Chapter 5
Recruitment Process of Child Trafficking


There are various recruitment process of children trafficking into the sex trade and other extreme forms of child labour in the subregion. The procurement ranges from outright kidnapping of children to obtaining the children's full consent and understanding of what types of work they will be engaged in. Among them, debt-bonded labour is in practice with all trafficked victims with no exception. In the network of supplying women to the sex trade, even though brokers do not specify the age group below 18 years old, young virgin girls are targeted because they are most profitable. Virgin girls are especially in high demand by special groups of clients and this demand is met by some sex providing businesses. The networks of trafficking women into false marriage within the subregion, particularly from the North of Vietnam and the Northeast of Myanmar to China, also seek only young girls aged below 18 as the culture in the receiving communities prefers the first marriage at very young age from 13-14 years old. Gangsters who work as beggars and solicitors also target children under 13 years old, as well as the handicapped and the elderly. But in other businesses, children are being used together with the adult labour force more than as a separate. However, there are small factories that prefer to use child labour because it is cheaper and easier to control; young children are often desperate to seek work in some countries.
5.1 Transportation of Child Migrants to the Destination Countries
Child migrants travelling to the destination countries can be usually divided into two groups: travelling with family or family members, and with friends or acquaintances. Some children may travel by themselves because they live close to the border. But the majority who do not come with their family members have to come with brokers, because travelling in the countries of origin is inconvenient, and public transportation systems are inadequate.
Family migration crossing the border is an obvious pattern of people moving from Myanmar to Thailand but not migration from other countries to Thailand as well as migration between two other countries in the subregion. The children trafficking process in countries other than Thailand thus is mainly the transportation of children from the sending country to the destination country. This is particularly true for the case of trafficking from Vietnam to China and to Cambodia. While in Thailand, children may arrive with parents and later on are abducted by the agents or the whole family of migrants may be trafficked together to Thailand from their community of origin. Generally speaking, children travelling alone have more chance of being lured into the sex industry whether voluntarily or not. But those travelling with family members might also face separation later because of working conditions, trafficker’s intention, or being arrested by police. However, there is an exceptional case where a Shan mother and a daughter were sent to work together in a Thai traditional massage parlour.
In contrast, Khmer children, Vietnamese children from Cambodia, and Indian Muslim children from Myanmar travelling with family members are the major groups lured into begging and soliciting businesses in big cities in Thailand, either with or without adults accompanying the children and the adults may or may not panhandle. Khmer children are smuggled across the Thai-Cambodia border, but not children from Myanmar because of the investment. Also this business has not been widely practiced or brought in large profits yet. There is also no evidence of Laotian children being smuggled across the border to Thailand for the begging business yet.
The general process is that children are procured and transported across borders to be sold in the destination country. However, in case of children who have experiences in cross-border migration, they are mostly able to manage their trips to the wanted destination. This is particular true for the case of experienced children from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia travelling to Thailand. If they are inexperienced and want to look for a job in other countries, they may be able to travel to the border by themselves but must seek help for the brokers who are plentiful on both sides of borders to transport them to the workplace. In many cases children would have lists of relatives or acquaintances, who actually are the sub-brokers, in their hands. Those trafficking agents or brokers who bring the children out of villages do so under various conditions, such as: travel just to the border, to find a job at the border, or to bring to big cities to find a job. If the trafficker’s tasks end at the border, either according to the agreement or by cheating, the children including the ones who come with their families would have to look for new agents themselves. From the country of origin, children are mostly passed from one group of traffickers to another until reaching the workplace by the network in the destination country (see Figure 5.1).

Figure 5.1: Migrant Child Labour Procurement Process (37868 bytes)

5.2 The Actors Involved
The bigger the connection of the network, the more actors involved in the network, and vice versa. In terms of extent of the problem, child trafficking network to Thailand is comparatively more complicated and wider connected throughout the subregion. For the wider network like the case of Thailand, the actors are normally divided into various sections such as; export traffickers in the country of origin, the traffickers for domestic transportation, and the import traffickers in the country of destination. However, parts of the network may reduce dependent upon the situation in the countries involved. The network to Thailand, in fact, does not aim to recruit children, but it is swept together with other labourers. In general, the complexity of the network is depended on the trafficking business. The trafficking of children into the sex industry especially has more widely spread connections with a person for each task Roles and positions of each type of actor involved in the network are elaborated in this section.
(1) Facilitators : The facilitators would get a small sum of compensation for their time. They are not professionals, but are relatives, friends, or ‘people from the same village’ who help to introduce children to agents or to take them from place to place. The facilitators’ activities often mix with goodwill and benefits. These people become hands for the trafficking agents, especially for the sex industry.
(2) Sub-Agents: These people normally come from the same origin as a child and can be described as ‘people from the same village, relative, acquaintance, or a stranger’. A child’s agent can be a trader who travels between borders and speaks many languages. Some agents live near the border and may have two nationalities. Some agents used to be or are currently labourers, sex workers, or beggars and solicitors. There are also amateur sub-brokers along the border including motorcyclists or pick-up truck drivers. They have many ways to recruit children, such as by directly contacting a child or through the family, or the children who are looking for jobs may have the name and address of the sub-brokers in their hand. Professional sub-brokers generally have connections with a big trafficker in order to send the children to sex establishments or other workplaces. But if it involves a travel directly from the community of origin to the workplace at the border, a small group of sub-agents may do the job alone.
One common scenario is that an acquaintance or a stranger befriends a girl or girls in a public place and persuades her to come for a meal or a drink; the new friend then tricks the victim into believing that there is a job for her and she should accompany the friend. The following example of two Vietnamese girls deported back to Hanoi represents the mentioned scenario.

An example of Vietnamese girls sold to be wives in China

On 28th August 1995, I and L went together from Thuong Tin to Hanoi looking for job. At the bus station, there was a woman who came and made friends with us. After she learned we were seeking for a job, she said she would help by guiding us to a workplace in China with a salary of 36 USD per month. I and L agreed. This woman took us to a boarding house near Dong Xuan market and the next morning she took us to China. When we realized that we were deceived, it was too late. We were sold to be illegal wives of 2 Chinese men in Kwang-tung. In the communes where the two men live, there were about 10 other Vietnamese girls also deceived and sold to China.

(Interviewed on January 3, 1998)

(3) The Trip Managers: This particularly refers to those who traffic children from the country of origin to the border of another country, and those who take children from the border to workplaces. The travel arrangers from the countries of origin normally work as a network with local sub-brokers. For the big networks, they would take the children across the border, and this task may finish after they have already sold the children to another group of agents, or there might be a systematic connection under a big chain of networks. For the small networks, they would transport the children travelling with the agent to the border. In this study, transportation trafficked children to the border of the destination country is the most essential step for all types of trafficking in this subregion.

Pang’s Journey, a Tai Lue woman from Xintiabanna, China.

I came to Myanmar by car. The man who persuade us to go didn’t come with me. Only me and my friend. The trip took one day, then we changed cars. There’s a Tai-Lue from Myanmar joining us. Then, they stopped at Mong Yawang to pick up three other Tai-Lues. We spent one day in Mong Yawang. Then we came to Tachilek. We stayed in Tachilek and then changed to another car to come to Bangkok. It took one and a half day from Bangkok to here. Altogether it took me six days and six nights from my home to here. They sold the Lue girl to somewhere I didn’t know. Only me and my friend came here. When we arrived, the driver told us that it cost 300 USD for the travel. I was frightened. I cried.... I did not have money to pay.

(Interviewed on November 20, 1997)

In Thailand, there are plenty of local agents in every bordering province where a large number of illegal migrants present. They are mostly people from the same origin of the children. Migrant children or their family who work in the border areas are deceived to work in the inner cities for higher income. They generally arrange transportation from the border taking children to inner cities. Children under 10 years old if they travel with their parents mostly are not charged for their transportation because they are too young to work. The trip managers who can run the network smoothly must have strong connections with the authorities since trafficking inside the country is more complicated. However, traffickers still have to try to avoid and escape from other groups of authorities who did not cooperate with them. Sometimes the traffickers have to switch directions suddenly, or bring children walking through the jungle to be picked up somewhere else to avoid problems.

Pyo’s Journey, a 14 year-old Myanmarn girl from
Tavoy in Tenasserim Division.
She is now working in a factory in one inner city near Bangkok.

At first I was working at a bakery shop in Ranong and earned 17.5 USD a month. But a Mon came to persuade me to come to Bangkok. He said the travel cost was 75 USD but I would earn 125 USD a month. I came in the police truck. They said we need not be afraid of getting arrested. There were seven of us lying on the truck back covered by layers of plywood, banana leaves, then a wood again covered the top with a blanket. We didn’t find any police on the way. Some people said that if unlucky, the police would stop the truck and use a sharp stick to poke in the back to see if there were people in there. I was very afraid of that. ...Upon our arrival, they told us to wait for work, and said the travel cost was 162.50 USD each, not 87.50 USD as they told us before getting in the car. We all cried panicly. After two days, they said we would get a job at the factory. All the cost including finding work for us was 262.50USD. We were frightened and cried again. Then they said they pitied us and would reduce the cost to 250 USD only. After that we were taken to the factory, and were told we had to pay another 7.5 USD for gloves and uniforms. I didn’t know what to do. I don’t know when I can go back home.

(Interviewed many times, the latest was on November 9, 1997)

(4) The Guards : This actor applies specially for the network members who expand the business to control over workers. In the sex industry in Thailand, the children in agent’s control are called Dek A'.10  ‘A’ generally will have a task to introduce the girls under their control to customers, negotiate prices, arrange accommodation, food, clothes, etc. The agents would take half from the children income and deduct the debts from the rest. Mostly these kind of networks tend to choose women from the border or inside Thailand since they have to contact with the girls’ families, or search for the girls if they fled or change their agents without permission. For the case of the Burmese Muslims beggar gangs, the network covers and control in the workplace. The sub-brokers, travel arrangers, and the guards, or the leaders, are all in the same group, as the following story explains.

Ali and Mahindor’s Story, Burmese-Indian boys aged
seven and ten years old
who escaped from the beggar gang in 1996

Ali and Mahindor escaped because they were beaten every day. That house is of one family. It’s a family business. The owner’s son was the one who beat the child. This man used to go up to Maesod to recruit children, but he had problems with someone there, so his young brother took up the job. The operation is being done among family members, but it is quite a big business with women and the handicapped. All of them were taken from Maesod. And even though they were arrested and sent back to Maesod many times, this gangster would go up and bring them back again and again. They would not let their victims go away easily.

(Interviewed many times from November to December 1998)

Similarly, the networks of begging gangs of trafficking in Khmer children to Thailand is also small operated by one or two persons. The agent who appears likely to be an elderly women usually acting as a grandmother or a mother of the trafficked children. They stay together like a family but the children are forced to beg from dawn to midnight and are closely controlled by the agent that also beg in the same area (Ajayutpokin et al. 1997).
(5) The trafficked victims’ parents: Parents have played important roles both intentionally and unintentionally in seducing their children into exploitative working conditions. Lao PDR is the only country in the sub-region where parents have not been reported as actors in the trafficking in children.

A 16 year-old Vietnamese girl was sold by her own mother.

It was about October 1994 when I was 16 years old, my mother brought me to Cambodia to search for a man for selling my virginity. During the time we were in Khmer , we were engaged in all types of work in waiting for the selling of my virginity. Every day, I had to go from shop to shop for probing. When I came to a shop of a Vietnamese woman, aged about 50, I told her my situation and she promised to help. Some days later there was a foreigner who agreed to buy my virginity at the price of 500 USD. I agreed to sell my virginity to him but the woman gave me only 200 USD.

(The Vietnam Country Study)

(6) Police and other officials: There is so evidence of the involvement of officials in child trafficking in this subregion, as found elsewhere. The police’s role is present and has been a tremendous counterpart in the child trade in all countries in the Mekong Subregion. They have illegally made the cross-border transportation of children easier managed, kept the illegal child trafficking business going, and have been a ‘watch dog’ for agents in case trafficked victims attempt to escape on any possible ways. It is repeatedly reported that police authorities are the actors who invest none but benefit tons from the business. A case of a Laotian girl from Vientiane who was arrested for prostitution in Suwannkhet in 1997 is a good example. The Laotian police handed the girl over to a Thai man who claimed to be her guarantor who then sent her to a brothel inside Thailand. Till now the girl’s parents have not yet known her whereabouts. More importantly, some police play the role as the traffickers themselves as reported not only by children victims trafficked into the sex trade from Cambodia to Thailand (GAATW, IOM, and CWDA 1996) but also confirmed by news published in the newspaper in the two countries from time to time. For instance, the Cambodia Study reported that, ‘Many civil servants are involved in trafficking .... Some police-not all, but some-are involved with the traffickers. Police are often protectors and enforcers for the brothels. And there is increasing evidence that they are involved in buying and selling kidnapped girls, or at least willing to turn a blind eye.’
(7) The job placement companies: The last and the only publicly known actor is job placement companies. This actor is only present in Thailand and Vietnam. The job placement companies are usually legally opened for job placement services for those seeking employment within the country or abroad. The jobs generally are labour job types such as housemaids and waitresses for women, and construction work for men. Having the permission to perform job placements legally, some companies have used their given right to abuse the innocents and traffic them into types of employment they did not originally anticipate as will be seen in the study of Laotian workers in Thailand mentioned in the next section in this chapter.
10  Dek means 'a child'   A represents the word agent.
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