The Mekong Region
In Asia, the Mekong region – (China, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) is the main arena of child trafficking. According to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the number of foreign children being trafficked to Thailand for sexual exploitation is on the increase. They are trafficked from neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, China (Yunnan Province), Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Many of the children come from families in the Mekong region who are entrapped in the cycle of poverty and debt. They are a generation who come from a heritage of subsistence farmers and stateless minority groups with very few work opportunities. Many of these people dwell inside the Golden Triangle, a region where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos meet. This region is notorious for its drug trade and human trafficking.
The Golden Triangle
Many families in the Golden Triangle have been lured into the heroin and amphetamine culture. These drugs are cheap and freely available in this region.
Children are often found fending for themselves because their parents are in gaol or are unconscionable drug addicts who are beyond helping themselves let alone care for their children. Many children have been abandoned or are orphans. Children are left at home. Many of these children have no family documents or birth certificates and are vulnerable and easy prey for traffickers. Police and government officials are involved in the recruitment and trafficking chain to distribute these girls into the sex industry. The trafficker earns between 2000 – 3000 Baht per girl (about $66 – $100 Aus).
The majority of victims trafficked internally throughout Thailand are young girls aged 12 – 16 years old who are absconded from the Hilltribe villages of the North and North-Eastern parts of Thailand. These young girls are usually trafficked into ‘closed’ brothels.
Chiang Rai is used as a main port to receive Burmese women and children who have been lured and trafficked from Burma into Thailand for prostitution.
Children are trafficked abroad into the sex industry to countries such as Japan, countries in the Middle-East such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Australia via Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Thailand is a popular travel destinations for “sex tourists” of which Australia is primarily culpable.
As a consequence of our culpability, the Australian government has sanctioned stringent laws that give authorities extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes committed abroad by Australian citizens. These crimes carry a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment committed against victims over 16 and under 18 years of age. For victims under 16 years of age these crimes carry a maximum of 20 years imprisonment. However, the vast majority of these crimes go undetected.
Nevertheless, we are not absolved of our responsibility, leaving these children entrapped in a vicious cycle without any hope. We can address these gross violations of human rights and provide humanitarian aid and services to these vulnerable children.