Human trafficking busts have reached a new level of difficulty with the advent of social media.
Three sex-slave recruiters arrested by Thai police early this week allegedly lured women on Facebook with hospitality jobs in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Yahoo News reported that Thailand’s Lieutenant-Colonel Komvich Padhanarath identified one of the suspects as Kheng Hsiang Low, a Malaysian male who, along with two female Thai associates, engaged women on Facebook to work in restaurants, spas, and karaoke bars in Malaysia. Instead, the unsuspecting victims ended up in the sex trade.
Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation carried out the human trafficking bust, acting on a tip by Freeland, an anti-slavery organization. Kheng Hsiang Low and his two accomplices were arrested separately in three different parts of Thailand this week, while a fourth suspect, a Malaysian, remains at large.
In a recent speech at the Centre for Social Justice in London, England, Europol Director Robert Wainwright says Facebook is one of the means by which young women are lured into the sex trade. According to the Telegraph, Wainwright explained how social media and prostitution have become entangled with each other.
“Once women have been lured into prostitution with false promises of legitimate work in cleaning, child care or secretarial work, technology allows criminal gangs to monitor them on an ‘industrial scale.’ Instead of paying them a visit every day they can use the webchat services but also webcam cameras to confirm that they are where they should be, they are in that brothel waiting for the next customer.”
Human trafficking in Thailand involving women and girls can be linked to sources in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, Russia and Uzbekistan. According to Wikipedia, female victims from Burma, Cambodia, and Vietnam also constitute human trafficking through Thailand’s southern border to populate brothels in Malaysia. Difficult to bust is the exploitation of disenfranchised ethnic minorities for sex trafficking to Bahrain, Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Europe, and the United States.
With social media as a tool for commercial sexual exploitation across borders, coming up with counter measures has become a matter of international concern.
The U.S. State Department accused Thailand last June of being one of the world’s worst centers for human trafficking and not undertaking steps to bust the problem. According to Reuters, the State Department identified the victims in Thailand as from neighboring countries, exploited in the tens of thousands in the commercial sex trade, on fishing boats or as domestics.
In response, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, an army general who took power in a coup last May, has called for legal action against human trafficking, especially to bust government officials involved.
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