New Perimeter, the pro-bono arm of DLAPiper, and our new Justice Institute partner joined the Human Rights team in Thailand last month for a Justice Institute on combatting child sex trafficking. This blog post is authored by Sara K. Andrews.
In March, I had the opportunity to participate in a training program on internet-facilitated human trafficking for police, prosecutors and victim service providers in Pattaya, Thailand. The two-day “Justice Institute” was led by Vital Voices Global Partnership with assistance from Hilton Worldwide as part of Voices Against Violence: The GBV Global Initiative. More than 30 participants gathered to share their experiences combatting trafficking and to learn new techniques for investigating and prosecuting child trafficking cases with an online component. The training team included lawyers from the human rights team at Vital Voices, a retired police detective and human trafficking policy analyst from the US, and local Thai experts in human trafficking.
The Internet plays a major role in child sex trafficking and exploitation all around the world. As new technology makes the Internet more and more accessible, traffickers everywhere find new ways to abuse it. Though this is true the whole world over, Thailand is particularly ripe for abuse because it is a popular tourist destination. According to international children’s rights organization, ECPAT, evidence shows that large numbers of children in Thailand are sexually exploited through abusive use of resources and facilities connected to the tourist industry. From recruitment to advertising, communications between buyers and sellers, and online business records, the Internet is an indispensible tool for those who wish to exploit children.
During the course of the Justice Institute, the trainers presented on topics including evidence gathering, identifying victims and the role that technology increasingly plays in trafficking. The training participants, who work on child trafficking in a variety of regions across Thailand, shared their insights on the major challenges they face in investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Participants also learned about the “Dark Web”, a part of the Internet where information can be shared and services purchased with the user operating in complete anonimity, leading many who trade in child pornography, for example, to conduct their transactions there.
Prior to the training in Pattaya, I accompanied Vital Voices to visit one of their project partners, the HUG Project, which is doing critically important work to combat child trafficking in northern Thailand. Based in Chiang Mai and led by an amazing and tireless woman named Werawan (“Boom”) Mosby, the HUG Project’s goal is to prevent and protect children from domestic violence, exploitation, trafficking and abuse.
I left Thailand deeply saddened by the frequency with which children are exploited, particularly by the country’s flourishing tourist industry. However, I was also impressed and inspired by the courage and tenacity of the local professionals who are working tirelessly to combat child trafficking and the abuse of children.