News/US: Thai Boy Caught Up in Fight Against Sex Trafficking

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Subject: News/US: Thai Boy Caught Up in Fight Against Sex Trafficking
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue May 16 2000 - 08:08:24 EDT


>
>Thai Boy Caught Up in Fight Against Sex Trafficking
>
>
><http://a188.g.akamaitech.net/f/188/920/1d/www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/ima
>ges/I1757-2000May14>
>Three-year-old Phanuphong Khaisri of Thailand laughs as he plays with his
>court appointed temporary guardian Chutima Vucharatavintara. (Scott Nelson -
>AFP)
>
>
>
>By Hanna Rosin
>Washington Post Staff Writer
>Monday, May 15, 2000; Page A02
>
>
>
>He could have been another pixie like Elian, except he arrived here
>constantly crying, his face mottled by chicken pox and a rash. Plus he came
>from an ideologically less interesting country.
>
>
>Still, 2-year-old Phanupong Khaisri turned out to be the perfect victim for
>another international cause. Since arriving at Los Angeles International
>Airport a month ago in the arms of strangers, the toddler from Thailand has
>galvanized a two-continent crusade against the horrors of the thriving
>underworld of international sex trafficking.
>
>
>Phanupong, nicknamed "Got," arrived in the immigration control line with a
>couple posing as sightseeing parents. When questioned by suspicious agents,
>the Indonesian man, Suseno Karjopranato, admitted that he and the Chinese
>woman, Chu Mwei Long, were not married and that the boy was not his son.
>
>
>Only after the two adults were deported did Immigration and Naturalization
>Service officials fill in the blanks: The man, they suspect, is connected to
>a notorious international smuggling ring. The woman was destined to be a sex
>slave somewhere in America. The boy was a human decoy, designed to make them
>look like a family on holiday.
>
>
>He had been rented to the man by his mother for something like $250, drugged
>and bundled onto the plane despite a raging ear infection. And it was
>probably the third time he had been used this way, his mother eventually
>admitted to Thai authorities.
>
>
>For opponents of sex trafficking, Got was their spotted owl, their Polly
>Klaas. The trade has worsened each year, and a recent CIA report estimates
>that as many as 50,000 such women and children are brought to the United
>States annually. But with trafficked women, there is always the question of
>their complicity. With a boy who cannot speak his own name yet, no one can
>say he agreed.
>
>
>Rescuing Got has become a crusade both here and in Thailand. On Tuesday, a
>Los Angeles judge granted a human rights group's request to delay Got's
>return to Thailand, where activists fear he will fall through the cracks of
>Thailand's child welfare system and back into the arms of the traffickers.
>
>
>"What we're trying to prevent is a child, who is ill, from being deported to
>a place where he'll get little medical attention and where he may land back
>in the stream of illicit international trafficking," said Peter Schey,
>president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which filed
>the lawsuit.
>
>
>U.S. District Judge Dickran M. Tevrizian Jr. granted the request with
>passion, interrupting testimony from an INS official, who was saying the boy
>could return safely, by reading part of the famous poem by Emma Lazarus
>inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, your
>huddled masses yearning to breathe free." The judge added, "If we send him
>back, that would be false advertising."
>
>
>A hearing is scheduled May 23 to determine Got's fate. In the meantime,
>advocates are using the case to highlight the horrors of sex trafficking and
>how the INS handles its victims and perpetrators.
>
>
>The lawsuit explains how the INS deported the couple without fully
>investigating agents' initial suspicions, thus missing a rare opportunity to
>crack a trafficking ring and preempt a crime.
>
>
>Karjopranato, the Indonesian, "was a perpetrator of such a serious crime and
>they just let him walk away, as if he were guilty of a traffic violation,"
>said Jennifer Stanger of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
>"When somebody arrives with false documents, the INS should not focus on
>whether he's illegal at the expense of noticing the red flags that tell us
>this is a trafficking case."
>
>
>The INS responded by saying its Bangkok office is working with the Thai
>government to investigate the smugglers. At the hearing, U.S. attorneys
>argued that Got should be reunited with his family as soon as possible, in
>this case his paternal grandparents--in echoes of the Elian Gonzalez case.
>
>
>"The Thai government has assured us that Phanupong's grandparents will take
>care of him in Thailand," INS Los Angeles District Director Thomas Schiltgen
>said in a statement, adding that the child should not return until "he is
>deemed healthy enough to travel."
>
>
>Got is staying with Chutima Vucharatavintara, a social worker at the Thai
>Community Development Center. In the role of Elian cousin Marisleysis
>Gonzalez, Vucharatavintara says the two have bonded and that the
>grandparents should come to America to slowly reacquaint themselves with the
>boy.
>
>
>The advocates are nervous, given the boy's disturbing family history, a
>classic in the cycle of abuse. He was born in June 1997 in a village in the
>Chiang Rai region of Thailand, an area known for trafficking, according to
>the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. A few months after his
>birth, his father discovered he was HIV positive and killed himself.
>
>
>His mother, Tabtim Kaewtaengjan, was sold into sexual slavery at age 12,
>according to Thai press reports. Both sides believe she is a drug addict and
>unfit to raise a child, particularly since she is now married to a man
>suspected of running a trafficking ring.
>
>
>"I was a bit worried about my son, but I saw that they got along well," she
>told Thai authorities, a local paper reported. "Hence I allowed them to take
>a trip together," she said, adding that she never asked Karjopranato where
>they went.
>
>
>Got had lived with his paternal grandparents, and his grandfather said the
>boy's mother picked him up a few months ago without explanation. He learned
>of his grandson's fate from the newspapers.
>
>
>After his traveling companions were deported, INS officials took Got to a
>psychiatrist, who determined he had insomnia, was terrified of the dark and
>could not stop crying. Later, Got had surgery to drain his ears of fluid.
>
>
>The judge has ordered a thorough medical evaluation and asked that the
>grandparents come to America to ensure they are fit caretakers. The
>advocates remain guarded, not yet granting that they will let him go home.
>They also are discussing seeking asylum for the boy.
>
>
>"We did a thousand times more for Elian," said Schey. "Just because this
>child is from Thailand doesn't mean he doesn't deserve the same care and
>attention."


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