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Preventing Sex Trafficking

and Re-Trafficking of Women


in Ukraine and Thailand

Name of Student: Angie Ng


Student Number: 12468162
Title of Course: MA International Community Development
Date of Submission: 24 August 2010

This Dissertation is submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the award of


MA International Community Development.

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2.3 Thailand

The United States Department of State (U.S. Dept. of State) produces a

Trafficking in Persons Report on a yearly basis and puts countries around the

world in four categories depending on a government’s compliance with the

Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA's) minimum requirements; in 2010,

Thailand fell from Tier 2 (U.S. Dept. of State, 2009) to Tier 2 Watch List, just

one tier above the lowest, for not fully complying with the TVPA's minimum

standards for the elimination of trafficking (U.S. Dept. of State, 2010). Despite

efforts in the past year, the government did not make adequate progress

making limited efforts to identify trafficking victims and not investigating

corruption connected to trafficking-related cases (ibid). Thailand is a country

of origin, transit, and destination for trafficked persons (ibid) - victims can

originate from within the country, arrive from another country in order to be

transported to third country and/or suffer as trafficking victims within the

country. In the 2006 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Trafficking in Persons Global Report, Thailand was named the tenth on the list

of top ten countries of origin of trafficked persons (UNODC as quoted in

UNDP, 2009). Thai and hill tribe women/girls are trafficked to Europe, Japan,

North America, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore and Australia in addition to

Bangkok (U.S. Dept. of State, 2010) through elaborate tactics, sometimes

transporting them through multiple transit countries (Yamada, 2007). As the

country has failed to provide citizenship and birth registration to ethnic

minorities living in the north (UNIAP, 2008), women from these groups are

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especially vulnerable. Lao, Cambodian, Chinese and Burmese are trafficked

to and through Thailand (Gallagher, 2006: 143) as are women from Russian

and Uzbekistan (humantrafficking.org, 2009, and Yamada, 2007). Here,

trafficking into the sex industry is becoming more complex and is now linked

to both street begging and pornography, and victims are becoming younger

and younger (Yamada, 2007).

Since 1984, when several trafficking victims were burnt to death when locked

in a brothel, the issue of sex trafficking has been on the public agenda

(Pukdeetanakul, 2007). As of 1997, Thailand has had in place the Measures

on Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Women and Children Act, and

this Act was amended to include all forms of trafficking in 2008 (UNODC,

2009), prior to ratification of the UN Protocol (Pukdeetanakul, 2007). The

Department of Special Investigations within the Ministry of Justice and the

Center against International Human Trafficking (CAHT) within the Office of the

Attorney-General are responsible for the human trafficking issues in the

country, and under the Royal Thai Police, a 'Children, Juveniles and Women

Division' was established in 2005 (UNODC, 2009).

However, there is widespread corruption and high-level public sector

involvement in the lucrative “industry”, and the racism and sexism in Thailand

that permit and facilitate this situation usually go unchallenged at all levels of

government and in most sectors of society (Gallagher, 2006). In this context,

it is worrying that there is also a heavy reliance on law enforcement officers

and immigration officials to identify trafficking victims (Pukdeetanakul, 2007).

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Also, although confidentiality must be maintained when publicly disclosing

information about trafficking victims, there is no regulation of what data can be

shared between agencies and within agencies (ibid). As the 'legal sex

business' makes up around 14% of the gross domestic product of Thailand

(USD 27 billion per year) (Lim, 1998 as quoted in Farley et al., 2003), it is

easy to see, though not acceptable, why more has not been done on the

ground.

2.4 Ukraine

In 2010, Ukraine was placed in Tier 2 in the US Department of State’s annual

Trafficking in Persons Report, one level up from its position on the Tier 2

Watch List in 2009 (U.S. Dept. of State); although it does not comply with the

minimum standards of law enforcement, it has demonstrated a significant

effort to do so, including increasing the number of convicted traffickers who

have to serve jail time and improving its capacity to identify victims (U.S.

Department of State, 2010). It is a country from which victims originate, a

country which other trafficking victims are transported through and a country

of destination although to a lesser extent (ibid). Ukrainian victims are usually

trafficked to the following countries: Russia, Poland, Turkey, Italy, Austria,

Spain, Germany, Portugal, the Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates, United

Kingdom, Israel, Greece, Lebanon, Benin, Tunisia, Cyprus, Bosnia and

Herzegovina, Hungary, Slovakia, Syria, Switzerland, the United States,

Canada and Belarus (ibid). Together with Russian women, Ukrainian women

are a popular ethnic group in the sex market (Hughes, 2000, as quoted in

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Kiryan and van der Linden, 2005). It is estimated that over 400,000 women

were trafficked from Ukraine to the West from 1991-1998 by both the

Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the International Organization for

Migration (Sulaimanova, 2003). It should be noted that this number is likely

grossly underestimated since there is such a large pool of potential migrants

and also due to the covert nature of trafficking (Kiryan and van der Linden,

2005).

In Ukraine, prostitution is a relatively new problem, and the biggest issue is

that girls as young as 12 years old are now involved (Pyshchulina, 2002).

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, trafficking of women from the

former Soviet republics to the West went from next to zero to epidemic

proportions (Sulaimanova, 2003). Instead of inviting foreign investment,

financial market liberalisation facilitated a large-scale flight of capital from the

country, resulting in the masses’ facing large-scale unemployment and a

disappearance of social services (Batstone, 2007). Women account for more

than 60 percent of job loss in recent years (Sulaimanova, 2003), and now, day

care centres that used to be free under the Soviet regime have either been

closed or become unaffordable (ibid). The status of women has also declined

since the fall of the Soviet Union, which had promoted gender equality, with an

increase in domestic violence and rape (ibid). The power vacuum created by

the fall of Soviet rule was quickly filled by organized crime who quickly

realized that they could exploit the educated, healthy women who had

suddenly found themselves unemployed (Batstone, 2007). As Eastern

European youth had grown up exposed to Western media, they had an

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idealistic view of the West that traffickers could use to deceive them into

relocation (ibid).

General recommendations here would be to improve the socio-economic

conditions of women, facilitate employment and self-employment and involve

NGO’s and other organizations in counter-trafficking at the national level

(Kiryan and van der Linden, 2005). Ukrainian NGO’s have reported an

increase in victims of trafficking who were only interested in financial support

and not support such as psychological counseling, up from 55% to 61%

between 2003 and 2004, and only 10-20% of victims wanted job-seeking

assistance or skills training (Winrock 2004 as quoted in Brunovskis and

Surtees, 2007) ; this is not surprising considering the high educational level of

women in the country and the relatively low availability jobs. Some believe

that anti-trafficking strategies should be aimed at the traffickers rather than the

victims, such as Pyshchulina (2002), but this usually means that they believe

victims should not be criminalised, not that development workers should not

work with communities on prevention and with victims. Indeed, the same

author also mentions the protection of victims and awareness raising

campaigns as necessary for curbing trafficking (ibid). This would be helpful as

(i) trafficking victims here are often are not aware of local NGO’s and other

organizations that could help them in their destination countries (Kiryan and

van der Linden, 2005), and (ii), trafficking victims mainly obtained job offers in

their home country through social connections and intermediaries (ibid)

without the knowledge that the offers could be traps.

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In 1998, trafficking in persons was established as a specific offence in Ukraine

(UNODC, 2008). Then in 2004, Ukraine ratified the UN Convention against

Transnational Organised Crime and the Palermo Protocols on trafficking and

smuggling (Kiryan and van der Linden, 2005). The following year, the country

created the Department for Combating Human Trafficking of the Ministry of

the Interior (UNODC, 2009).

However, despite policy and legislative measures, there appears to be little

political commitment to fight trafficking (Pyshchulina, 2002). The police here

are important to traffickers in sustaining their operations, capturing and

returning girls who have escaped, issuing legal business licenses and

protecting traffickers from more honest colleagues (Batstone, 2007). So the

law enforcement situation with regards to corruption is similar to that in

Thailand. Not surprisingly, due to the official complicity here with regards to

trafficking, the anti-trafficking efforts in the country are almost entirely

international donor funded (U.S. Dept. of State, 2010).

This dissertation was submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the MA in

International Community Development, jointly delivered by the University of

Westminster and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts and it

was posted on http://forcedmigration.org.