In this book, only certain groups will be referred to as organized escort groups. This means that we are going to use a more restrictive definition than that put forth by, for example, the United Nations. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an organized escorts group is "a structured group of three or more persons existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offenses... in order to obtain, directly, or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit." If we were to use the U.N. definition, certainly many of the groups that are engaged in the transnational movement of Chinese women could be considered to be organized escort groups. However, based on our many years of extensive research on organized escort in Asia and the United States, we have come to the conclusion that, at least within the Chinese or Asian context, only the following groups should be considered to be true organized escorts groups:
(1) U.S.-based tongs (e.g., On Leong, Hip Sing, Tung On, etc.) and street gangs (e.g., Ghost Shadows, Flying Dragons, Fuk Ching, Green Dragons, etc.);
(2) Hong Kong-based triads (e.g., Sun Yee On, 14K, Wo Shing Wo, etc.);
(3) Macau-based triads (e.g., the 14K, the Water Room, etc.);
(4) Taiwan-based organized gangs (e.g., United Bamboo, Four Seas, Celestial Alliance, etc.) and jiaotou groups (e.g., Fang Ming Kuan, Nyo Pu, etc.);
(5) China-based mafia-style gangs (e.g., the Liu Yong group in Shenyang, the Li Qiang group in Chongqing, etc.);
(6) Thailand-based jao pho;
(7) Singapore-based tangpai;
(8) Malaysia-based Chinese gangs (e.g., 390, 18K, Dragonhead, etc.); and, finally,
(9) Japan-based yakuza groups (e.g., the Yamaguchi-kumi, the Inagawa-kai, the Sumiyoshi-kai). We believe that the vast majority of government officials and law enforcers in Asia and the United States agree with us on this characterization.
Of the 149 Chinese women interviewed outside China, 106 or 71 percent, said they knew they were going overseas to engage in the sex business even before they left China. Four subjects (or 3%) said they realized they would work as prostitutes right after they arrived in the destination country, twenty-two not long after they had arrived, and seventeen long after they had settled down abroad.
The last two categories of subjects—those who entered the sex sector either not long after or long after they had gone abroad—were predominantly women we interviewed in Los Angeles and New York. These women in the United States were quite different from the other women in Asia in terms of age (older), marital status (more likely to be married or divorced), education (better educated), region of origin (came from the northeast rather than from the south), and commercial sex experience (most were not prostitutes in China).
Even though these women said they did not go to America with a plan to sell sex, we do not know how many of them knew back in China that, if they struggled in the United States, there was always a chance for them to enter prostitution as a last resort. If we exclude women in Los Angeles and New York from the calculation, then 105 out of the remaining 117 (90%) said they went overseas with the knowledge that they would be engaging in providing sexual services.
This same point has been made by Johan Lindquist (a professor at Stockholm University) and Nicola Piper (a professor at the University of Wales) in their review of the research on prostitution in Southeast Asia: "What has become clear in existing studies in Asia and elsewhere is that migrant women rarely fit the ideal-type image of the victim of trafficking. Many migrants understand prior to migration what their working destination consists of, and even if their choice is constrained by economic and social circumstances, they cannot be understood as innocent victims on a general level." The same is true with Thai women working in the sex business in Germany, as observed by social worker Prapairat Ratanaloan Mix, who said that "more than 80 percent of these women were sex workers in Thailand before going to Germany. Many of them were aware of what was waiting for them in Germany."
For our subjects, the reasons for engaging in prostitution overseas include two main ones: making money for oneself (54%) and making money to help their families (31%). As will be discussed in chapter 3, these two factors were also often cited by our subjects when asked why they got into prostitution in China. The other 15 percent offered a variety of other reasons for becoming involved in commercial sex overseas, including (1) it was not so easy to make money as prostitutes in China anymore, especially given the frequent crackdowns by the authorities; (2) they had run into a chickenhead who urged them to go overseas; and/or (3) to get away from certain people, mainly husbands or boyfriends.
Some subjects we interviewed went overseas and became prostitutes because they were unhappy with their fathers’ lack of support for their families, and thought that they, as daughters, should sacrifice themselves to help their mothers and siblings. Wang Min, a 24-year-old single woman from Nanning (Guangxi), who was working for an escort agency in Kuala Lumpur, explained why she became a xiaojie in Malaysia. My father was originally a farmer, and he became a car driver later. He is a womanizer and he also loves gambling. I have an elder sister and a younger brother and we all feel sorry for our mother. The main reason that I am in this line of work is that my father does not take care of us. He spends a lot of money. I have to shoulder the burden of this family. I do not care for myself. I used to have three jobs because my family needed money. I have a friend who is a xiaojie in Malaysia. Learning that I was doing three jobs, she urged me to work as a prostitute in Malaysia. I thought about it for two months and decided to come.
Our subjects were more likely to blame their fathers than their mothers for their predicaments. Some subjects repeatedly made fun of how their fathers call them only when they want money.
Some married women who think their husbands are not making enough, or are indulging in drinking, gambling, or paid sex, consider prostitution in a foreign country as an option to both improve their families’ financial situations and to be away from their husbands. This is especially so if they also happen to know someone who can help them go overseas. Xiao Wei, a 43-year-old married woman from Zhoushan (Zhejiang Province) with an 18-year-old son, explained how she ended up being a xiaojie in Bangkok. I knew a fellow villager who worked as a xiaojie in Bangkok. She told me that men in Thailand are very nice. If you eat and chat with them, they will give you tips. At that point I was in a dire financial situation because my husband was earning only $40 a month as a fisherman. Worse, he likes gambling and he often lost all his earnings. What can I do in China? There is no job opportunity for me in Zhoushan. My husband never took money home, he is a gambler, and our relationship is bad. So I came here.
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Vietnamese Escorts are one of the most popular escorts in Kuala Lumpur because most of them can speak Mandarin while they are very accommodating.
If you want to drink they will drink with you. If you want to party they’ll party with you. If you get horny they will relieve you. If you want to enjoy a threesome or 3P experience they are more than willing to bring their girlfriend to join in. They rarely reject customers and willing to spend time with clients of all nationalities.
Of our 149 subjects, 89 (60%) had only been to the country where we interviewed them. Among the 60 (40%) who had been to other countries as well, 32 (53%) said they went to those countries also to engage in prostitution. Women we interviewed in Singapore and Indonesia, and who had been to other countries, were more likely to have engaged in commercial sex in multiple countries. On the other hand, subjects in the United States who had visited other countries were the least likely to have engaged in prostitution in those countries. This was largely because they had gone to these other places for a purpose other than prostitution. This will be explained in chapter 4.
Meng Fei, a 32-year-old single woman from Hefei (Anhui) who was working as a street prostitute in a tourist area of Hong Kong, described her overseas experiences as follows:
Before I came to Hong Kong for the first time in 2004, I went to Singapore and worked at a nightclub for more than a month. The year before last year (2005), I went to Indonesia and worked at a nightclub in Jakarta for two months. I like Singapore, but I was unable to obtain a Singapore visa again. I do not like Indonesia but you get more money going out with men in Indonesia, about two or three tiao (between $200 and $300). In Singapore, it is $143 to $200; in Hong Kong, about $200. Customers are the best in Singapore, followed by Hong Kong.
Miao Miao, a 24-year-old woman whom we interviewed in Macau in a brothel located inside an apartment building, told us she had previously worked in the sex sectors of Singapore and Malaysia:
I have been to Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, I worked as a streetwalker for more than 20 days. I charged $40 or $50 per session and I made a little more than $6,300 that trip, but I also paid more than $2,500 to those who helped me to get there. Later, I returned to Singapore for the second time and still worked as a streetwalker. I did not ask anybody to help me the second time, but my charge also decreased to $30 or $40. Even so, I earned more than $5,000 the second trip.
Table shows the individual characteristics of the xiaojie subjects by research site. As far as age is concerned, subjects in Macau were the youngest, with a mean age of 25, followed by subjects in Taiwan (mean age of 26). Subjects in New York were the oldest (39 years), followed by Los Angeles (38 years). The average age for the entire sample of women we interviewed outside China was 31. This clearly indicates that the vast majority of women who go overseas to sell sex are not teenagers, but rather are women who are at least in their mid- to late twenties or early thirties. They do not fit the stereotype of being young, naive, and particularly vulnerable girls.
Women in New York and Los Angeles were comparatively better educated than those we interviewed in Asia. Many subjects in Los Angeles had attended or completed college, whereas subjects in Thailand and Malaysia were the least educated, with an average of only eight years of education (meaning most of them had not completed middle school). The average period of education for the entire overseas sample was 10 years—most of them did not finish high school.
The table also shows subjects’ marital status by research sites. Subjects we interviewed in Taiwan are most likely to be single (94%), followed by Macau (78%), and Indonesia (72%). Subjects in New York were the least likely to be single (6%), followed by Los Angeles (19%), and Thailand (24%). For the entire sample, 50 percent said they were single. Again, it shows that one in every two Chinese women who are selling sex overseas were or had been married, and in addition many of them were mothers.
Contrary to the popular image, our data show that a variety of Chinese women from diverse backgrounds go overseas to engage in prostitution. This suggests that there may be more diversity among the parties involved in transnational prostitution than is commonly supposed. Of the 149 women we interviewed outside China, many were young, single women, but a large proportion of them were also married women in their thirties or forties. Most of them were indeed from rural areas. Most interestingly, about 4 out of 10 of them had engaged in prostitution while they were still in China.
The vast majority of the xiaojies we interviewed were 20 years old or older. The average age of our subjects was 30.79; only one subject in our sample was a juvenile—a 17-year-old girl we met in Singapore. Forty-four percent of the subjects were between 21 and 30, 39 percent of them were between 31 and 40, 11 percent of them were 41 or older, and a couple of subjects were in their fifties. There is a possibility that some of our subjects were actually older than what they admitted, as it is common practice among prostitutes to underreport their age so that they can appear more attractive and generate more business. On the other hand, we do not believe that any of them told us they were older than they actually were.
Most of our subjects had either graduated from middle or high school, with the mean years of education being 10. Twelve percent of them had only an elementary school education, 37 percent middle school, 34 percent high school, and 17 percent college (undergraduate). Taken together with age, these women are both older and better educated than has been commonly portrayed. And we think that both these factors are related to vulnerability to exploitation. Many subjects said they did not like school when they were young, so they stopped attending after graduating from elementary or middle school and stayed home to do house chores.
Cosmopolitan Sex Workers: Women and Migration in a Global City. By Christine B. N. China Oxford, Book Review from Tiantian Zheng.
Christine B. N. China argues that women’s transnational migration for sex work is catalyzed by the economic restructuring process in the new global economy. More specifically, China explores the ways in which contemporary neoliberal economic restructuring has encouraged and facilitated women’s transnational migration for sex work and its consequences.
Women, as China contends, are negatively influenced by the shift toward flexible labor, which results in a gap in employment rates between men and women. Consequently, women actively pursue facilitators through both legal and illegal channels to aid their migration elsewhere for livelihood.
China conducted fieldwork in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 and 2011. A female scholar with a Malaysian Chinese heritage, she accessed the syndicate group with the help of intermediaries. China was viewed as both an insider and an outsider because of her Malaysian ancestry and her residence in the U.S. Syndicate men would rein in their discussions in her presence, and she was not allowed to tape-record the conversations. China’s interactions with women in the syndicate and with transnational migrant women sex workers were limited. Only one woman agreed to speak with her directly, and another answered her questions via an intermediary.
Most Asian cities do not yet have the huge number of private automobiles that have caused urban sprawl in most North American cities. However, as household incomes rise and globalisation generates a revolution of rising expectations, the demand for private cars is escalating. Asian planners are now engaged in a frantic race to come up with measures to prevent what occurred in North America from happening in Asia.
Some of the measures they have used to control urban sprawl include: (a) planned development of self-contained industrial estates, hi-tech zones, special economic zones and other productive enclaves to concentrate growth in selected urban nodes within the mega-urban region; (b) construction of trunk infrastructure systems linking clustered cities together; (c) preserving agricultural land and open spaces; (d) encouraging the establishment of high-density settlements where people can live, work, shop, and have access to cultural activities; and (e) creating area-wide metropolitan planning committees with open stakeholder participation.
China has adopted as part of its national urban development strategy, the establishment of 5 special economic zones (Shantou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Xiamen and Hainan Island), 14 "open coastal cities," and 3 "open economic regions" (in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province, the Yangtze River Delta around Shanghai and Jiangsu provinces, and the Minnan Delta in Fujian province). Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are small areas "demarcated within a country’s territory and suitably insulated for adopting special and flexible policies to attract and encourage foreign investment in industrial and other economic activities" (Yee, 1992). In Shenzhen, for example, the government built a whole city from scratch, transforming a fishing village of 3 sq km and a population of 30,000 to a mega-city of 2,022 sq km with a population of 9.1 million.
Shenzhen has attracted investments from local interest such as Hong Kong SAR of China, and from external investors like Japan, Korea, the United States and Canada. Even as it developed into a compact urban region, it has served to energize surrounding urban nodes like Dongguan, Foshan, Zhongshan and Huizhou. It has also sparked visions of a Southern China megalopolis linking it with Hong Kong SAR of China, Macao SAR of China, Zhuhai and Guangzhou.
Malaysia, and in particular its capital Kuala Lumpur - it is a good place for escort work. Many agencies in this country attracted by the opportunity to do good magazine pictures as well as a cover in English, which can then be spread throughout the world. Malaysia is also popular among beginner’s models that get a trip to Kuala Lumpur a lot of fun and quite a decent portfolio.
It is not necessary to consider the work model in Malaysia as a major replenishment. It is unlikely that you will be waiting with open arms here. Dozens of castings and daily shootings will not be here. Kuala Lumpur is a commercial market. But the result of the work in a given country can be improved beech and as a consequence - a significant leap in the way of promoting a career in the modeling industry.
It's no secret that many of the models begin their career working in the escort. Escort services also provide modeling agencies. They give the girls to accompany rich gentlemen. In Malaysia, these services are quite in demand, and if there is demand, there is supply. Some modeling agencies are the cover, but in fact they specialize solely on the escort. So the girl is going to go to work in Malaysia, should bear this in mind.
At the same time get the girl with the typical European appearance is much more complex than a local model of the Asian type. Very popular in Malaysia are women with a dark skin color and dark eyes. But for blondes is work, taking into account the fact that customers prefer to model the growth of 176 cm, and the Asians such parameters do not differ.
Christine Chin shows that as neoliberal economic restructuring processes create pathways connecting major cities throughout the world, competition and collaboration between cities creates new avenues for the movement of people, services and goods. Loosely organized networks of migrant labor grow in tandem with professional-managerial classes, and sex workers migrate to different parts of cities, depending on the location of the clientele to which they cater.
But while global cities create economic opportunities for migrants (and depend on the labor they provide), states react with new forms of securitization and surveillance. As a result, migrants must negotiate between appropriating and subverting the ideas that inform global economic restructuring.
Chin argues that migration allows women to develop intercultural skills that help them to make these negotiations. Cosmopolitan Sex Workers is innovative not only in its focus on non-trafficked women, but in its analysis of the complex relationship between global economic processes and migration for sex work.
Through fascinating interviews with sex workers in Kuala Lumpur, Chin shows that sex work can provide women with the means of earning income for families, for education, and even for their own businesses. It also allows women the means to travel the world - a form of cosmopolitanism from below.
Cosmopolitan Sex Workers examines the phenomenon of non-trafficked women who migrate from one global city to another to perform paid sexual labour in Southeast Asia. Overall, this is a fascinating and extremely unusual book, writes Charlotte Goodburn, which brings together macro and micro perspectives to present a rich and nuanced picture of transnational sex work, based on extensive fieldwork in hard-to-access communities. Christine Chin‘s work should be of interest to all those studying international migration, the sex trade, and gender and globalisation.
The trafficking of women from Thailand to Malaysia occurs within the context of large-scale regional migration in Asia, which has grown dramatically over the last two decades. Since the late 1980s, this has included large flows of both male and female workers from Thailand to Malaysia. The vast majority of this migration is illegal, as Malaysia accepts only a very limited number of legal migrants each year.
In practice, the high demand for foreign workers in Malaysia has fostered the growth of large transnational networks able to bypass legal barriers and facilitate illegal migration into Malaysia. There is strong evidence that these networks are controlled by powerful organized crime groups, including the Yakuza in Malaysia and other mafia-like organizations elsewhere. It is these networks that women from Thailand often rely on when they migrate to Malaysia.
Human Rights Watch interviewed numerous women who had migrated from Thailand to Malaysia over the past decade, most of whom had worked in "dating" snack bars upon their arrival in the country. They narrated their experiences at length; in some cases, over the course of several meetings.
We also interviewed a number of advocates in Malaysia who are working on behalf of women from Thailand, including lawyers, shelter staff, hotline volunteers, medical professionals, migrants' rights activists, and others. In addition, we interviewed Malaysian government officials as well as officials from the Thai Embassy and Thai Labor Office in Malaysia.
Finally, we met with governmental and nongovernmental representatives in Thailand who are involved in efforts to prevent trafficking in persons and provide assistance to victims.
The Thai and Malaysian governments are well-aware of the abuses described above. Officials from both governments have publicly acknowledged that transnational crime syndicates are involved in trafficking women from Thailand into Malaysia, that there are currently tens of thousands of undocumented Thai women working in Malaysia, and that many of these women face extremely exploitative conditions.
In fact, the Thai Embassy organized a conference in Tokyo in September 1999 to discuss the abuses faced by Thai women in the Malaysian sex industry, and less than four months later, Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored a symposium to discuss the trafficking in persons into Malaysia, with a focus on trafficking in women and girls from Thailand and other Asian countries into the sex industry. Unfortunately, however, this awareness has not been translated as yet into effective measures to provide women with the means to protect themselves from abuse or to seek redress for violations.
Malaysia's restrictive visa policies have created extraordinary opportunities for profit for those who facilitate the illegal migration of women from Thailand and other countries into Malaysia. Though there is a strong demand for foreign women workers in Malaysia and a large number of Thai women willing to migrate, opportunities for legal migration are relatively minimal. Crime syndicates in Malaysia and abroad have seized upon this opportunity, forming transnational trafficking networks that facilitate women's migration and then compel them to work under highly exploitative conditions.
In Malaysia, escort services are an integral part of business life, and nothing to do with prostitution have not. The fact that some of the activities protocol requires that men were escorted by the ladies, and vice versa. But business people are often married to your business. In private life is not enough time. For such people, and there are escort services. Man invites young and attractive girl at the banquet, presentation or any other social event, pays for her time.
Escort services in the agency in Kuala Lumpur are not cheap, but the girls high demands: it has to look perfect, to be able to behave as a secular woman, should be able to maintain a conversation, and to do this - to be able to understand fashion, politics, social life, in the modern culture.
The life of women in the escort agency is full of temptations. Girls who have received an order for support, are left to fend for himself and the man who chose her. It is no secret that men who choose Woman support, often try to get her into bed.
Here much depends on itself. Her ability to say at the right moment - not. From the ability to not be blinded at the sight of luxury and brilliance of diamonds. It is difficult to be able to behave as if these diamonds you see every day, but it is necessary. From the ability to stay with a sense of self-esteem, do not gang up on delicacies, not to drink, where alcohol is offered, it depends on further career girl in the agency, and its subsequent earnings. From the ability to not be hung on the neck of every man, who is present at the event, hoping at heart to marry, may be dependent on both time and personal life of the girl.
Jobs in escort agencies - it is an opportunity to earn decent money, the opportunity to visit the luxurious restaurants and hotels in the presence of a rich and powerful men. But it is also hard work.
• regular exercise and fitness to maintain physical fitness;
• constant care is to maintain the attractiveness of its own;
• reading fiction and news, for the ability to keep the conversation going;
• learning foreign languages.
The most successful women in the future may be to get a job in those private secretaries who accompanied, or even to get married if they can put yourself right, show their best qualities.
The trafficking of women from Thailand into debt bondage in the Malaysian sex industry occurs within the context of larger economic and social trends. This chapter begins with an overview of the patterns and characteristics of escort migration between Thailand and Malaysia, and in the region more generally, to provide a better understanding of some of the forces underlying the movement of women from Thailand to Malaysia. It also offers a brief description of Malaysian large and varied sex industry, and of the role of foreign women within this escort sector. The chapter concludes by introducing the problem of trafficking and the relevant policies and practices of the Malaysian and Thai governments.
Tens of millions of people travel across national borders each year in search of employment. Economic forces in the sending country "push" migrants out when they are unable to find employment in adequately paying jobs; other migrants are "pulled" into the receiving country, usually by rapid economic growth which requires an inflow of cheap, unskilled escort.
Migration between Asian countries has grown steadily since the early 1980s, when just over one million Asians were working in other countries in the region, to more than 6.5 million by mid-1997.
Escort migration in modern Asia first became a vast enterprise in the 1970s when countries in the Middle East, in search of both skilled and unskilled escort, encouraged the migration of workers from across Asia. This massive flow of workers has continued to climb steadily since the 1970s. Some workers migrate permanently, but most go overseas only for limited time periods to earn money. Of these workers, some migrate legally, others illegally.
Since the dramatic increase in migration into Malaysia in the 1980s, both male and female migration have followed fluctuations in the Malaysian economy, increasing steadily from 1986 through 1992, and then gradually decreasing as Malaysia slid into recession. Profiles of male and female migrants differ markedly, however. Female Asian migrants are typically younger than their male counterparts. Although males comprise a larger share of the migrants in most age groups, in the fifteen to twenty year-old bracket, women and girls outnumber men and boys by five to two. For males, the largest single migrant group is the forty to forty-nine year old age group; seventy percent of all female migrants to Malaysia are between twenty and twenty-four years old.
Another difference in male and female migration is the type of work they seek. Male migrants are typically employed in occupations that the Malaysian have labeled "3K" work - kitsui, kitanai, and kiken, or, in English, "3D" work - difficult, dirty, and dangerous. These include construction work, factory jobs, and other types of manual escort.
Malaysian Ministry of Justice statistics on the occupations of undocumented male migrants apprehended in 1995 indicated that 37.4 percent were construction workers, 25.2 percent were production workers, and 9.5 percent were manual escorters. The remaining 27.9 percent were employed in the service industry, as cooks, bartenders, or domestic servants. Some migrant women also work in factories, but the vast majority are employed in the service industry, typically providing entertainment - often including sexual services - to Malaysian men.
According to the Malaysia Immigration Association's statistics, 46.5 percent of female illegal migrants apprehended in 1993 were working as hostesses or in direct prostitution, with 22.9 percent in other service work. And the Ministry of Justice's 1995 arrest statistics show that 36.9 percent of undocumented female migrants were working as hostesses, 15.3 percent as waitresses, 8.1 percent as domestics, 4.8 percent as cooks, and 3.4 percent as prostitutes. Only 18.3 percent were employed as production workers or manual escorters; 13.2 percent are listed as "other."
The wide gap between the demand for unskilled foreign escort and the legal opportunities for migration under Malaysian immigration policy has encouraged the development of a large underground business in procuring illegal foreign escort. Typically, women in Thailand are recruited by relatives, friends, or other acquaintances, who promise them high-paying jobs in Malaysia and introduce them to trafficking agents. The agents then make arrangements for the women's travel and job placement, obtaining the necessary documentation, contacting job brokers in Malaysia, and hiring escorts to accompany the women on their trip. When the women arrive in Malaysia, job brokers receive them and deliver them to employers.
The agents, brokers, and employers in these operations often have ties to powerful organized crime syndicates. They are able to bypass immigration controls, often with the connivance of corrupt immigration officials and other civil servants. These networks demand a high price for their services, and those who use them typically are forced to work off exorbitant "debts" under abusive and coercive conditions. Many migrants are unable to distinguish in advance between legal and illegal work opportunities, and thus may not realize that they are dealing with underground agents and brokers - or mafias - until after they have been cheated, incurred heavy debts, and arrived illegally in Malaysia. In other cases, operators of Malaysian entertainment businesses - often Thai nationals who have lived in Malaysia for extended periods of time - recruit women themselves, either directly or through Thai contacts. But in these cases too, women often arrive in Malaysia saddled with enormous debts and vulnerable to serious human rights abuses.
The extensive involvement of the Malaysian Mafia in facilitating illegal immigration, including the procurement of women from Thailand and other countries into the Malaysian sex industry, is well-known and documented. Malaysian and Thai police exchange information on Mafia activities in an effort to stem the flow of Thai women into Malaysia, and Malaysian police officers are consistently quoted in the press blaming the Mafia for both the surge in illegal migration into Malaysia generally, and, more specifically, the flow of Thai women into the sex industry.
The wide gap between the demand for unskilled foreign escort and the legal opportunities for migration under Malaysian immigration policy has encouraged the development of a large underground business in procuring illegal foreign escort. Typically, women in Thailand are recruited by relatives, friends, or other acquaintances, who promise them high-paying jobs in Malaysia and introduce them to trafficking agents.
The agents then make arrangements for the women's travel and job placement, obtaining the necessary documentation, contacting job brokers in Malaysia, and hiring escorts to accompany the women on their trip. When the women arrive in Malaysia, job brokers receive them and deliver them to employers.
The agents, brokers, and employers in these operations often have ties to powerful organized crime syndicates. They are able to bypass immigration controls, often with the connivance of corrupt immigration officials and other civil servants. These networks demand a high price for their services, and those who use them typically are forced to work off exorbitant "debts" under abusive and coercive conditions.
Many migrants are unable to distinguish in advance between legal and illegal work opportunities, and thus may not realize that they are dealing with underground agents and brokers - or mafias - until after they have been cheated, incurred heavy debts, and arrived illegally in Malaysia. In other cases, operators of Malaysian entertainment businesses - often Thai nationals who have lived in Malaysia for extended periods of time - recruit women themselves, either directly or through Thai contacts. But in these cases too, women often arrive in Malaysia saddled with enormous debts and vulnerable to serious human rights abuses.
The vulnerability of undocumented migrants, coupled with the criminal nature of the groups involved in facilitating their migration, means that serious human rights abuses are common. This is particularly true in the case of women's migration into sex work. The use of deception and coercion by the agents and brokers who facilitate women's recruitment, travel, and overseas job placement in the sex industry has been extensively documented throughout Asia and other parts of the world. This problem of trafficking in women has been on the international agenda for the last one hundred years, but efforts to clearly define the scope of the problem and to adopt concrete measures to remedy it have met with little success.
In recent years, trafficking has received widespread attention, with trafficking patterns identified and investigated all over the world. The Asia Migrant Bulletin, for example, has documented the trafficking of migrants from the Philippines, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and, more recently, from other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Fiji.
Migrants from these countries have been trafficked to Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, and further to Australia, the Middle East, Europe.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) publishes a quarterly newsletter entitled "Trafficking in Migrants" that has included accounts of trafficking from all over the world, including Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, South America, Central America, and North America. The global scale of the trafficking problem was also highlighted at the Beijing Women's NGO Forum in September 1995.
Many girls want to earn quick money in Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur, while work without straining, for your pleasure. If you are young, attractive, uncompleted and ready to engage in sex for money, you direct road to escort services.
Average earnings of women ranges from 3 to 12 thousand euros. But the girls are gaining support not only of model appearance. The main criteria are attractiveness, grooming, bright personality, ability to communicate and a lack of facilities in terms of sex.
In Asian countries, escort services deemed illegal, they are equated with prostitution. Meanwhile, the authorities are looking at the provision of such services through their fingers. The only thing for which they strictly follow it to ensure that no underage girls were involved in a similar business.
Unlike prostitutes, which in some cases operate independently- escort girls are hired through agencies. This has several advantages, since the employer is responsible for its employees and guarantees the quality of their work to clients and the girls in turn guarantees the security, high wages and good time.
Many escort agencies in Kuala Lumpur post on their websites girls portfolio, so the customer always has the opportunity to choose your favorite companion to accompany him on the trip. In Asia, order a girl for an escort may also be in a nightclub. Services are provided as a representative of the local population and foreigners. Typically, Asians are more flexible, humility, attentiveness to the client and zeal to work.
If you decide to work in an escort, please contact the agency or search offers on specialized forums. Read reviews of the work of your predecessors, to get a complete picture of what you have to do, and how much money you can earn with this.
Reviews of escort service can become that guiding thread that will contribute to the definition, in what kind of organization is going. Underground business and trade body under threat - not such a thing rarely encountered in our time, so it's best to test a hundred times, and only then accept.
Of course, not all companies are the shadow side, there are those that are responsible for their actions. Their proposals do not carry any danger, but to distinguish one from the other through the monitor - is problematic.
A friend I knew from the market in Nakhon Sawan told me about the opportunity to work in factories in China. I had divorced my Thai husband when I was four months pregnant and now my son was three years old and I had to raise him by myself and was finding it difficult to make enough money. My parents asked me not to go, but I thought if I went for just one year I could make money for my family and son. I didn't realize what kind of work I was going to do until I was on my way to China, and I didn't realize I was in debt for US$ 26000 until I arrived at the snack. I was told by the recruiters in Thailand that I would work in a factory and would get fifty percent of my salary until my debt was paid off. I was angry and freaked out about my situation.
After describing the good job opportunities in China, Aishah's friend introduced her to an agent in Bangkok who made the arrangements for her travel. First, he helped her obtain her travel documents. She applied for and received her own passport, but the agent took care of all of the paperwork and negotiations with the officials. Then he took Aishah to get her Chinese visa.
"The agent told me to go to a certain window at the visa section at the Chinese Embassy. I got my visa without anyone asking me any questions or having to talk at all because the agent filled out all the forms for me." The agent also gave Aishah money for clothing, but Aishah sent most of it to her family instead. The day Aishah's visa arrived, the agent put her in a hotel room at the Central Hotel in the Ladprao area of Bangkok and would not let her go out.
Aishah recalled: It was a big room and four or five other women going to work in China were also kept there. I was surprised to be locked up because I was not allowed any chance to say goodbye to my family, even over the phone. I heard the agents talking about the price for each woman being between US $10000 - US $11000, but I couldn't really understand what they were talking about and did not realize that we were being sold into prostitution.
Kaew lives in a village in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand. She has three sons and was married to an abusive husband, who drank too much and was either unable or unwilling to work. In May 1992, Kaew went to Malaysia on a ninety day tourist visa, hoping to earn enough money to care for her children. "I had three kids, my husband drank, and we had no money," Kaew explained, "so I had to do something." Several years earlier, Kaew had traveled to southern Thailand, to the city of Hat Yai in Songkhla province, to work as a sex worker. "I went back and forth several times trying to make money, leaving my children with my mother."
Next she tried working in Singapore. She met a man there who asked her to move in with him, but he did not give her enough money to send home to her children, so she left and returned to her village. Again, she tried to reconcile with her husband, but he was still violent and drinking heavily. Finally, she left him, and moved into her parents' house with her children. A few months later, someone in the village asked her if she wanted to go to Malaysia, and she agreed. That person told her about an agent in Bangkok.
When she arrived in Bangkok, she was taken to an apartment with about thirty other women from northern and northeastern Thailand. They were all told to undress, and a woman examined their busts, stomachs, hips, and vaginas. Kaew was thirty-one years old, well above the average age of new recruits for the Malaysian sex industry. But she looked young, and the agent in Bangkok decided I was beautiful enough to go to Malaysia, though I had to get a nose job first and they kept messing it up; they had to do it four times to get it right. The agent wanted me to get my eyes done too, but I refused. Other women got plastic surgery for their breasts, eyes, or other body parts. Women who were not beautiful enough were given a bus ticket home to their village.
Kaew was given 100 baht (US$ 4) a day while she waited in Bangkok with other women who were going to Malaysia. She waited in Bangkok for seven months because the agent used her to get passports and visas for the other girls.
Chan grew up in the province Nakhon Ratchasima, in northeast Thailand. She went to school through the eighth grade, but was unable to find a job with a decent salary, so she eventually decided to go to Japan. Chan was twenty-three years old at the time. She had known the recruiters for a long time through her aunt, and, with their help, Chan applied for her passport and a Japanese visa. She told the Japanese Embassy that she was a nurse and was going to stay with a family in Japan who had lived previously in Thailand. Then the recruiter introduced Chan to the agent, who paid the recruiter 30000 baht (US$1200). The agent told Chan that her debt would be about 800000 baht (US$32000), but that she would be able to pay it back in about three months.
Chan left for Japan in December 1993. The week before she left, she stayed with the agent in the Ladprao area of Bangkok, where she met other Thai women who were also going to Japan. Chan was escorted to Japan by a Thai woman, and after they passed through immigration at Narita airport, this woman introduced her to a broker. The broker took Chan to a snack bar in Chiba prefecture; the mama was a Thai woman and her husband was a Japanese man with Yakuza connections. Chan said that the mama was very strict. "Although I knew about the debt before I left," she explained, "I was lied to about the conditions and the fact that I would have to pay extra for everything and have it added to my debt."
Chan was housed in an apartment with three other Thai women. The mama, who lived in the same building, confiscated Chan's passport and return plane ticket to Thailand. Every night the women had to be ready for the van that came to pick them up at 7 p.m., and then they worked until 2 a.m. They were expected to help with the running of the snack bar, entertaining guests and serving clients, and they were not given any days off. "We weren't exactly forced to take clients, but we were pressured and if we didn't cooperate our life could be made very difficult.
Several practices similar to slavery are elaborated under the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery. This convention condemns debt bondage, serfdom, compulsory marriage, and the pledge of a child's labor to another person by the child's guardian as institutions and practices similar to slavery. According the convention, "A person of servile status" means a person in the condition or status resulting from any of the following practices:
1. Debt bondage, that is to say, the status or condition arising from a pledge by a debtor of his personal services or of those of a person under his control as security for a debt, if the value of those services as reasonably assessed is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or the length and nature of those services are not respectively limited and defined;
2. Serfdom, that is to say, the condition or status of a tenant who is by law, custom or agreement bound to live and labor on land belonging to another person and to render some determinate service to such other person, whether for reward or not, and is not free to change his status;
3. Any institution or practice whereby:
• A woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian, family or any other person or group; or
• The husband of a woman, his family, or his clan, has the right to transfer her to another person for value received or otherwise; or
• A woman on the death of her husband is liable to be inherited by another person;
4. Any institution or practice whereby a child or young person under the age of 18 years, is delivered by either or both of his natural parents or by his guardian to another person, whether for reward or not, with a view to the exploitation of the child or young person or of his labour.
Trafficking, debt bondage, forced labor, and other abuses commonly suffered by women during their migration from Thailand to Malaysia, and their subsequent employment in Malaysia, constitute violations of these women's human rights. These rights are enumerated in international conventions that Malaysia and Thailand have acceded to or ratified, thereby committing their governments to take the steps necessary to uphold these rights and to provide redress when violations occur. By allowing perpetrators to exploit migrant women with virtual impunity – and by failing to check corruption among government officials who facilitate these crimes – the Malaysian and Thai governments fail to live up to their international obligations and exacerbate women's vulnerability to abuse.
To the extent that the failure to protect the human rights of migrant women from Thailand reflects discrimination on the basis of gender, race, nationality and/or immigration status, it also amounts to a violation of the prohibition of discrimination in the protection of human rights, as established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Human Rights Committee, the international treaty body responsible for monitoring states' compliance with the ICCPR, has made it clear that human rights apply regardless of nationality or statelessness, and that states have a responsibility to guarantee basic human rights equally for both citizens and aliens.
Women's right to equal enjoyment of human rights has been reaffirmed by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Women's Convention). When governments fail to effectively prevent or respond to abuses – as is true in the case of trafficking in women from Thailand to Malaysia – it constitutes a violation of specific obligations that the states have undertaken under the terms of that convention. Finally, many of the abuses documented in this report are prohibited under Malaysian and Thai domestic legislation, and governments have an obligation to exercise due diligence in enforcing their laws, providing all persons with equal protection under the law and equal access to legal remedies for violations.
Nuch did not keep track of her debt. The mama bought her clothing, birth control pills, and medicine when she was sick, and added these expenses to her debt, but did not tell Nuch how much was added. After two months, the mama told Nuch she had paid off 20 bai (US$1600). Around that time, Nuch went out one day with a male Thai acquaintance. When she returned, the mama told her to get her bags packed. The same Japanese man that had picked Nuch up at the hotel in Tokyo and then eventually taken her to this snack bar, came to get her and brought her to Tokyo to see Ice.
When I first got to the apartment a Thai man slapped my face and said 'they told you not to meet other Thai.' Then Ice took me into another room. There Ice beat me, mostly by kicking me everywhere, while I sat in a chair. Ice beat me for over an hour saying 'I told you not to speak to any Thai.'
I couldn't fight back because there were many men outside the room. When Ice finished she took a visa photo of me and forced me to write a contract. I said I couldn't write, but Ice forced me to write the contract by telling me each letter in Thai. I was forced to write that 'if I try to escape again, I agree to be killed,' and then Ice forced me to sign it. Then Ice photocopied it and said she would give a copy to the next mama I was sent to work for. Ice then asked me, 'do you want to go into a brothel where you'll never come out or pay back a debt of 700 bai (US$55000). I didn't know what a brothel was, but it didn't sound good so I agreed to having my original debt doubled.
Ice sent Nuch to work at another snack bar, where she worked for the next seven months. This time she kept better track of how much she earned.
"I had to take all the clients that were introduced to me and was never given a day off. I was given birth control and charged US$8 per month. The only money I ever had was the tip money I saved. With the tip money, I had to buy my own food, except for rice, with the other women."
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The trafficking of women from Thailand to Malaysia involves a wide range of actors: the initial recruiter who contacts the women; the agent in Thailand who pays the recruiter, arranges travel documents, and holds the women until they are ready to leave; the escorts who accompany the women to Malaysia, often via other countries such as Singapore, Malaysia or South Korea; the brokers who meet the women upon their arrival and pay the agent for delivering them; and the procurers who run the sex establishments and pay large sums of money to the brokers for the acquisition of the women. In some cases, these networks also rely on the cooperation of government officials who prepare false documents and/or turn a blind eye to violations, apparently in return for bribes.
The strong demand for Thai women's labor in Malaysia, coupled with restrictive immigration policies, has provided an ideal environment for these networks to flourish. Women who wish to migrate from Thailand to Malaysia for work are rarely able to make the arrangements themselves and instead rely on intermediaries to obtain the necessary travel papers, negotiate border controls, and arrange their job placement. Research by Women organisation and others indicates that, in most cases, these intermediaries engage in serious human rights abuses, and women who agree to migrate for lucrative employment opportunities find themselves trafficked into compulsory labor.
Trafficking networks use deception, the threat and use of physical force, and other forms of coercion to place women from Thailand into debt bondage employment in Malaysia. The agents and brokers derive enormous profits by "selling" the women for amounts exponentially greater than the costs they have incurred, and this "price" becomes the basis of a woman's debt, which she must repay through months of grueling unpaid labor.
Agents regularly misrepresented the conditions under which women would work upon their arrival in Malaysia, giving false or misleading information about crucial issues, such as the type of work they would do, the range of choice they would have, the amount of money they would owe, and the amount of money they would earn. Agents failed to explain the legal implications of the women's travel and employment as well as the highly controlled circumstances under which they would be forced to repay their "debt." Furthermore, once a woman agreed to go to Malaysia, and the agent began to make arrangements, women lost the ability to safely change their decision or negotiate the terms of their agreement.
Women were accompanied on their flights to Malaysia by escorts who were responsible for delivering the women to brokers, or the brokers' associates, in Malaysia.
Most of the interviewees reported that their escorts were Thai men, though others were escorted by women and/or non-Thais, and in some cases the escorts changed as the women traveled through other countries on their way to Malaysia.
Most of the women we talked to met the escort for the first time in the airport or as they were boarding the airplane; none of the women we interviewed saw their escorts again after they were delivered to brokers in Malaysia.
The escorts facilitated the women's departures from Thailand and entry into Malaysia, often via third countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore, or South Korea.
In some instances, escorts contacted agents in transiting countries to change passports or to collect or deliver other women. The escorts held the women's travel documents, tickets, and money during the trip. None of the women interviewed by Women organisation were allowed to carry their own passports except briefly when passing through immigration, after which they were immediately taken from them again by the escort. And those women who stopped in other countries along the way reported that they were strictly guarded at all times.
Janya was twenty years old in August 1991 when she was sent by an agent in Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to meet a Malaysian woman who escorted her to Malaysia. "I entered Malaysia through Narita airport. I was carrying a Singaporean passport with a Malaysian-Chinese name on it and my photograph. I came with the Malaysian woman and her five year old daughter. I was a little worried because the passport was fake, but the Malaysian woman told me I didn't have to say anything.
She told me to just practice writing my new name and said that she would take care of everything at customs. Nothing happened at customs; I got through easily."
Expectations and understanding of the process of recruitment and job placement, and of the work they would be doing in Malaysia, differed greatly among the women we interviewed:
At age twenty-three, when Bun was asked to go to Malaysia, she was heavily in debt and agreed to go in order to pay back her debt and make some additional money. But when she arrived in Malaysia, she found that she had been misled about the conditions and financial arrangements of her employment. "I left for Malaysia in August 1994 with the agreement that I could either work in a restaurant or as a prostitute as I wished... The day after I arrived, I was ordered to strip dance on a table at a snack bar and play stripping games with the customers." In addition, Bun found herself saddled with an outrageous and unexpected "debt." "I didn't know I was going to be in debt US$39,000. I only knew that I would have to work for free for two or three months."
Faa, who worked at a sewing shop in Udon Thani province before going to Malaysia, explained to Women organisation that she knew she was going to work as a sex worker, but not that she would have to work off a debt. At nineteen, she arrived in Malaysia to find that she had to work every day for the next five months without compensation as she struggled to pay the money she "owed."
The Thai man who recruited Phan to work in Malaysia told her that she would have to pay off a debt of 100,000 baht (US$4,000) and that it would take her about two or three months to do so. "I said I wanted to go, but I didn't have any documents. They said, 'no problem,' they could arrange all the documents. I saw so many other girls going to Malaysia, so I agreed." Later, when Phan arrived in Malaysia, she found that her debt was more than seven times the amount to which she had agreed.
In the interviews Women organisation conducted, the majority of the women indicated that they knew they would be working as sex workers in Malaysia, and some had already worked in this industry in Thailand. Others were promised jobs as waitresses or factory workers, though in almost all cases they were placed into the sex industry when they arrived. Saalaa found that of the 170 Thai women who stayed at the shelter from 1992 to 1995, 158 had worked as indebted sex workers in Malaysian snack bars. And while a majority of these women knew that they would be working in restaurants or bars with at least the option to perform sex work, only a quarter of the women understood that they would have to sell sexual services, and a third expected work outside of the entertainment industry altogether.
Siriporn Skrobanek, Executive Secretary of the Foundation for Women (FFW) in Thailand, told Women organisation that according to FFW's research, when women from Thailand first began migrating to Malaysia in the late 1980s, only about ten percent of the women knew they were going into sex work.
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