12 when her virginity was sold—demonstrates harrowingly and luridly the ordeals girls who have been sold by their parents go through.

At the age of 12, Kieu was sold by her mother—who blamed grinding poverty for her decision—to a man who raped her for two days. Afterwards, her mother sold her to a brothel where, according to Kieu, she was detained as if she was a prisoner. There, she was forced to engage with several men per day. Upon returning, physically and emotionally broken, her mother decided to give her to two other brothels including one 250 miles away on the Thai border. Certainly, Kieu’s heartbreaking tribulations are not unique; every year, thousands of sex tourists make Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Cambodia their prime destinations. In Cambodia alone, UNICEF estimates the number of children working in the sex industry to account for a third of all sex workers (40,000-100,000 sex workers in total.)

Although poverty and difficult economic situation are in no way admissible justifications for the parents, the painful experiences of these victims highlights the need to alleviate poverty. The parents themselves—belonging to an aftermath generation of the Khmer Rouge regime—are poor, uneducated and in their view, they are deprived of other means of survival. Consequently, the preexisting cultural prejudices, which devalues girls and women, does not subside due to the overall lack of access to education and the developmental stagnation at the grassroots level. As for the girls, what could they do to protect themselves when their own mothers—the people whom they trust most—are willing to sell their bodies?

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: CEDAW, CNN, The Concordian, The Phnom Penh Post

Japan’s hawkish Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has reignited controversy over the conduct of Japanese soldiers during World War II by engaging in historical revisionism. In particular, one area of contention arises when considering the topic of “comfort women” brought from around Japanese-occupied Asia and forced to become prostitutes to please Japanese soldiers.

Although the 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kano on comfort women admitted coercion by Japanese soldiers into forcing women into prostitution, the topic has been brought to the forefront of international debate recently as Japanese nationalists have started to deny past wartime actions.

Understandably, Abe and other nationalists who appear to be washing over Japanese actions during World War II bother Japan’s neighbors in the region, namely South Korea and China. Japan refuses to offer South Korea official compensation to individuals affected by the “comfort women” controversy.

Certain cities around the United States have also permitted the erection of statues of comfort women to promote awareness of Japanese crimes during the war. In Glendale, California and in Palisades Park, New Jersey, comfort women have already been commemorated. A small victory was won by Korea when a Virginia school board approved textbooks with the name “East Sea” in conjunction with “Sea of Japan” in an atlas depicting the sea between the two countries.

Japan has historically been confident that with the U.S. as an ally, the country would stand by the position of the Japanese government regarding comfort women. But in 2007, Congress adopted a resolution condemning the practice of taking comfort women and pressed that the government of Japan should “formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery.”

Controversy has also arisen in China over the comfort women. In response, China has approved the building of a memorial museum to Ahn Jung-Geun, the person who assassinated Itoh Hirobumi, one of the first prime ministers of Japan. In China and Korea, he is seen as a hero but in Japan he is labeled as a terrorist.

If Japan’s historical revisionism continues, tensions will continue to rise with its Asian neighbors and Japan will find itself increasingly isolated from the protection of its major ally, the U.S.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: The Diplomat, MOFA, GovTrack
Photo: Los Angeles Times

Thailand_Prostitution_Film_Whores Glory
“Whores’ Glory” is Australian film-maker Michael Glawogger’s third documentary in a series including “Megacities” and “Workingman’s Death.” The film travels from Thailand to Bangladesh to Mexico into the lives of local prostitutes; three countries, three cultures, three religions – one profession.

At the Fish Bowl in Thailand, women sit behind a one-way glass fixing their hair and gossiping about their mothers until their number is called, signaling that their services have just been bought. On the other side of the glass a soon-to-be-client tells the camera how much he loves his wife and that he does this so he can respect her at home.

In the City of Joy, oral sex is forbidden since the mouth must remain pure for prayer. Contrary to their patriarchal religion, the madam’s word is law inside the ghetto, and women run every facet of life, from the adolescent girl flirting and laughing in the alley to the retired prostitute who now serves as a maid and cook. Indentured girls call up their ‘sweethearts’ to demand more visits and save their money to one day buy their own girls.

In the red-light district of Reynosa, Mexico, a prostitute and her john allow their entire interaction to be filmed, which proves to be, as one critic wrote, “as sexy as buying half a pound of roast beef at the deli counter.” Another woman describes how she no longer fears death because Lady Death is watching over her and promises smooth deliverance.

The film offers no judgment, neither on the prostitutes nor their customers. A young Bengali girl stares boldly into the camera asking if there is no other path for women to take; clients transform from misogynist cronies to shy romantics once doors are closed – suggesting that where women have the fewest options, it’s the men who are the most confused.

Glawogger believes that “the female/male relationship of any given culture can be depicted in prostitution,” but without interviewers or a concluding theme, the film is left largely open to interpretation.

The New York Times calls the documentary “a melancholy film that begins in an outer circle of hell and works its way to the depths,” while a writer of Salon thought it demonstrated “tremendous compassion, and more than a few moments of piercing clarity.”

The powerful documentary illustrated tenderness where none was asked for, powerless women who have held on to their faith and hope of a better future for women who had no reason to expect one.

Lydia Caswell

Sources: Whores’ Glories, The New York Times, Salon
Photo: Mother Jones

Human trafficking has grown into a widespread and horrific issue in Thailand. The country has become a trafficking hub, sending and recruiting people all over the world to work in prostitution, unfair labor situations, forced marriages, sex tourism, and other crimes.

The majority of the human trafficking in Thailand feeds into prostitution. The country has struggled with its treatment of women since it became a country in the 1930s. The country did not grant equal rights to women until 1997 and today is still not enforcing these standards of equal rights consistently. Research conducted by the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand explains that approximately 1.5 million female children report cases of abuse annually. This shocking number does not include the vast number of cases left unreported. Further inquiry into these discoveries by the Ministry of Public Health reveals that females under 15 years old made up nearly one half of all reported rape and abuse cases in Thailand.

Sex trafficking and prostitution have always been a part of Thailand’s history, however, the Vietnam War contributed to an explosion of the issue between 1955 and 1975. With an influx of anxious, homesick, and bored soldiers into the country, spilling over from Vietnam, the demand for prostitution skyrocketed, resulting in the growth of the human trafficking industry which still remains today. The influx in human trafficking during this time, combined with a historical view of women as inferior, has led to the cultural acceptance of prostitution throughout most of Thailand. The World Health Organization estimates that Thailand currently has nearly 2 million sex workers.

Deep poverty and desperation of many Thai citizens have contributed to the human trafficking industry and problems that have derived from it. People who do not hold proper immigration documentation or citizenship are the most vulnerable recruits, as they perceive this path as their only opportunity to make money. Recruiters target many impoverished people, telling them they are being led to a job where they will have an opportunity to make money to send to their family. The hill tribe women in Northern Thailand, who lack citizenship papers, often fall into prostitution, as it is the only job they can perform without needing proof of citizenship.

Victims of human trafficking can be forced into prostitution or the sex trade or other forms of difficult labor, often without any pay or any limitation on the amount of hours they must work. Though exact numbers are currently unknown, trafficked children make up a significant part of the labor force in construction work zones or factory sweatshops. Many of these trafficking victims work in the fishing industry and relayed how it was not uncommon for a boat captain to kill any of the fishermen who fell sick or too weak to work under these harsh conditions.

Some critics have called for the legalization of prostitution in Thailand as a method of curbing the trafficking problem. This could lead to better legal protection for prostitutes and would put many traffickers out of business. Additionally, if the industry were legal the government could tax it, making a profit of it and discouraging people from prostitution, as it would be more expensive to cover the tax. However, Thailand would be taking a step backwards in their push to end trafficking and prostitution. While it may sound economically beneficial to legalize prostitution, one must not forget the basic violation of human rights that prostitution, forced labor, and the slave trade infringes on its victims.

– Allison Meade

Sources: State Department, Human Rights Watch, Human Trafficking
Photo: Sabre