human trafficking thailand

Human Trafficking in Thailand: History, Stats & Secrets

Human trafficking has been a topic of concern long before the Vietnamese war. Thai officials have yet to oversee rules to combat Thailand’s sex trafficking and the dangerous lies hidden amongst its counterparts. Thai sex slavery is a billion-dollar money-making machine, paving its way into villages; most affected are kids as young as 18 from poverty-filled villages.

With a long history, human trafficking is impossible to end in one go. From connections to the Uzbeks, the Chinese mafia, and the Middle East, child brothels and the red light district are only surface-level institutions of the mastermind. This “people moving business” is a powerhouse for money and crime.

Getting into a discussion on human trafficking is rooted in understanding the history of Thailand and its neighboring countries. This article will also refer to investigations, including the interviewing of victims and their search for the culprits behind such crimes.

Why Does Human Trafficking Happen in Thailand?

Human trafficking is a significant problem throughout Asia. Some fact to know about human trafficking is that every minute, a woman or child is trafficked.

According to a study by the London School of Economics in 2015, a protocol exists to suppress. In 2007, it was estimated that as many as 60,000 prostitutes were under 18. (Source)

Trafficking is considered as:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force…..for the purpose of exploitation”

United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

With BBC, an interview from 2007 resurfaced, showing the prominence of why trafficking is at large in a country like Thailand.

Once a human trafficker, a woman describes her experience of being taken as a child. She was later on asked to collect or traffic underage boys. Her job included kidnapping boys from 11 to 13 and locking them up in the bar where she worked.

If nobody in the city seemed desirable, she would take her van to the nearby village, where finding young, innocent children were more accessible. As brainwashed as one might be from her horrific experiences, she now sees value in her job.

She stated, “he has got a much better life with me than he ever had at home or on the street,” as she described her reasons behind trafficking a young boy from Cambodia to Bangkok.

The main issue behind trafficking in Thailand lies in poverty. The poor are weak and open-minded to any job, including the sex industry. Young girls from villages go to major cities such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok to make sufficient money to support their families back home. 

History of Human Trafficking in Thailand

Thailand’s human trafficking trade – BBC News (Source)

BBC reports that Thailand’s prostitution and sex slavery return to its history with neighboring countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar.

Jonathan, Head of BBC, spent six months investigating the trafficking of humans in Thailand. He found that thousands of migrants were stranded in boats in the Andaman Sea. Although this was a topic well-known by the Thai government, more work was required to halt the sinister trade of people.

In 2015, the decision of Thailand to move against smugglers left hundreds at sea. For years, the trafficking scene has only grown at the borders. The people most affected are the Rohingya people.

Rohingya refers to communities of Muslims from the Rakhine state in Myanmar and neighborhoods in Bangladesh. Traffickers hold young men and women, as well as children, hostage until their families can pay them out. For the past few years, people have been digging out graves of the remains of their loved ones, not knowing how they have passed. 

Six months prior, a rescue team saved Bangladeshi men from traffickers who had built a secret trade in Southern Thailand. The traffickers took a 16-year-old boy to a camp with 600 others, where people were beaten, raped, and killed.

Younger girls who had escaped from Malaysia pleased people to understand that it was better to stay in their homelands than to come to Thailand, where you would be dumped in human cargo swamps.

Secrets Behind Human Trafficking 

The People Moving Business: Human Trafficking & Drugs in Thailand (Source)

Thairish times on Youtube also detailed the involvement of young foreign teachers in the Thai sex trade and child prostitution.

Paul Wallis, an American resident, returned to the channel to discuss his participation in an operation to move people from Thailand to other parts of the world in the early 90s. 

Having spent 36 years in the country, he had traveled tremendously, often getting himself into strange situations. He termed human trafficking and prostitution in Thailand as a “people moving business.”

While applying for an English teacher position, he could quickly secure his co-workers, often giving off suspicious energy. Mac, a Canadian/British worker, expressed to Paul that he had traveled all over the past few years, including Denmark, Rio, and Toronto, from his business of taking Thai people to other countries.

If a Thai girl wanted to work abroad and did not know how, she would contact Mac’s people, and they would set up specific terms for her to go out. 

Although these people knew they were getting into the sex industry, they could never understand how extreme and dangerous it could become.

Paul got into the business later as he was asked to help couples pass the visa test at the British embassy. He expressed further stories of Mac’s agenda of political asylum, which allowed him to move Thai families abroad illegally for years. Little did Paul know, this was just the beginning of human trafficking tactics nationwide. (Source)

Sex Trafficking in Thailand Statistics

The age of consent for sexual acts in Thailand is 15 years old. If someone were to have sex with anyone under that age, they could be punished by law, whether or not the underaged party had consented. 

Under these laws, having sexual acts with a minor is illegal and could have you facing tremendous consequences. Not long after the 1980s demand for sex in rural villages, the Thai Law Forum discussed how the “recruiting of young woman girls became industrialized.”

Girls were paid for honest work, yet often later deceived by modern-day slavery. (Source)

In Thailand today, 610,000 people are victims of modern-day slavery. The Global Slavery Index states that one in 113 of the 49 million population is the prey of human trafficking as of 2018.

Since the rise of human trafficking, the government has tried eliminating strategies that could worsen the tactics. This involves training officials in victim identification and using interviews to allow victims a safe environment to report information.

Moreover, the government is trying to raise awareness of child trafficking and modern-day slavery on social media platforms, TV, the newspaper, and radio. People can report problems to the public more quickly. 

The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) was also developed in Thailand so that locals could report their cases anonymously in 12 different languages.

Additionally, the government provides help through shelters and legal aid for victims of human trafficking. USAID and ILO are prominent organizations working to remove barriers and identify victims. 


Besides being known as The Land of the Smiles, Thailand is worldly recognized for its sex tourism industry.

Human trafficking has become a local concern amongst locals and the government, with more cases increasing. As the government continues tackling a historical problem, organizations, NGOs, and news channels are working to find culprits and give victims a voice to raise their concerns globally.


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