FOLLOWING the arrest of 17 members of of a global trafficking operation involving hundreds of Thai women, prosecutors in the U.S. are seeking more cooperation from the Thai government to expand their investigations.
12 Thai nationals and five Americans were charged this week with transporting the women from Thailand to the U.S. to be sold into a sex ring.
U.S. assistant attorney Laura Provinzio said during a radio broadcast on U.S. Public Radio: “We hope to work with police in Thailand to identify additional people involved in the trafficking and more of the victims.”
An indictment unsealed by Andrew Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, revealed other charges including sex trafficking, forced labor, money laundering, and visa fraud, reports the Bangkok Post. The women were reportedly placed in several cities around the U.S. to work off “debt bondages” of up to US$60,000 (2 million baht).
Luger described the organization as “highly sophisticated” that promised Thai women a shot at having the “American dream” but instead forced them into modern day sex slavery.
According to CNN, the Department of Justice issued a statement that said: “Once in the United States, victims were allegedly placed in houses of prostitution, where they were forced to work long hours – often all day, every day.
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“The women were not allowed to leave the prostitution houses unless accompanied by a member of the criminal organization.”
Thatree Chauvachata, director of the Protection of Thai Nationals Abroad Division – under Thailand’s Foreign Ministry – told the Bangkok Post that help centers were being set up at all Thai consulates in the U.S.
He added that they were seeking help from Thai consulate officials to assist in “basic investigations”.
The revelations come just months after Thailand was elevated in the U.S. State Department’s human trafficking report. Thailand spent two years prior on the list of worst-rated countries, and the report determined that there is still a significant trafficking problem in the country’s widespread commercial sex industry.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to CCN, that Thailand has a zero tolerance policy towards human trafficking, and is ready to cooperate with the U.S. over this matter.