4.3 Lao PDR as A Sending Country to Thailand
Since 1975, Laos has modified its economic development plan to the new one under the name of New Economic Mechanism, also known by many foreigners as new imagination, accepting a more widely opened policy and privatization. Laos' main passage is the Mekong river which passes through the country and forms the boundary between Laos and Thailand. Journeys across the border from both sides of the river have been a long history especially for those who live along the riverside. Some families have relatives living in another side of the river, thus they usually cross the river to visit one another. Recently, the government has been decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise (ILO EASTMAT 1998). Although the government has improved a new policy for economic development, more than 80 per cent of people live under poverty. There is no second or supportive occupation during the slack season. Two-fifths of the population is illiterate, the rate of attaining school is particularly low among children living in mountainous areas (Laos Women's Union 1995).
Migration of boys to seek work in Thailand is now very common in many bodering provinces as stated by father of a migrant boy in Phon Si village, Kammuan province: 'There are 7() households in this village and one child of every house has gone to work in Thailand, in Bangkok. But nobody knows where they stay and what they are doing, (Wiroonrapun and Patano 1997:15). However, it was officially reported that migration to Thailand was prevalent among girls as well as indicated by a continual reduction of girls in some villages and towns according to a survey of Lao Youth Union in 1995 (Bounyvong 1995). It is not surprising that most of the children from Laos who are now working in Thailand usually are from the districts opposite to Thailand. The crossing-border routes extend from the North down to the Northwest of Laos. Children from the inner country are rarely found. Most of them are from the center of the district or adjacent are as, or the areas with trading business between the two sides of the river. There are 9 major gateways for sending Laos children to Thailand:
(1) Vientiane-Nongkai province
(2) Sawannakhet-Mukdallarn province
(3) Sawannakhet-Khemrat district of Ubonrachtani province
(4) Sawannakhet-Nakhonpanom province
(5) Kammuan-Nakhonpanom province
(6) Salawan- Ban Korat
(7) Champasak-Ubonratchthani province via Chongmek check point
(8) Sanakham - Chiangkhan district of Loei province
(9) Borkew-Chiangrai province via Chiangsan check point
Push and pull factors both Flay important roles in determining migration of Laotian children to Thailand. The push factors include poor economic resources in family, and poor education plus limited jobs in rural areas and in cities. A large family size - 6 to 12 members in the family- is one factor, among others, determining the migration decision of many Laotian children crossing-border to work in Thailand (Thongkham et al. 1997; DEPDC 1997). In addition, they are also attracted to earn higher income as well as to see and live in the modern wonders of Thailand. Most Laotian children said that they really wanted to see the city light in Thailand and this drove them to migrate to look for a job in Bangkok One Laotian boy even stole his mother's necklace to be sold for travel cost (Wiroonrapun and Patano 1997: 15).
4.4 Vietnam as A Sending Country to Cambodia, China, and Thailand
Over 70 per cent of all trafficked victims in Vietnam were sold across borders to China, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (Nguyen Phong Hoa 1997). According to the report of the Steering Committee for the Fight Against Social Evils Headquarters of the Frontier Forces), in 1994-1996, among 364 convicted cases arrested by the frontier guards, 126 cases were found to be related to trafficking in women and children. Fourteen per cent of 126 victims were children aged below 17, and 77 per cent were young women aged 17-25. The majority of them were Kinh ethnicity (91 per cent) and the minorities (9 per cent) were mainly from border provinces in the North (Cong An Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, March 8, 1997). The main sending areas can be geographically divided into the Northern and the Southern provinces:
(1) Northern border provinces (Lang Son, Quang Ninh)
There are many routes of trafficking in women and children from northern provinces along the borderline between Vietnam and China. It is evident that two Northern minority provinces, Lang Son and Quang Ninh, are the major gateways for sending trafficked girls and women from many provinces of the Red River Delta, such as, Thanh Hoa, Thai Binh, Hai Duong, Ha Tay, etc. to China. Lang Son has 5 districts sharing the boundary with China on a length of 253 km. It is a minority town of Nung (46 per cent), Tay (37 per cent), ~ Mong, Kinh (the Viet) and hoe. While Quang Nin shares a 170 kilometre border with China It is a town of Kinh, Dao, Tay San Diu, San Chi and Hoa.
According the Vietnam country study, the total number of reported cases who were sold to China and repatriated through the Lang Son ~frontier, was 6,000. Even though the statistics did break down by age groups, their age ranged from 16 to 35 years old, implied that many girls were trafficked this route. Among them, 3,154 or 53 per cent were Lang Son residents. In 1980s, about 500 women also aged between 16 to 35 yeas, from Van Lang district, a mountainous district of Lang Son, were lured to China. In 1997 alone, the number was 19 reported cases.
In the Northern area, ethnic minorities are more likely to be recruited to China than do the Viet due to two factors: minorities are poor and uneducated living in mountainous communities along Vietnam-China border. Therefore, they are more easily seduced and the cost of transportation is not great According to information obtained from children and women who were deported by Chinese authorities, most of them were sold to a rural Chinese family for being a wife or a servant but they were also forced to work in plantations. They have to hide themselves on mountains whenever police came in the village. Because they were illegal workers and crossed the border without any document, if they were arrested, they would be fined a sum worthy of 600 USD or detained and deported to Vietnam finally. Receiving communities in China always mentioned are: Bang Tuong, Dong Hung, Kwang-si Nan-ninh and Dong Hung. It should be noted that, among the trafficking network are children who navigate women and children through the frontier along the mountainous trail for a honorarium worth 18 -27 USD per head.
(2) Southern border provinces (Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh, Kien Giang, and An Giang)
The four provinces are located along the southwest border of Vietnam and Cambodia. The major route of trafficking in women and children mostly goes through Tay Ninh province. Ethnicities living in Tay Ninh are the Viet, Cham and Khmer. The sending area is from the following provinces along the Cuu Long River Delta: Kien Skiing, and An Giang, and especially from Ho Chi Minh City. The prominent pattern of children trafficking in this area is for prostitution. The trafficked girls were mostly 15-17 years of age with some of them aged 13-14 years old. Almost all of the trafficked girls were sent to brothels in Cambodia to a town, a townlet or to Phnom Penh, Spray Park area, Chhouk Path Dancing floor, Toul Kohl street, and roads no.12, 120, 140, and 128 in Phnom Penh. Some girls were taken to work in bordering brothels along Cambodia and Thailand border, such as, Koh Kong, Poipet, and Chong Mek and later on were transited to brothels in bordering provinces of Thailand: Trad province, Srakeaw province, and Surin province.
Trafficked girls are mostly from disadvantage families, poor and illiterate with unstable occupations. A large number of kids from this type of family have had to leave school and start to work for family survival since they are very young. They are seen as a major target group by the trafficking network.
4.5 Cambodia as A Sending Country to Thailand and A Receiving Country from Vietnam
Children trafficking in Cambodia mostly takes place within its border, however, the geographical migration patterns of victims within Cambodia have not been specifically traced The major destination of trafficking routes both within Cambodia and across national) borders is Phnom Penh. The sending communities are from every region with no exception. Other important destinations where are also destinations of trafficked victims from Vietnam and Thailand, include: (1, Koh Kong, a province near the southern border with Thailand, that is known for smuggling goods and people; (2) Sihanouk, or KompongSom, a southern port city popular with tourist and busy with international cargo business; (3) Battambang and other towns in the Northwest near the border with Thailand, which are on the trading route out of Cambodia and where many migrants and soldiers work (Kim Sien and Barr 1997). With regard to crossborder trafficking from Cambodia to Vietnam and Thailand, there are many important crossing points (Human Rights Commission's Report 1996):
  • From Cambodia to Thailand: Sending communities of women and children especially cluster in the poorest region of the country, the Northwest, through many crossing points of Bantea Mean Chey, Koh Kong and Siem Reap provinces.
  • From Vietnam to Cambodia: There are 3 major migratory patterns for Vietnamese women entering Cambodia to work in the sex business. (1) By Land: Travelling by motorcycle, cars or foot past the border checkpoints at, for example, Toanloap in Takeo province, Bavet in Svay Rieng province, or Kansang in Kampong Cham province. (2) By Air: This is rare and generally used only for pretty virgins who can make a high profit. The children mostly are abducted or bought from their parents in northern Vietnam and transported by plane to Phnom Penh. (3) By river: Travelling via 3 river-check points, namely Chery Thom and K'om Samnor, both in Kandal province and Bak Dey in Takeo province.
  • The factors determining child trafficking from Cambodia to Thailand are clearly a combination of poverty and lives under a long period of war in the country. Most trafficked children in Cambodia come from very poor families, often with many children, many of whom are family headed by widowed women. Usually there is some additional trauma involved in the family which compounds their suffering from poverty, such as violence, loss of their land or home. In a recent study on Cambodian women and children trafficking to Thailand listed combination [actors which put certain children at risk for being lured into prostitution, construction work, domestic helpers, and begging business in Thailand. These include, for example, single parent or remarried parents, one or both parents are dead, or drug addicts, or alcoholics, or gamblers, or very ill, or disabled. The family's depended on unpredictable casual work for their income or in debt, or live in extremely poverty (Derks 1997).
4.6 Yunnan Province of China as A Sending Country to Thailand
Most of the children trafficked from Yunnan to Thailand, Myanmar and other countries are from border areas of Yunnan province. Major border areas between Yunnan and Myanmar are places of origin where hundreds of young 'Dai' (or Tai) women have been trafficked into the sex industry in Thailand since 1990 (see Maps 1). They include Simao Prefecture, Lincang Prefecture and Dehong Prefecture, which share altogether a total border of over 1,200 kilometers with Myanmar, particularly with the Kachin State, Shan State and the Wa State in the western and southwestern parts of Yunnan Province.
(1) Simao Prefecture: Simao Prefecture is the biggest exporter of trafficked women and girls in the whole country. It hosts a wide array of ethnic groups, including the Dai, Lahu, Wa, Akha, Yi. The mountainous areas make up 98 per cent of the total land area of the prefecture, which accounts for the poverty-stricken status of Simao Prefecture. The educational le. el in this prefecture is one of the lowest in the province, and the dropout rate of the girl children turns out to be one of the highest (averaging 60 per cent, and over per cent in some border regions). All these are combined to become the primary cot causes of the trafficking in women and children in this prefecture in recent years.
Apart from bordering with Myanmar, Simao Prefecture also borders with the Laos and Vietnam. There are altogether 16 major roads and 160 trails leading to the two countries During the dry seasons when there is not much water in the rivers, it is fairly easy to cross the border and enter the foreign countries. The most likely taken routes of trafficking are:
(a) Mangxin Town of Menglian County - Hedao in Myanmar at tee border Mengyang -Kengtung - Tachilek - Maesai - Chiangrai - Chiangmai- Bangkok - South of Thailand - Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, etc.
(b) Daluo Town of Menghai County in Sipsongbanna - Mengyang - Kengtung Tachilek.
(c) Water route: take cargo boats or clippers after entering Myanmar from Daluo along the Mekong River, the whole process of which at most takes three days to reach Chiang Khong of the Golden Triangle area.
(2) Lincang Prefecture: Situated in the southwestern part of Yunnan Province, Lincang Prefecture is an important gateway to Myanmar. It takes less than 10 hours to travel to Lashio, a big town in central part of Myarlmar, from the border. Various ethni groups are found here, namely: Wa, Dai, Lahu and Bulang, most of whom straddle across the border. The closet neighbour of Lincang is the Wa State, the internationally-known biggest opium-cultivator after the decline of the Golden Triangle and Khun Sa. Although much efforts have been devoted to the crop replacement (sugarcane, castor seeds, tropical fruits like litchi, longan, mango and u~ater melon, etc.), the opium poppy still plays a vital part in the income-generating activities of the local people there.
The big mountains and rivers in Lincang Prefecture help a lot to minimize the trafficking in women and children, as they stand as natural fences, making it no easy traveling. However, driven by the great economic gains, after many years' construction, a good underground organization and transportation network has been well developed. On the one hand, the agents can easily locate their targets in the sending places, and intermediaries who are very well-acquainted with the native languages of the local people, the local geographical situations and the political, social and cultural aspects of the receiving places can transport those being trafficked without much difficulty. The existence of such a network will further stimulate the illegal migration along the border regions. The following routes are the mostly likely taken by the traffickers in this prefecture:
1. Yunxian Count.' - Cangyuan County - Shan State;
2. Yongde County - Zhenkang County - Laogai - Kengtung;
3. Gengma County - Qingshuihe Town - Lashio.
Since the late 1980s, cross-border trafficking began to become a matter of rigorousness in this prefecture. The extremely low educational level (averagely 3.7 years per person) and high drop-out rates among the girl children (more than 50 per cent) are believed to be the primary root causes of child trafficking.. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Thailand started in the late 1980s has greatly scared many people. The agents began to fool; for fresh and mountain L iris, Claus thus stimulating the rapid development the trafficking. For those who have been once trafficked, they return back to their home places and act as the intermediaries themselves. But passing to the 1990s, the trafficking has become as if the girls are themselves voluntarily trafficked and make their own decisions to become commercial sex workers in the receiving countries in this region. The agents no longer approach their would-be prey in a secret way, just bluntly informing them of the kinds of work they are going to do and let them make the choice.
(3) Dehong Prefecture: Located in the western tip of Yunnan Province, Dehorn Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture is adjacent to the Kachin State of Myanmar, which terminates the well-known Myanmar Road. Among its nearly one million population, the majority are Dai (known as Tai Yai in northern Thailand) and Jingpo (known as Kachin in Myanmar). It shares a border line of over 500 kilometers with Myanmar, a large part of which is not marked with check points. It has been developed into a major tourist spot, especially Ruili City, which borders with Myanmar, is one of the tourist destinations. Internal and cross-border migration has played a key part in the migration process of Dehong Prefecture over the past decade. Several routes of migration can be found from Dehong Prefecture into Myanmar: (1) Ruili - Namkan - Mandalay; (2) Longchuan - Bhamo - Gesa - Mytchina; and (3) Mangshi - Laogai - Lashio. Unlike the two prefectures, due to the complexity of the situation in Dehong prefecture, various types of cross-bolder trafficking are found:
(a) Local women to be trafficked into Myanmar and beyond This is believed to be one very important part in the overall trafficking situation in this region. Laclc of social and family responsibilities makes the local women leave their hometown after their husbands or fathers become addicted to drugs and the economic situation of their families become impoverished. This is found out to be one of the biggest driving factors of the migration of women during the field work. Another reason is felt to be the influence of the peers or long-time friends in their own settings who have become rich overnight, not knowing, but are curious to know how.
(b) Women from Myanmar to be trafficked into Yunnan Under the disguise of marriage practices, girls and women minorities from Myanmar are increasingly being trafficked into Yunnan in the recent years, mainly because the unavailability of employment in the Myanmar side across the border and the would-be chances to lead a happy and easy-going life afterwards. The lack of suitable legal formalities and procedures for marriage approval between the Chinese men and girls in Myanmar is observed to be one important factor, which greatly facilitates the agents to pay the parents of the girls only a small amount of bride price and take to the Chinese side soon after the wedding ceremony.
(c) Local women to be trafficked into Thailand via Myanmar The migration from this area into Thailand via Myanmar began to take place over the past years. Quite many of the local people live in extended 'international families': in Myanmar, Thailand, and those who were classified as refugees residing now in the U.S.A. Migrant-worker relatives are also found in Japan. This tradition of migration makes them fairly easy to come and go. However, the political instability of Myanmar, particularly along the border regions around here makes it quite difficult to travel to the Thai-Burmese border regions like Tachilek without proper arrangement well-prepared organization alla transportation.
(d) Child prostitutes from Myanmar in Yunnan Unlike the local girls and domestic migrants who entertain their clients in the established places, such as massage parlours, karaoke bars, night clubs, restaurants and hotels, the girls from Myanmar who are not very conversant in the Chinese language often become street prostitutes offering for low prices.
(e) Other extreme forms of migration and exploitation of child labour Since Dehong Prefecture is far better developed than both the other border regions in Yunnan and the counterparts in Myanmar, there are more job opportunities for the migrant Workers, thus people of various races swarm into this region: ethnic minorities from Myanmar, Burman, Indians, Pakistani, Bengalis, for example. Children from Myanmar aged below 18 years of age are found working in the restaurants, bars and individually owned shops, Burmese-style massage parlours, and etc. Just beginning from the end of 1997, Burmese beggars (overwhelmingly children) are noticed in this area in almost every market days. They are found in small groups, singing popular Chinese songs, sometimes beating drums or playing other musical instruments to amuse the people on the street. As told by the local people, they are actually organized into several gangs.
The general root cause of the trafficking and migration was poverty and the income gap between the poor and the better off, a problem which has grown with economic development. Very poor women and children.who have little education or skills can earn more money with less physical labour by moving to areas where richer men will pay them for sexual services. A shortage of land and surplus of labour in some of their home areas creates an even larger disadvantage for some women and children. In some areas of Yunnan, drug addiction was reported to be another factor pushing the women and children away. Drug addicted husbands and fathers would abuse or stop caring for their women and children which gave them another incentive to leave. Similarly, as will be described later, the cultural norms of some ethnic groups seemed to make the lives of the women extremely demanding and abusive which gave them a motivation to leave in search of better lives. Education is also a factor as the uneducated have few skills to obtain other jobs and their naivete makes it difficult for them to judge truth from deception and thus become easy targets for traffickers.. Curiosity about stories they hear about the big cities aid the; desire for a less demanding means of earning a living are also motivations to migrate. More recently, consumerism and the demand for more products and nicer things has become a motivation that encourages even the better educated and more informed women and children to migrate and seek high paying jobs like sex work.
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