Chapter 2
Concepts and Methodology


This study focuses on cross-border trafficking of children into prostitution other extreme or intolerable forms of child labour. Attention is, however, paid to use of child labour and child trafficking which take place within the country but connect with cross-border or international trafficking. Definitions of child labour and child trafficking, conceptual framework and research methodology are discussed in this chapter.
There are three important points in relation to concepts and methodology of this study that need to be stressed here first. Firstly, the emphasis of the study on cross-border trafficking in children does not confine its samples to interview the trafficked children only, as it is wiser to also cover the interviews with persons whose current age are 18 or over but were recently trafficked when they were aged below 18. Findings from previous studies have consistently shown, however, that in most, circumstances, the actual procedures through which people are recruited seem to follow the same pattern for c! ild en and adult (Asia Watch 1994; Mahatanobon 1996; Foundation for Women 1995; Archavanitkul and Koetsawang 1997; and Derks 1997). Where relevant, practices related young women trafficking are also explored. The study also designs to obtain information from key informants in sending and receiving communities and other key informants, such as children's parents, children's employers, GO and NGO staff dealing with child trafficking problem. By doing so, it is anticipated that meaningful insight of child trafficking problem and its impacts will be gained. Second, the definition of child trafficking that will be discussed in the next section is specifically framed to meet to aims of this study. It is not aimed to set a definition to be used as an internal onal standard or an agreement between countries or among countries in this subregion for coordination or mutual assistance. This working definition is only the proposition from the research team. Lastly, the study also intends to investigate exploitation of child labour in each country in the subregion whenever the patterns or situations would link to crossborder or international trafficking in children.
2.1 Definitions of Child Labour and Child Trafficking
Cultural values in this subregion accept and sometimes encourage child employment. Children assisting their parents in farmwork or family business and household chores is widely practiced. A large number of children, however, work in exchange for money, in jobs such as factory workers, service workers, and domestic workers. To parents in this subregion, having their children working in order to obtain supplement family income is very common and is not greatly recognized as a problem even if their children are engaged in destructive and exploitative working conditions. But it is generally agreed for the states in this subregion that use of child labour in extreme exploitative forms, such as a form of bonded labour and slavery, cannot be tolerated and must be eliminated. Therefore, it is appropriate to start with defining what is child labour and what are the extreme or intolerable forms of child labour that are the emphasis of this study. In this study, a child refers to a person aged below 18 which is a definition universally used by states, the United Nations, and international organizations.
  • A child labourer refers to a native child or a foreign child who engages in any types of work in exchange of income or in kind at the time of the interview or at anytime of one's life when that person was aged below 18 years.1 A child labourer may receive any type of payment regularly or irregularly. A foreign child must migrate crossing a border from one country to another in the Mekong Subregion.
  • The extreme forms of child labour are: the use of children in prostitution, pornography, the drugs trade, and other forms of forced or compulsory labour, debt bondage and serfdom, and their employment in any types of work that is dangerous, harmful or hazardous.
These exploitative forms are prioritized as a core problem of child labour that is currently being combated by the states and international organizations world-wide. The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, ILO, for instance, has identified four types of child employment which need to be eliminated without further delay: (1) children in slave-like and bonded labour; (2) children in dangerous and hazardous working conditions; and (3) vulnerable children such as the very young aged below 12 and girls (ILO 1997).
Various definitions are currently used to describe trafficking in women and children. There are some common dimension of the definitions of children trafficking used by various international organisations.2  But none of them are clear and cover all forms of trafficking in children and women as documented by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. Thus, there have consistently been calls for reformulating international standards and straightforward definitions of children and women trafficking (Coomaraswamy 1997; Caouette 1998). Major differences in the definitions of trafficking in children and women are found to be differences in terms of approaches, gender, age, sexual exploitation, and legal or illegal moves crossing national borders. In an effort to obtain the inclusive definition, it is recommended that the definition should not discriminatory and exclude any trafficked person due to their age, gender, type of work, location and means by which they were trafficked (Caouette 1998:10-11).
It is widely accepted that trafficking for sexual exploitation is the major form of trafficking in children and women. But as a matter of fact, any persons at any age regardless of their sex can be trafficked within a country or crossing border for different purposes which may or may not involve sexual exploitation. And girls are more prone to be trafficked and abused for sexual purposes. Although, emphasis of this study is on children trafficking associated with use of child labour in any extreme forms, some forms of children trafficking across national borders which are not labour in nature, such as false marriage and adoption, are included if the trafficked children are put into coercive and exploitative conditions associated with use of child labour. For instance, in most circumstances, Vietnamese girls who are sold to be wives in Chinese families are forced to be unpaid servants or to help in family agriculture or business under slavery-lil;e conditions.
  • a profitable act undertaken by person(s) other than the children themselves.
  • transportation of a child within one national border and/or across national borders.
  • Frontier-crossing movement is usually but not always an illegal move with or without a child's consent.
  • Using false or deceptive information.
  • Trading a child for the purpose of work or services by means of violence and abuse, or other forms of coercion.
  • destructive and exploitative work conditions.
To sum up, a traffi eked child in this study:

refers to a child who was recruited and transported fr om one place to another place within one national border and/or crossing national borders legally or illegally with or without a childchild'child consent. In the destination, a child was coerced or semi-forced (by deceptive information ) to engage in any type of work under exploitative and abusive conditions for remuneration in cash or in kind, usually but not always organised by an intermediary: parents, family member, teacher, procurer or local authority.

2.2 Conceptual Framework
The vulnerable groups of children to trafficking: There are specific groups of children that are customarily vulnerable to trafficking and thus are the prime target group of traffickers. These include children of minorities, migrants, lower caste or indigenous people which are usually at high risk of exploitation for both cultural and economic reasons (ILO 1997). With special reference to migrant children, it is particularly true that children of undocumented migrant workers have to encounter at least two problems: no or limited opportunity for education, and to health care services existing in the destination country. As a result, many of young kids have to work at a very young age. Some start to help their parents as young as 4-5 years old. The older kids have to become a wage labourers working in places notorious for their poor health and safety conditions with very low pay. It is understandable that the foreign child workers do not have much choices. Consequently, children of illegal migrants largely end up, later in life, following the path of their parents and becoming illegal migrant labourers. They are easily coerced and trafficked to work in extreme forms of child labour since they often lack stability (Archavanitkul 1998a).
The migrant children are the target population in this study. Use of child labour is deliberately divided, according to actual situation of cross-frontier trafficking in children in this subregion, into three types of labour:
  • First, children in commercial sex- industry is paid more attention as compared to the other two types. This is primarily because the nature and extent of children trafficked into prostitution has been recognised the most intolerable form and is receiving the most attention practically and theoretically. There have been a large number of studies, government reports and international papers on this issue. It is also the topic that the core research team has been involved in for more than 2 years. Networks and trust building from previous work with key informants: children and women in sex work, owners of the establishments, NGOs and local authorities working on this issue, have eased confidentiality to disclose a variety of trafficking patterns. Accordingly, more cases of children in sex work than children in other forms of labour are interviewed arid presented in this report.
  • Second, trafficking children into the begging and soliciting business is a new form of bonded labour in this subregion. It covers a few thousands of children and small scale of areas. However, it is included not because of its visibility but also because of its degree of seriousness as a violation of the fundamental rights of the human persons .
  • Third, children engaged i', other extreme forms of labour is compared to the above two types covered, the largest scale in terms of number and types of work. The work that children are engaged in can be either illeg. l or legal as well as voluntarily or forcibly. (he actual situation of foreign children engaged in the extreme forms of child labour is more or less the same as life of poor children working for survival in reality.
2.3 Research Methodology
This research project puts importance on obtaining the most updated, valid and informative data in order to truly improve an understanding of child migrants trafficked into extreme forms of child labour in the subregion. Several data collection methods were employed, however, the primary methods were in-depth interview, and documentary analysis which can be categorized as qualitative research. The samples generally cover a small number of interviews (as compared to random samples of population used in quantitative research or 'survey research') and texts/documents. The analysis is usually aimed to elaborate what and how the situations happen in concrete reality like telling stories (Silverman 1993:10). In most circumstances, the research teams made filed trips to collect data in the worksites or in the sending and receiving communities and interviewed the target populations. During the filed visits and along the interviews the researchers also observed behaviour of people and situations related to the topic under study. This method is generally called 'substantive field research' which intends to elucidate a sense of 'action' taking place in particular setting (Johnson 1978).
The data collection methods varied from team to team. The core research team, for example, combined many data collection techniques ranging from qualitative and quantitative methods, conducting estimations, gathering information from discussions and exchange of ideas at conferences on the issue of trafficking in women and children which research inves tigators attended, to taking a role as a committee member for the government's sub-committee on sex work and unskilled labour. contrast, contrast, Cambodia report mainly relied on documentary study.
  • Major methods of data collection:
(a) In-depth Interview (IDI): The Thai, Vietnam and Yunnan teams used the semistructured questionnaire or interview guideline as a major tool of data collection. However, the Thai team and Yunnan also used informal and unstructured interviewing in the field settings where the research teams are familiar to or with the respondents whose their trust in the researchers have been built from the previous study. Theoretically speaking, the unstructured interview which places the control over the interviewing process lies in hands of the interviewees is more appropriate when the researchers are in the field for a longer period of time and/or are able to interview the same individual on many separate occasions (Bernard 1995). The semi-structured questionnaire on the other hand, which follow an interview guide, allows for similar degree of flexibly as unstructured interviews, but place more of the control in the hands of the researcher. The interview guideline consisted of a written list of questions and topics specifying an order for how the inquiry should occur (see the interview guide in appendix C). In practice, not all questions were asked due to many reasons: time and place of the interview, willingness of the interviewees to answer some questions, and the presence of interference.
Both techniques discussed above refer as IDI were selected not only because of limited time of data collection which all research teams encountered, but because of the need for flexibility. The sampling methods mainly were;(l) nominations--the respondents were chosen by local NGOs, local leaders or the authorities.; and (2) snowball sampling-- once each key informant or a child or parents of child labourers was selected and interviewed, they were asked for names of others to be interviewed. These are major and recommend sampling techniques in qualitative research (Bernard 1995, Babble 1995). However, some government officials were purposively chosen according to their positions and responsibilities with regard to the problem.
Interviews were conducted with key informants including: trafficked children parents of child workers, migrant children in employment in various business sectors, government officials and NGOs locally working on issues of women and children. For most of the interviews, the researchers asked the respondents' permission to take notes during the interviews. When and wherever possible, the interviews were taped with the respondents' consent and were mostly transcribed immediately after the interviews. Group discussions with the community members and with government officials were also carried out. Altogether, almost 200 respondents were interviewed by the IDI technique with somewhat over 100 cases conducted by the Thai team, 41 cases by the Yunnan team and 38 cases including group interviews by the Vietnam team (see Table 2.1)
It should be noted here that language barriers for interviews migrant children and their families conducted by the Thai team were very minimal. For Burmese migrants, interviewers were native speakers of the Burmese language. For Laotian migrants, all of them could communicate in Thai because of similarities of languages used in the two countries. For Cambodian migrants, most of them have lived in Thailand for sometime, mostly over one year, they can speak and understand Thai language used in daily life quite well.

Table 2.1: Number of Interviews Conducted by Each Study Team

Team No of IDIs
No of IDIs
Gos & NGOs Total
The Thai Team 32 53 7 29 117
The Vietnam Team 0 26 12 n.a. 41
The Yunnan Team 0 41 0 n.a. 41
Total 32 120 19 n.a. 196
(b) Assessing secondary data: Each research team made their best effort to try to gain access to related secondary data or documents from governmental agencies working on child labour and trafficking of women and children in order to obtain a macro figure or history of child trafficking in the country. Three main sources of documentary data were obtained: GOs, NGOs and related research papers. In addition, news and features published in daily newspapers and magazines also provided updated information about child trafficking problems. This method was used by all research teams.
(c) Co-operation of the GOs and NGOs: It is not surprising if this technique is not considered as a data collection method but rather a facilitating process for easing the data collection. Due to the hidden nature of trafficking problem, it is usually difficult to begin any interview with the trafficked victims either in the sending or receiving settings. This is why all research teams stated that cooperation from various organizations was extremely important in conducting their field research. In general, these organizations assisted in nominating or locating potential key informants. Then the researcher tried to approach them in their worksites or their own local communities and ask permission to interview. In some circumstances, they introduced the research team to the respondents as well as helped in explaining the purposes of the interview. Moreover, with this assistance, it proved to be the most important tool to obtain not only reliable information but to gain access to inaccessible sources of data. For example, this method helped the Thai team to access and interview the women migrant prisoners who were trafficked from Myanrnar to Taiwan passing through Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines as well as to data base files of aliens detained at the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) in Bangkok. In Yunnan study, selection of the interviewees relied very heavily on the local governmental agencies, such as women's federations, public security, and other organization. They helped in disclosing the files of those being trafficked and repatriated or returned to their communities.
2.4 Research Sites
Apart from conducting filed research in the 16 selected provinces in Thailand, the Thai team made visits to 2 provinces in Myanmar (1 capital city and a border province), Vientiane, the capital city of Lao PDR, and Koh Kong, a border province of Cambodia. The Vietnam team carried out their survey in 2 Northern border provinces and 3 Southwestern border provinces. The Yunnan team conducted the interviews in 8 counties and cities from 4 prefectures which altogether have a total borderline of over 1,200 kilometers with Myanmar. The Cambodia team made observations during on-site visit to crisis centers run by NGOs in Phnom Penh. Appendix B. highlights the research activities which occurred at all these areas of data collection, by country: Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Yunnan.


1 Testimonies in this study include experience of any persons who used to work when they were young aged below 18.
2 Please see detailed definitions defined by various organisations in Appendix A.
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