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Trafficking in the News

Awareness

Awareness

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Trends in the News on Trafficking

We’re breaking with our traditional format of relating the news to highlight an interesting trend in reporting on the news about trafficking, especially in regards to Thailand/Southeast Asia. In the past few months, there has been a growing narrative on the relationship between trafficking, human rights norms, and international trade and cooperation.

Increasingly, human rights considerations and the prevalence of human trafficking concerns are becoming a standard part of trade negotiations and international cooperation. Nations are expected to revise national laws to meet international standards or risking losing trade privileges due to noncompliance. As Sumano reports in the Bangkok Post, “Pressured by the new trade landscape, governments can no longer focus on economic prosperity without addressing social development through the promotion of fundamental human rights.”

In response to increased scrutiny over its trafficking record, Thailand became the third country in ASEAN to ratify a new convention on human trafficking. It’s the region’s first legally binding commitment to combatting trafficking, and it underscores the Thai government’s dedication to working in concert with other nations to eradicate the problem. (Source: The Diplomat)

However, there is some concern that while the pressure from trade deals highlights human rights abuses and encourages compliance with international standards, especially within the seafood industry, it allows other forms of human trafficking (such as child trafficking, etc.) to fly under the radar. Human rights organizations have been skeptical of the US’s move to upgrade Thailand’s TIP status, fearing the move has been made too soon, perhaps for political reasons to counterbalance against China’s growing influence. (Source: ASEAN Today)

In Other News

U.S. prosecutors are collaborating with Thai police to prosecute a major case against a large international sex trafficking ring, where hundreds of Thai women were brought to the U.S., promised lucrative jobs, and sold as sex slaves in cities as diverse as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Washington. The accused include 17 Thai nationals and 5 Americans. (Source: Bangkok Post) This highlights the growing relationship between American and Thai law enforcement agencies to prosecute cases in both nations and collaborate to fight trafficking. (Source: FBI)

NGOs fighting trafficking in Vietnam are arguing that prevention programs that focus on “raising awareness” alone, without any efforts to fight root causes, are not sufficient, especially with endemic corruption permitting trafficking to continue. (Source: ASEAN Today)

Cambodian trafficking victims are suing U.S. seafood importers and their Thai suppliers that they allege have been complicit in slave-like working conditions. (Source: VOA News)

Young Cambodian filmmakers have teamed up with human trafficking survivors to produce short films based on true-life events. The Chaktomuk Short Film Festival will highlight several films touching on issues such as migrant workers’ rights and how families must cope when a member leaves in search of work. Trafficking survivors have not only contributed their stories, but have also partaken in some of the acting. (Source: Cambodia Daily)

How is Congress Doing in the Fight Against Human Trafficking?

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You might have noticed an important U.S. election is coming up in just a couple of months. Presidential politics aside, a big part of the action lies with Congress. How do our Congressional leaders stack up in the fight against human trafficking? Join us here for a quick inside look!

 

 
Senators such as John McCain, Amy Klobuchar, Mark Kirk, and Chuck Schumer have made a lot of waves in directing policy efforts and funding towards trafficking prevention as well as victim services–but they’re not the only ones to do so. California’s own senators, Barbara Boxer, as senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chair of the first subcommittee ever to focus on global women’s issues, and Dianne Feinstein, as the first female Senator to serve on the prestigious and influential Judiciary Committee, are both recognized “champions” of the anti-trafficking effort as well.

In the House of Representatives, The SOLD Project’s district representative, Barbara Lee, has also been an advocate for positive change, cosponsoring several bills to help prevent child marriages in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (HR 2103), to prevent international violence against women (HR 4594), and to make anti-trafficking efforts a priority (HR 2283 and HR 3344).

As Barbara Boxer has decided to retire, her seat is up for grabs in the November election. The two strongest contenders are both women:

Kamala Harris as CA Attorney General has already shown experience and dedication to fighting transnational crime like human trafficking and sexual exploitation by leading a group of state attorneys to facilitate cooperation and coordination between the US and Mexico’s law enforcement efforts, and working to empower women and girls globally by ensuring access to health care and education.

Loretta Sanchez is a recognized “supporter” of anti-trafficking efforts, and has used her position in the House of Representatives’ Armed Services and Homeland Security Committee to introduce legislation to combat trafficking in the U.S. by improving information gathering and sharing processes. She also “was the lead Democrat introducing H.R. 5116, the Human Trafficking Detection Act, which would give DHS officials the training they need to identify potential victims of human trafficking and report these cases to local law enforcement officials,” and she has secured funding for a local task force in Orange County, CA to combat trafficking in her district.

Want to find out more about your Congressional representatives’ records?

The International Justice Mission provides fantastic resources, including: a score card listing which representatives are champions, leaders, and supporters of the fight to end trafficking and modern slavery; detailed suggestions on how to lobby your representatives as a concerned citizen, and how to be an informed and influential advocate for positive change.

Want to help, but don’t know what to ask for?

Here are some legislative actions that we at The SOLD Project have been supportive of so far:

  • bringing the spotlight on human trafficking in general, as well as child trafficking and exploitation in particular
  • efforts to ensure law enforcement agency efforts do not re-victimize victims, but instead act to support victims with sensitivity
  • FBI & HSI efforts to work with NGOs on the ground, sharing resources like expertise and information
  • enlisting support from other sectors such as: the transportation industry, first responders, educators & medical professionals

Further policy actions you might like to support:

  • in countries where ethnic minorities and immigrants are particularly vulnerable, we’d like to encourage better documentation (perhaps through providing incentives to register themselves, e.g. access to social services and more legal job status, or reduced penalties for illegal migration) and provide a more feasible path to citizenship
  • provide “slave free” labels on items like seafood, clothing, coffee, and chocolate, for companies that can prove their supply chain is entirely fair trade
  • more clarity and greater distinctions made between cases involving pedophiles versus actual traffickers–we want to be sure that cases made against pedophiles are not used to pad the number of cases against traffickers to make it appear that more progress is being made
  • more effective back-and-forth communication with a variety of counter trafficking NGOs on the nature of trafficking on the ground (how they see it happening, and who it is affecting), and how we can adapt our prevention practices
  • grants and funding for NGOs making advances in the anti-trafficking efforts
  • more support, funding for, and reliance on pilot studies, micro-level data, etc. into best practices for anti-trafficking prevention and intervention efforts

This piece is, of course, not comprehensive, but hopefully it helps shed some light on Congress, it’s role in the fight against child trafficking and exploitation, and how you too can be an advocate for change!

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Dr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The SOLD Project. After receiving a PhD in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, she moved with her family to northern Thailand to work in child trafficking prevention, education, and helping to raise awareness.