Japan gets ticketed for trafficking in Thai teens

July 23, 2005

Japan has finally started cracking down on the trafficking of foreign sex slaves, but those in the know say the recent first arrests for selling foreign girls into prostitution in this country are only the tip of the iceberg, according to Asahi Geino.

Thai nightclub hostess Phinkaew Krissanee and elderly Japanese businessman Kiyoshi Shiratori were arrested early this month after, police say, the 65-year-old resident of the Tokyo suburb of Hino paid 2.3 million yen to "purchase" from the Thai woman a 13-year-old Thai girl he is accused of forcing into sexual slavery.

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Krissanee has apparently told the police she has already brokered about 10 deals that turned pre-pubescent compatriots into sex slaves in various places across Japan.

Ryu Chakuma, head of STA Namida no Wakachiai Asia, an NGO devoted to combating human rights abuses in the region, says there's nothing new about the conditions leading to the arrests.

"Thai girls have been sold into prostitution in Japan for more than 20 years. It took too long to make these arrests," he tells Asahi Geino.

Chakuma says the majority of the Thai girls who end up as slaves in Japan come from the country's poorer northern regions, as, indeed, the girl involved in the recent arrests had done.

"Parts of northern Thailand, Myanmar and Laos form what is called the Golden Triangle. It used to be one of the biggest drug-producing areas on earth. The area is largely inhabited by mountain tribes, which are said to be the suppliers of young girls sold into prostitution in a town called Mae Sai," he says.

Chakuma says impoverished families travel all the way from Myanmar to Mae Sai to sell off their daughters.

"Some mountainous tribes in Myanmar are still fairly primitive. Brokers target these families and buy their daughters. You can buy a little girl of about 10 for around 20,000 Baht, or 56,000 yen," he tells Asahi Geino. "Brokers build houses for the girls' parents, then pay for the girls with wads of cash. The girls are then kept locked away in sheds. At one restaurant I visited, they had girls of about 12 or 13 looking after some customers at a karaoke bar. Some of these girls were selling their bodies, too."

A Japanese journalist in Thailand concurs with Chakuma.

"Thai authorities have been cracking down on drugs. Farmers have stopped producing drugs and turned back to crops. This hasn't worked too well in some mountainous areas, though, and cities like Chiang Mai have developed slums filled with those from mountain tribes. Lots of these people are selling their daughters because they need the money," the hack tells Asahi Geino. "These traffickers target girls from light-skinned tribes because they know they're the types that the Japanese will like."

Chakuma tells the weekly it's not uncommon for prominent members of Thai communities to be involved in human trafficking deals.

"In one place I saw, a Thai Buddhist priest was acting as the agent. He'd look for cute little girls in the area and convince her parents to sell her. The Thai police won't go after Buddhist priests," he says. "There are also cases where village chiefs or mayors have brokered deals."

Thai women working as hostesses in Japan are frequently the conduits for sales of Thai girls sold into sexual slavery in this country, according to the men's weekly.

"Japanese brokers used to go to Thailand and select little girls to buy for themselves, but it's become harder for Japanese to go there recently," the Thai-based journalist says. "Nearly all the groundwork is being done by Thais, from buying the girls and sending them to Japan."

A dating club operator in Tokyo's red light district of Kabukicho says Thai slaves are uncommon in Japan's big cities.

"In Kabukicho, most of the slaves are Korean or Chinese women," he tells Asahi Geino. "Cops are really strict when it comes to dealing with Thais. Those who had been in Tokyo have since moved on to surrounding prefectures like Ibaraki, Gunma or Tochigi. All the trafficking in Thai girls is now going on in the countryside."

Copyright 1999-2005, Mainchi Daily.  All rights reserved.  Ryann Connell is a Staff Writer and Senoir Desk Editor for the Mainchi Daily News. No content may be reproduced in whole or part without written permission.  Please contact us via the link below for re-print and syndication policies.


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