Chapter 4
The Push and Pull Factors
of Child Trafficking in The Sending and Receiving Countries


Context of sending and receiving communities are significant factors in encouraging and obstructing cross-border migration. Along the trafficking routes of the Mekong Subregion, Myanmar has been the main sending country in the subregion, with around 2 million civilians both adult and child workers having migrated across its border to other countries nearby. Meanwhile Thailand is not only the most important destination, but also the most important transit place for sending trafficked cases to third countries. Thousands trafficked cases have been operated between Vietnam and Cambodia each year. A large number of women from Yunnan are trafficked to Thailand as well as from Vietnam to China. Map 1 on the next page shows the main routes of trafficking in children within the subregion. In this chapter, the context of sending and receiving communities having close connection with children trafficking networks in each country of the subregion countries is examined.
4.1 Thailand as the Main Destination Country in the Subregion
Thailand as compared with the neighbouring countries in the Mekong Subregion is the most economically successful country. A major role of Thailand in transnational migration, and trade in children and women in Southeast Asian Region, is both sending and receiving transnational labour migration including the human trade. One important factor stimulating illegal migration movement to Thailand is the investment promotion policy in Thailand according to the study on 'Policy Options for Importation of For eign Labour into Thailand' (Archavanitkul 1998a). The export industry began in 1985 with on an average growth over 10 per cent annually until 1996. Thailand used a structural adjustment program to develop into the Free Trade System. The policy emphasizes on opening the market and encourages foreign investment, export business and tourism. The industries which had the most growth rate were textiles, clothing, shoes, jewelery and hand made dried flowers. These industries needed large numbers of unskilled, cheap and hard-working labourers. The growth of industrialization during this period had led to an influx of labour migration from rural into city, and then migration of foreign labour into Thailand especially from Myanmar. Even though the majority of this massive crossborder labour are male, a large number are child labourers which is the most vulnerable group of undocumented migrants to be taken advantage of.
In 1996, the Thai government officially acknowledged the presence of illegal migrants currently employed in the country. Legislation introduced in June 1996 required employers to register migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos with the provincial government. The registration covered only certain sectors of employment in only 43 of 76 provinces and was implemented for only three months (September 1 - November 30, 1996). Prior to this registration, all contacts with or assistance to illegal migrants was considered illegal and subject to fines and even imprisonment. Nearly 300,000 migrant workers registered in 43 provinces (see Tables 4.1 and 4.2).


Map 1: The Child Trafficking Routes
Within the Mekong Basin Coun tries

Map 1: The Child Trafficking Routes (311608 bytes)


Table 4 1: Number of Illegal Migrant Workers Registered
in 43 Provinces by Country of Origin
(from 2 September to 29 November 1996)



Country of Origin Registration Registration
Myanmar Laos Cambodia Total
Bangkok 1 30,230 2,556 4,133 36,919 769,822
Periphery of Bangkok 5 41,225 1,862 2,141 45,228 934,270
Central 13 58,496 4,413 15,084 77,993 1,735,300
North 9 39,728 173 34 39,935 993,195
Northeast 2 977 206 141 1,324 33,037
South 13 76,023 1,876 3,213 81,112 1,907,840
Total 43 246,679 11,086 24,746 282,511 6,373,464

Table 4.2: Number of Illegal Migrant Workers Registered in
43 Provinces by Sector


Number Agri-
Bangkok 36,919 324 21,394 - - 649 2,005 12,547
Periphery of Bangkok 45,228 4,543 17,585 15,388 - 918 3,484 3,319
Central 77,993 24,748 21,113 16,021 1,126 479 7,802 6,704
North 39,935 15,006 10 ,857 48 199 - 4,118 9,707
Northeast 1,324 213 742 23 - - 113    233
South 81,112 32,875 21,667 18,555 147 458 4,811 2,599
Total 282,511 77,700 93,358 50,035 1,412 2,504 22,333 35,109
Percent 100.0 27.5 33.0 17.7 0.5 0.9 7.9 12.4

* Only water transportation business is allowed to hire illegal migrants.
Source: Kritaya Archavanitkul, Wanna Jarusomboon, and Unchalee Warangrat. (1 997 Table 4.3 in appendix, based on calculated from unpublished document, Labour Department, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare).

However, it was estimated that there were one million illegal migrants in Thailand and 75 per cent of them were from Myanmar. The rest were from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, and South Asian Countries: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal Archavanitkul 1998a). Regarding trafficked labour or forced labour, about 10,000 young women from neighbouring countries were trafficked into prostitution in 1996. Also, thousands were lured into the beggar business controlled by smuggling gangs or into other forms of forced labour in construction, plantation and fishery industries. It is not possible to import and transport illegal migrant labour into areas in Thailand other than border areas without support from their Thai counterparts. Human trade agents are situated from at the homes of migrant labourers where their long journey begins to the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia to a workplace or several workplaces. The agents are both the local people in the sending communities and Thais (Archavanitkul and Koetsawang 1997).

This study finds that children who are trafficked from Mekong subregion countries to Thailand have some similar and some different patterns regarding their original countries, as shown in figure 4.1.

Figure 4.1: Child Labour (40757 bytes)

1. Children from Myanmar are brought into sex business, begging and soliciting business, and other extreme forms of child labour.
2. Children from Laos are found in sex business, other extreme forms of child labour.
3. Children from Cambodia including both Cambodian and Vietnamese from Cambodia are brought into sex business, begging and soliciting business, and other extreme forms of child labour.
4. Children from Vietnam are often brought into sex industry in Thailand via Cambodia.
5. Children from Republic of China are brought into sex industry. Most of them are from Yunnan. In addition, there are 'Dai' or 'Tad Lue' from Xintiabanna, minority ethnic groups, and Chinese who are brought into sex industry in Thailand.
But only a year ago, the government policy on undocumented migrant workers took an opposite turn due to the economic crisis which started in early 1997. The number of the unemployed in various sectors of the Thai economy has been rising sharply from less than 100,000 to 2,000,000 within only a year. The Thai currency had dramatically devalued from 25 baht in July 1997 to 53 baht per US dollar in January 1948.4 This condition has directly forced the government to come up with a clear and concrete immediate response for economic resolutions. One among them is the deportation of illegal migrant;workers. On the 14th of January 1998, the government announced a plan to deport at least 300,000 illegal migrant workers within 90 days and simultaneously replace the vacancies by Thai unskilled workers. This will certainly lead to more complicated problems for migrant workers and subject them to abuse and violations both by the traffickers and the authorities.
  • A Regional Network via Thailand
It is widely known Thailand that trafficked children and women both Thais- and non-Thais are being sent to other countries within Asian region as well as to many western countries in other continents. A study of Foundation for Women (1997), a Thai AGO, indicated that in the 1970s and early 1980s, destinations for trafficked women and children were mainly Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Following the operation of sex tour from Japan, Japan become the major receiving country. Other destination countries for trafficking in Thai women include Australia, New Zealand, the United States and South Africa. The trafficking of foreign women to the third country via Thailand with complex methods. It is proved that the network of women trafficked for the sex industry has a big network within the region. The larger the network, the more complicated the recruitment process is.
This can be evidently seen from the true story of 10 young women, 6 Thais and 4 non-Thais, being lured into prostitution in the third country, Taiwan The routes cover from Myanmar and southern China, as the countries of origin, to the most popular gate in Maesai district of Chiangrai in the Northern Thailand, to the network in Bangkok, Had Yai, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and ends in Taiwan. Finally 9 women were arrested with one arrested earlier in Malaysia. They were all deported hack to Thailand. (see the detailed route on Figure 4.2). Three of the non-Thais were charged with illegally entering, and departing Thailand, and using false documents They were sentenced for one year in jail. 'Aye Aye ', one of the three women from Myanmar told her journey as follows.
Aye Aye's Journey. a aburman-Karen women from Rangoon.
Early September 1996:
Ma Cho and I worked at the same restaurant in Tachilek. Our friend from Taungyi persuade us to go to Bangkok. She knew someone in Maesai who could arrange this. She appointed us to meet the agents, but on that day, she herself didn't come. This Shan from Maesai said we had to go and we could meet the friend from Taungyi later. This agent could speak Shan, Burmese, and also Thai. She said that she would meet us in Bangkok and we had to go to Chiangmai by car. But I never met her again. There were only me and Macho in the truck, and the driver. We arrived at Chiangmai, then were taken to the airport. We had to get on the airplane ourselves. The driver instructed us to follow other passengers.
In Bangkok, a couple were waiting for us at the Airport. They recognized us because we put on clothes they arranged for us. Also we were told before how they would look like and how they dressed. The woman could speak Shan and a bit Burmese.- She asked me -had -. ablatives in Maesai because they were afraid someone would try to find me. I thought they would take us to work but we're taken to a big house where the woman's small children were staying. The next day they took my picture, telling me this was for a passport. She said we had to go to Taiwan. Everything had already arranged with a lot of money. We would earn a lot there and could pay for our debt very quickly. They didn't tell us how much it cost, but the passport alone was 5,000 USD. Ma Cho and I cried because we didn't want to go far away. We're afraid of police.We were afraid of a lot of debts. We were scolded for crying, that if we cried out loud the police would come.
Three days later, they took us to Had Yai by plane. A man came to pick us up, but the couple went somewhere else. We were taken to a house where there were eight women waiting, including Auke Sang' a Shan woman who's also in jail here. I thought other women are Thai but I didn't talk with them because I couldn't speak Thai. Three days-later, they showed us our passports. It's a Thai passport and we had Thai names. They put us into two vans to Malaysia. One van had only a driver, another van where I was, a Thai man who picked us at Had Yai airport sit there, holding our passports This man couldn't speak Burmese. I thought he's Thai. The couple waited for us in Malaysia. Then we continued to Singapore and the Philippines. We're separated into three groups; each group had a controller. My group which went with the women's the last to arrive. We could hold the passports only at the checkpoint.
There're only nine people left when we arrived at the Philippines because one was arrested at the Malaysian airport. They put us in a room and brought us food. I've just known that one woman whom I thought she's a Thai actually is a Chinese with Taiwan passport. The Chinese girl could speak Shan! and Burmese as well. She told me that she used to work in Taiwan and she would continue to take us there since the couple, our agents would go back to Thailand. We're told to leave everything behind, and got in a small boat to Taiwan. It took three days. Then a Chinese man pick us up at the pier and took us to a house. The Chinese woman told us that she would take us to work the next day. But at dawn, the police arrived...
(interviewed on September 14, 1997)
According to the complex trafficking process elaborated above, three concluding remarks can be made:
Firstly, the trafficking has been established it's regional networking for some times, and the trafficking has been done regularly. This is confirmed by the author's experience. In 1994, the author met and interviewed four stateless girls from Thailand - three hilltribes girls and one KMT (Khoa Min Tang) Chinese - who were detained in the Alien Detention Centre in Taipei.5 Also, in mid of June 1998, there was a report that seven Thai women were rescued from Taiwan and deport to Thailand. The women were lured to false marriage and were sold to the sex business in Taipei after arrival (Matichon June 13, 1998). This suggests that over the last decade up to now, Taiwan has become the main destination country not only for the Thai overseas workers, but trafficking in Thai young women.
Secondly, by dividing up the group into smaller groups to make it unnoticeable, the trip has been planned very carefully. The network used different methods for transportation with very high investment. This practice reflected that human trafficking must be a business with enormous profits.
Finally, for the case of women trafficking in the northern part of Thailand to Taiwan. The network might be connected with the KMT's of the Chinese Liberation Front together with Taiwanese. The KMT people generally can speak many languages, and are able to obtain more than one nationality. There have been joint projects between the Thai Chinese and Taiwanese in jewelry, tourism as well as illegal trade, such as drug and human trafficking.

Figure4.2: Recruitment Process (457522 bytes)

4 The rate in April 1998 is around 40 Baht per I USD which is the rate used in this report.

5 These girls were detained for almost 4 years as no country acknowledged them as their citizen. Finally, with assistance from NGOs, both in, aiwan and Thailand, the girls were all deported to Thailand on the ground of humanitarianism.

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