03/07/2022, 13.42
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Thousands of Thais victims of sex trafficking to Japan

by Steve Suwannarat

A report by Thai police estimates that thousands of women and children are trafficked each year. Poor law enforcement by Japanese authorities against the sex trade weighs heavily on the matter. Thailand remains a major hub for international human trafficking.


Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Each year thousands of Thai women, often under age, arrive in Japan to join the local prostitution racket run by criminal gangs with the cooperation of established recruitment and handling networks.

In Thailand, this racket was traditionally been underestimated and still enjoys support at various levels, encouraged by widespread and persistent corruption, this according to research by a Thai police team led by Lieutenant Colonel Pongnakorn Nakhonsantiphap.

The police study estimates that each year 10,000 to 15,000 women and children are smuggled into Japan with fake papers to work in the local sex industry. Japan has strict laws that punish sexual exploitation but is very loose in enforcing them.

“In the case of illegal trafficking of women and children for prostitution, Japan has been the largest market for trafficked Thais in the last 10 years,” the report said.

At the same time, the study confirmed that Thailand remains a crossroads of regional and international human trafficking in its various forms, a situation ignored for far too long and often covered up by the authorities.

This became clearly evident in 2015 with the discovery in southern Thailand of mass graves of Rohingya fleeing the genocide in Myanmar – men, women and children who died in captivity or killed after families failed to pay the required ransom.

Hundreds of Rohingya were picked up at sea by the Thai coast guard during the exodus only to be handed over to traffickers for exploitation in the country or abroad.

Similarly, despite the newly raised awareness, Thailand has remained in the Tier 2 watch list[*] of the Trafficking in Persons Report by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the US Department of State.

Like other sources, the US report notes that the Southeast Asian country plays a central role in the trafficking of thousands of people bound for a life of abuse and exploitation.

According to the aforementioned Thai police report, the latter include at least 30,000 unskilled Thai labourers trafficked abroad.

[*] Tier 2 countries are those whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards set by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

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