06 August 2023

Published on 6 August 2023 at 20:06

Human Trafficking, according to dhs.gov, “involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Whereas this is true, I believe it leaves out other forms of human trafficking that may not involve sex. The website, uscis.gov labels it as a form of modern-day slavery and does not limit the definition to only the sex industry. I have spent some time mulling over the information I gathered while in Bangkok concerning the plague of human trafficking. I have realized that human trafficking or as I have come to refer to it, the modern slave trade, is a multi-layered topic. I have also come to realize that this like many other “hot topics” during political aspirations tends to fall away when the shock factor wears off. For the people this truly impacts it does not go away. We have all seen or heard the horrendous accounts of men and women who were stolen to work in the sex industry or factories of Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. In most instances, poor, eager to work, people enter into a verbal contract and find a different reality once they arrive. These people usually have few if any resources to escape once they leave their homes and are doomed to a life of servitude unless an outside entity intervenes. I hope to use my research to assist organizations in identifying people who need external intervention and returning them to their families and loved ones.

Just to be clear not all people who work in the sex industry are being trafficked. I am not speaking of children, but of concentrating adults capable of making their own decisions.  For two weeks I watched people come and go through the historic “Walking Streets” of Bangkok. I only questioned the free will of the people working there a few times. And yes, that is a few too many. But when you realize that Southeast Asia and countries other than the Christian-dominated “Western” cultures may and do see sex or prostitution differently. As in anthropologic study, you must not use your morals to judge other cultures or beliefs.  When I spoke to the few Thai people I came in contact with and felt comfortable enough to broach the subject, their answers surprised me. When I explained sex trafficking and my research, they did not believe Thailand had an issue with this. Most explained that working in the bars was a good-paying job for people with no other alternative and it paid better than most.  I was told that you could work in a factory for more than sixteen hours a day for days on end, or work at a bar for a few hours and earn more than a month in a factory. One of my interviewees even told me that MacDonald’s in Thailand only pays about $2 USD (U.S. Dollars) an hour for new employees. So, as you can see, the alternative would be somewhat more appealing to some. I did not visit brothels or wear a camera like an undercover reporter because I was alone and had no supporting crew or documentation stating what I was doing and whom I represented. So, I sat and watched tourists and locals, both men, women, and even children traverse some of these areas while police officers sat and “kept watch”. Only once did I observe a scenario where I felt the young ladies were being guided into a couple of the establishments on Soi Cowboy as I stated in one of my blog entries. The rest of the time the bar workers seemed very aggressive and very willing in their pursuit of clients.

 I am not advocating in one way or the other but as an observer, I witnessed no overt mistreatment of anyone while on location. I can easily say that I was left with more questions than answers during my trip and would like to return in the future before I produce my capstone project to compare other areas of Thailand to my experience in Bangkok. I would like to see if a location could establish a different point of view and possibly different results. More time is definitely needed to establish a good rapport with the locals, and I have been to Phuket more than once and continue to be in contact with friends from that area. So, I plan to return to Phuket in the future to compare and contrast the environment of a more traditional vacation area.

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