[Stop-traffic] News/Thailand: Human Trafficking: Gangs make Thailand a regional hub: Yakuza operating

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Thailand: Human Trafficking: Gangs make Thailand a regional hub: Yakuza operating
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Sep 22 2000 - 19:16:45 EDT


Human Trafficking: Gangs make Thailand a regional hub: Yakuza operating
with local mafia
Bangkok Post, September 6, 2000

Thailand is a regional hub for the trafficking of women and children for
the prostitution trade, say international labour experts.

"Thailand has become a major hub for trafficking," said Piyasiri
Wickramasekara, a senior specialist for the International Labour
Organisation (ILO).

"Girls are lured from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and south China for the sex
markets in Thailand or to be diverted to Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and
Japan," Mr Piyasiri told a United Nations-sponsored seminar on migrant
labour and human trafficking.

The seminar will present its recommendations to a UN conference in South
Africa next year.

While the economic crisis that hit Southeast Asia in 1997 aggravated the
"fragile position" of migrant workers, especially those from Burma,
Indonesia and the Philippines, it did not necessarily staunch the flow of
illegal workers desperate for jobs abroad, ILO experts told the seminar.

"What is clear is that the economic crisis had created new groups of people
who are vulnerable to trafficking," said Herve Berger, manager of ILO's
regional project to combat trafficking in children and women.

Mr Berger, who has looked into how migrant labourers are recruited to
Thailand from neighbouring Burma and Laos, said there was a
well-established network of small criminals involved in the trade.

"What you have here is a small bunch of criminal networks who are linked to
each other and who know where work is available either in Thailand or
abroad," said Mr Berger, who added that Japan's Yakuza criminal gangs were
known to be operating in Thailand in league with local networks.

Mr Berger, however, said it was no longer true that most of the victims
recruited into illegal work including prostitution were unaware of what lay
ahead.

"Ten years ago we found a lot of girls being sold by their families, being
forced into it," said Berger. "Now we are finding that they are a very
small percentage, maybe one per cent." Many women, however, were given only
a partial picture of the debt bondage involved.

Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged regional
governments to enter the International Convention on the Human Rights of
Migrant Workers.

In Asia, only the Philippines and Sri Lanka had entered it.

"I make a strong appeal to governments in a position to do so to ratify the
convention as soon as possible so that its protective regime can be brought
to bear upon millions of migrant workers in different parts of the world,"
Ms Robinson said.

Basic human rights for all migrants were not well protected unless
countries ratified and incorporated rights protection ideas into national
laws and effective enforcement, speakers said.

Mr Piyasiri, a senior specialist in labour market policies for the ILO,
said most countries pledged at global conferences to respect basic rights
of migrant workers.

Actual protection depended on what they were prepared to do afterwards.

Even some Western countries which adopted instruments for migrant
protection showed discrimination in the workplace, she said.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

Please contact me off-list for any questions about Stop-Traffic at
<<morhant@igc.org>>.

Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health
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dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
sweatshop labor, domestic service and some coercive mail
order bride arrangements.
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