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Bangkok Post May 17, 1998 


              Of flesh and blood 

              FORCED PROSTITUTION: One family
              recounts a journey into hell and back. 

              SURAT JINAKUL 

              Last July, Mrs Chandee (not her real name) was awakened by
              the telephone in her living room. At first, her heart was
              overwhelmed with joy to receive a call from one of her three
              daughters, all of whom had been working in Ma laysia for over a

              But her joy soon turned to sorrow upon hearing her daughter's
              trem bling voice describe the unthinkable.

              It was a shock, to say the least. In fact, the news almost killed

              "I have been forced into prostitution," her daughter whispered be
              tween sobs. "I've been locked up in a room. I'm with a customer
              right now." Mrs Chandee was reduced to tears; she felt dizzy
              and couldn't speak.

              The last thing Mrs Chandee heard - before she passed out - was
              her daughter tearfully informing her that her other two daughters
              had fallen into the same predicament: "They have also been
              forced to sell themselves."

              The dream: The three sisters left their home in Nong Khai
              province last June, with Mrs Chandee's per mission, to work in a
              restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

              The sisters, who also love to sing, were told by a job broker
              that, if they proved to be talented singers, they could earn up to
              30,000 baht a month performing there.

              Why did the sisters and Mrs Chan dee so readily believe the
              promises of the broker?

              "We had known him for some time," Mrs Chandee told Crime
              Sup pression Division (CSD) officers. "I felt that we could trust

              The job broker had rented a house next door to theirs, she
              explained. He was friendly and earned the trust of those in the
              neighbourhood. When he talked to the girls about job opportu
              nities in Malaysia, they were eager, as most young women in the
              small town where they lived found it diffi cult to find work. 

              "Why don't you come with me just to have a look at where you'd
              be working?" the man told the girls. "If you don't like it, you can
              always re turn home."

              He also told them that they could enjoy sight-seeing throughout
              the southern provinces on their way to Malaysia. And everything
              would be paid for: Transportation, hotel rooms and food.

              To the girls, the offer sounded like a dream vacation, a deal
              almost too good to be true.

              The nightmare: Mrs Chandee saw her girls and the neighbour
              off at the local bus terminal. That was the last she saw of them
              until the phone rang that fateful night.

              Fortunately, the tragic story of Mrs Chandee's three daughters
              reached the CSD and caught the attention of Mrs Praveena
              Hongsakul, the Bang kok MP who is well-respected for her
              devotion to social causes. 

              This led to the cooperation be tween Malaysian and Thai authori
              ties which eventually allowed the girls to escape from their "living

              The rescue: In the broad daylight of July 23, 1997, about 50
              Malaysian po licemen, accompanied by a few Thai officials,
              broke into the downtown Namapaya Restaurant.

              The group, headed by Kuala Lum pur police chief Dato Baki,
              found 35 girls - including Mrs Chandee's daughters - locked up
              behind bars on the third floor of the building.

              The story: The three sisters told Sun day Perspective of their
              ordeal since leaving their mother and their hometown.

              They admitted that they had ac cepted the job offers from the
              man despite the fact that they didn't really want to work.

              "I just wanted to travel around," one said.

              From the Nong Khai bus terminal, they spent one night in Haad
              Yai. After a few days they travelled to the Malaysian border,
              somewhere out side of Sadao. Here they joined other girls who
              were also on the way to work in Malaysia.

              Just after their arrival at the bor der several friends of the broker
              joined them. They crossed into Ma laysia, walking quickly
              through the remote area. 

              Late in the afternoon they arrived in Kuala Lumpur by road.
              They were brought to the Namapaya Restau rant, where their
              freedom ended and they became sex slaves.

              When they refused to entertain cus tomers, they were beaten, the
              girls said. When the customers com plained, they were punished.

              The telephone: "I always thought about trying to escape, but
              there was nothing I could do. I was kept locked in a room," one
              of the girls told police after they were rescued. 

              "However, one night early in July last year, I decided to tell one
              of the customers - in the little English I knew - that I wanted to
              call home on his mobile phone."

              She wasn't sure if the customer un derstood why she needed to
              make a call, but he allowed her to use his phone. She recounted
              how her mother cried and how she passed out while she was

              Thirty-two other girls were rescued the same day. Each had a
              different story to tell. All recounted days of being locked up in a
              tiny space, of being fed only "junk food" and of brutal beatings.

              Is it over? Now that the girls are back at home, the hellish
              memories are beginning to fade. Still, nobody knows how many
              more unofficial crossings have brought impression able girls
              across the border, or how many more locked rooms harbour
              cowed souls longing for home and family.


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Last Modified: Sun, May 17, 1998