chapter  3
18 Pages

The inexorable quest for trafficking hotspots along the Thai–Lao border

I am sitting with Thou, an official working for an anti-trafficking programme in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic. We have just discussed several case studies from my fieldwork on trafficking into the commercial sex industry along the Thai-Lao border. The case studies point to a common phenomenon on both sides of the border: occasionally sex workers use deception and debt bondage to recruit acquaintances into the industry, and in a minority of cases the recruiter and/ or the recruit are under the legal age of 18. While Thou reacts with a mixture of excitement and surprise to my case studies, she is also familiar with the narratives I reproduce. She has heard similar stories from Vietnam. Unlike many other informants, however, Thou immediately sees the implication for law enforcement:

How can we deal with this? The perpetrator might be a young woman from the same village, even underage? And, as both the victim and perpetrator come from the same community, even the same village, what does this mean for anti-trafficking programming?