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O.U.R. Rescue Operations

Collaboration: Operation Handshake

Collaboration: Operation Handshake

 

O.U.R. Funds a Three-Day Trip to Strengthen the Fight Against Trafficking in both Thailand and Cambodia.

Last week, the O.U.R. Southeast Asia Team had the opportunity to attend Operation Handshake, a three-day conference in Cambodia. The purpose of this operation was to bring members of the Children, Women and Families Protection Center & Anti-Human Trafficking of Provincial Police Region 2, the Cambodian Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police, an officer from the Thailand Internet Crime Against Children (T.I.C.A.C.) and members from Agape International Missions (A.I.M.) together to exchange information on combating human trafficking.

Funded by O.U.R., this meeting was planned to strengthen relationships between all groups involved, consequently strengthening the fight against trafficking in both Thailand and Cambodia.

Day 1: Royal Thai Police Tour Cambodia Sites

 

On the first day, the various groups traveled to Cambodia from Thailand. There were no meetings scheduled for this travel day so Thai police members toured the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Killing Fields. The police mentioned that this was very informative as to how Cambodia has been recovering from the genocide. It gave them a better understanding of what Cambodians have gone through and to better approach human trafficking cases in Thailand involving Cambodians. They all felt that these tours were important to understand the history, culture and economy of Cambodia and what has brought about some of the human trafficking issues.

 

Day 2: Visiting A.I.M.’s Aftercare Centers

 

The police discussed ways to collaborate on human trafficking cases as well as exchanged contact information so they could have a direct line to each other. They talked about the different types of cases they both work on and see in the field, and discussed ways they have worked with NGOs like O.U.R. and AIM in investigating those cases. They also discussed some of the areas and regions that are target and trouble areas for trafficking. This was the first time many of the police officers had met either a Cambodian or a Thai police officer even though they often work in neighboring jurisdictions across the border.

 

Later that day, A.I.M. took members of the Royal Thai Police and O.U.R. to visit A.I.M.’s programs, schools, shelters, and work centers. They also took them to the A.I.M. SWAT office to show the Thai police how they work hand and hand with Cambodian police on human trafficking cases. A.I.M. has a good relationship with the police – members of the Cambodian Police are on A.I.M. SWAT staff. The Thai police had many questions for A.I.M. from how they conduct investigations, if they could assist with investigations in Thailand as well as the programs, shelters and work centers that A.I.M. has. This gave them many ideas to take back to Thailand and try to set up similar systems.

 

 

 

Day 3: A Collaborative Success

 

O.U.R. and the Thai police met to conduct an After Action Review of the trip and discuss the successes. They were also able to discuss ongoing O.U.R. cases in Thailand, which gave the police the opportunity to give specifics about what they need in order to support the rescues and arrests in Thailand. Pol. Col. Greetha Tankanarat, Deputy Commander of Singburi Provincial Police, says the events from this trip met his expectations,

“We’ve had the opportunity to get a better understanding about this country and the type of work that NGOs and police have done here. More importantly was the connection between the two countries and police agencies that will hopefully bring better cooperation to fight human trafficking.”

 

Overall the operation and trip was a huge success. Connections were made between the Cambodian and Thai police to assist each other in combating human trafficking violations and to rescue victims in need. The bridge to have O.U.R. and A.I.M. assist both police agencies was established and strengthened as well as the partnerships with each other. Continued collaboration has been agreed upon and future meetings across the borders have been established.

 


 

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O.U.R.’s partner Agape International Missions (A.I.M.) does a lot of work in Cambodia to save victims of trafficking and help them through the recovery process. Read more about their efforts here.

 

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OPERATION HAPPY KHLOY

OPERATION HAPPY KHLOY

A Successful Massage Parlor Raid Uncovered a Brothel in Cambodia

Last month, a successful rescue mission resulted in six rescues and one arrest in Cambodia. Officers raided a massage parlor in central Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The “massage parlor” was just an alias – it was actually an active brothel behind closed doors.

Makeshift bedrooms inside the brothel

Police enter one of the makeshift bedrooms to search for evidence

This mission’s success was due to the efforts of the Phnom Penh Department of the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police (AHTJPP) with support from Agape International Mission (AIM) SWAT officers.

On the night of the rescue, the officers found out that this brothel had been regularly selling minors. Although she denied it, the manager of the massage parlor was profiting from these sales. She has now been charged with child sex trafficking.

Soon after the rescue, the survivors were brought to wonderful AIM aftercare homes to begin their healing process. They have also been provided with free legal counsel for the court process thanks to the AIM legal team’s generosity.

Training by O.U.R. Jump Team Members with the AHTJPP and AIM SWAT

We are grateful for these teams’ efforts in rescuing and rehabilitating these survivors, and for putting another trafficker behind bars.

 


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O.U.R.’s partner Agape International Missions (AIM) does a lot of work in Cambodia to save victims of trafficking. Operation Sun Bear was another operation in Phnom Penh that resulted in three rescues and two arrests. Read the full story here.

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OPERATION BLACK PANGOLIN

OPERATION BLACK PANGOLIN

Operation Underground Railroad and Indian Rescue Mission (IRM) have successfully collaborated on another rescue operation that occurred on May 23rd in Kolhapur, a suburb of Mumbai, India.

A week before the operation took place, an operator received a tip of a massage parlor that was forcing girls to have sex with customers after giving a massage to clients. IRM investigators entered the massage parlor to confirm the information and see how much it would cost for each girl for one night. The owner of the parlor said that he charges 5,000 Rupees ($80) for one night with one girl.

The IRM contacted Bhagyashree, an IPS officer at the Kolhapur Police Department, who agreed to assist with the operation. On the day of the rescue operation, the police staged around the corner while investigators entered the massage parlor. Once the parlor owner made the deal with the investigators for 10,000 Rupees ($160) for two girls, the police came in and raided the parlor.

The owner of the massage parlor was arrested and will be tried in the Kolhapur Court.

The five survivors were taken to a local shelter following medical examinations, where they will begin the healing process and a new start to their lives.


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OPERATION KANHA TIGER

OPERATION KANHA TIGER

Operation Underground Railroad and Indian Rescue Mission (IRM) conducted a successful rescue operation in Kolhapur, a suburb of Mumbai, India, on May 22nd.

Operators from IRM had been investigating many hotels in a red light district area that were suspected of forcing women to have sex with guests. They received a tip about a specific hotel, so IRM investigators went to confirm this intel and see how much it would cost for each girl per night. On both occasions when they inquired about prices, approximately 8-9 handlers or pimps offered them girls.

The girls were being held at an off-site location at a house and could not leave that location unless ordered. Once ordered and paid for by a customer, the girl would be brought to the hotel.

The IRM investigators contacted Bhagyashree at the Kolhapur Police Department along with prosecutors from the Kolhapur court.

The police were staged around the corner from the hotel as the investigators entered the hotel and asked if they could purchase three girls. Once the investigators agreed to pay, the police raided the hotel. The team then went to the house to rescue the remaining girls and arrest the other traffickers.

Nine traffickers were arrested and jailed. They will be tried in the Kolhapur Court.

After medical examinations, the six survivors were able to begin the recovery process at a local shelter.


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CHILD SEX SLAVES RESCUED BY ANTI-TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION WITH PARTNERS IN INDIA

CHILD SEX SLAVES RESCUED BY ANTI-TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION WITH PARTNERS IN INDIA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JUNE 9, 2017

**MEDIA ADVISORY**

CHILD SEX SLAVES RESCUED BY ANTI-TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION WITH PARTNERS IN INDIA

Operation Underground Railroad partners with Indian counterparts to bring down child sex trafficking ring

Washington, D.C. – U.S.-based anti-human trafficking organization Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) collaborated with local partners and law enforcement to rescue four children from being sold as sex slaves in Mumbai, India. The sting operation concluded with the arrest of four traffickers who are set to be charged in the local Sewri Court. After being medically cleared by a local hospital, the girls were brought to a shelter where they can begin their rehabilitation and restart their lives away from slavery.

Local partner Indian Rescue Mission (IRM) collaborated with O.U.R. upon receiving information that a male pimp was marketing a young girl’s virginity for 30,000 rupees ($450). Working alongside local police, the undercover team arranged for the traffickers to bring four girls to a hotel under the premise that they would be sold as prostitutes. Upon exchanging money, local police swarmed the hotel, arresting the four traffickers which included the hotel owner. Thanks to coordinated efforts of all parties involved, the four victims can work towards putting their pasts behind them and transitioning into leading a normal life. “It’s operations like these that bring us one step closer to eradicating this modern day slavery around the world,” said O.U.R. CEO Tim Ballard. “By giving local law enforcement the capacity to take down traffickers, we are empowering them to take a leading role in this fight and strengthening their ability to stop trafficking in their communities.” This year alone O.U.R. and IRM have partnered on four operations throughout India which have resulted in 16 rescued children and 18 arrested traffickers traffickers.

Operation Underground Railroad is registered 501(c)3 organization. Bringing together former CIA, Navy SEALs, and Special Ops operatives, O.U.R. partners with local law enforcement agencies around the world to save children from this modern day slavery. Founded by CEO Tim Ballard in 2013, O.U.R. has rescued more than 650 victims and helped arrest over 275 traffickers worldwide.

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OPERATION EASTER

OPERATION EASTER

Operation Underground Railroad and Indian Rescue Mission (IRM) have successfully collaborated on a rescue operation that occurred in a suburb of Mumbai, India over Easter weekend.

An operator from IRM received information the week prior of a male pimp in Mulund city offering a virgin. Undercover investigators contacted the trafficker who showed them a picture of the girl, offering to sell her virginity for 30,000 rupees ($450).

The following weekend, the operator contacted Mr. Sachin Patil, Deputy Commissioner of Police, who agreed to assist with the rescue operation. Investigators asked if the traffickers could bring more girls, to which they agreed, and brought them to a hotel.

When jump team members met with the traffickers to exchange money for the girls, the police team swooped into the hotel. Four traffickers were arrested, including the hotel owner.

They will be tried in the Sewri Court.

The four survivors were taken to a local shelter following medical examinations, where they can begin their rehabilitation and a new beginning.

mumbai traffickers arrested

mumbai traffickers arrested


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AN INSIDE LOOK BEHIND THE LATEST RESCUE IN SOUTH AMERICA

AN INSIDE LOOK BEHIND THE LATEST RESCUE IN SOUTH AMERICA

Tim Ballard, founder of Operation Underground Railroad, along with SVP of Rescue & Recovery Matt Osborne, gave Glenn Beck some “behind-the-scenes” details today about the latest rescue operation in South America, Operation Chiquitos – III.

It was definitely a more unique situation than Matt’s team normally expects.

Thanks to the great relationship O.U.R. has with the federal government, the ops team was given the green light to send operators to find intel in the outskirts of the country. Three men went undercover on a fishing cruise about two months beforehand, where by word of mouth they learned of a high school physical education teacher who was grooming and pimping out his students at his weekend barbecues.

On the day of the operation, Tim asked that a Prayer Request be sent out to our social media platforms, in hopes that Matt and his team may have success.

Thankfully, they pulled through with rescuing 9 victims and arresting 3 traffickers.

Aftercare was immediately on the ground with what would be the equivalent to the country’s Child Protection Services. Depending on local jurisdiction, our Aftercare team usually has just a short time with survivors. In this case, they were able to stay days after to assist local officials and give the parents anti-trafficking training.

Here’s an exclusive inside look at the conversation leading up to the successful rescue:

My cell phone rang. It was Tim.

“We need to pray for Osborne and his team– Right now.”

“He ok?”

“He and his team are going undercover shortly; there are a few moving parts that are complicating things. Everything should be fine, but he’s asked for us to pray, that’s all.”

“Will do.”

“Hey, why don’t you make a meme and post it on our social channels? Let’s send this out to our Abolitionists and for anyone who wants to join in with us.”

“On it.”

People pray for us all the time, but we have never publicly requested prayers.  Operation Underground Railroad is a non-denominational organization, but it is no secret that several members of our team are spiritual in their own ways.

If you saw the documentary made about O.U.R. called “The Abolitionists”, you would have seen Tim praying before operations and Batman talking about his personal relationship with God. Regardless of your own beliefs or how you do it, we always welcome prayers, positive thoughts or energy.  

In the near future we hope to create an opt-in list through our website for anyone who would like to pray for our team. When Operators and Aftercare specialists are facing unique challenges, we will pass on their requests with a short explanation of what specifically to prayer for.

On the morning of April 19th, we asked our Abolitionists on Facebook and Instagram to pray for the children who were hours from potentially being rescued by Osborne and his team.

5,000 miles away, Osborne reported back 2 hours after our prayer request went out that the Op was a success.

  • 9 children rescued.
  • 3 traffickers were arrested by law enforcement.
  • One of the traffickers was a high school P.E. teacher who has been grooming and selling his students during weekend backyard BBQs.

As the operation was coming to an end, Osborne called me back.

“I am just finishing the last bits of detail for my Operational Report.”  – A report that would be filed and used during the upcoming hearing against the traffickers.

“I heard the rescue went down successfully! And everyone is heading home safely?”

Relief reverberated through the phone with Osborne’s reply, “Yes, we were definitely blessed.”  

“That’s why I called you. We sent a prayer request on Facebook and Instagram to pray for your Op. We had a huge response. There were over 2,000 people praying while you guys were rescuing. I want to report back, on one or two miracles you witnessed. Got anything?”

“Yes, a few things. But one in particular: The prosecutor of the small town where we were operating who was directing this child trafficking case was initially hesitant to allow our Aftercare team to access the rescue site and have any contact with the girls. Through a series of small decisions and events, we found out that the Aftercare specialist we brought down with us to assist Jessica knew the prosecutor!”

“Go on…”

“Several years ago the two of them had participated in an exchange program under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State intended to foster cooperation on anti-trafficking efforts in Latin America. Small world, eh?”

“There are no coincidences,” I said, thinking back on all the tender mercies and miracles I’ve heard and seen from the field.

Osborne continued, “Once the prosecutor saw that her old friend and colleague was now with O.U.R., she opened the doors wide and allowed Jessica full access to the survivors in the immediate hours after the rescue.”

Every country is different in what they permit and prohibit. Our standard is simple: there is no rescue without aftercare. Planning within the perimeters that we are given from foreign governments can be challenging. At times it can be heart wrenching. Ideally, we seek to attend to the survivors moments after law enforcement have completed their heroic trafficker take-downs. Immediate post-rescue access allows us to do so much more to aid and protect the survivors, easing their transitions back to their families or into pre-approved aftercare shelters.  


“A true miracle…no way this was just a coincidence. Prayers work.” – Osborne

We thank you for your prayers and support.

(Images and video courtesy of theblaze.com)


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OPERATION AMBER FORT

OPERATION AMBER FORT

Operation Underground Railroad and Indian Rescue Mission (IRM) have successfully collaborated on a rescue operation in Kolhapur, India.

An operator received intel of a male pimp in Kolhapur offering a 13-yr-old virgin. Once this intel was received we immediately made contact inquiring about the sale. The trafficker quoted the price of the girl at 100,000 rupees ($1,600) for her virginity.

A few days passed and no one heard from the trafficker. After almost 18 days, investigators finally received a call from the trafficker asking them for a deposit as an advance. The deposit was made and a date was set to meet.

On the day of the exchange, the trafficker brought the young girl to the meet-up spot (a brothel) by car. The operator and members of IRM greeted them to exchange the remaining money. Just as the exchange took place, the raiding team swooped into the brothel, rescuing two victims.

Four traffickers were immediately arrested, and will be tried in the Kolhapur Court.

The healing begins now for these 2 victims.


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7 GIRLS RESCUED IN INDIA

7 GIRLS RESCUED IN INDIA

Together with Indian Rescue Mission (IRM), a successful operation just took place that liberated seven victims. We received intel from one of our informants that a male trafficker was selling girls for $75/piece (or 5,000 Rupees). A sting was soon set up with the local police where investigators posed as buyers. After the exchange happened, police were signaled and the raid was successfully conducted. The seven girls were directly sent to the hospital for medical examinations with social workers. They will soon be transferred to a government shelter.


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Undercover in Bangkok: ‘Walking Away Was the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done’

Undercover in Bangkok: ‘Walking Away Was the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done’

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Jason Buttrill, Head Writer/Researcher with ‘The Glenn Beck Program’, about the human trafficking horrors he witnessed in Bangkok.

I recently traveled to Thailand with Glenn Beck to see firsthand the work Operation Underground Railroad is doing to combat human trafficking. More specifically, to see the children who are being bought and sold on a black market that can only be described as pure, unadulterated evil.

I’ve been to most of the corners of the world during my life. I’ve seen pretty much the worst the world has to offer — from my time as a military intelligence agent in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to my time as a researcher covering the atrocities ISIS has left behind in Iraq. None of it compares to what I saw one Sunday night in Thailand.

The following is an account of what happened, as best I can remember it. But I have to warn you — this isn’t for the faint of heart. You’re going to be disgusted and angry. God knows I was — and still am. But there is good news: Heroes are out there on the front lines.

Sunday 8:00 PM • A Remote Village in Thailand

I link up with one of agents from Operation Underground Railroad (OUR) — let’s just call him Bob — and make the long drive out to a remote village. Bob is an impressive dude. At around six feet and 220 pounds of muscle, I pity the fool who tangles with him.

But Bob is more than just a tough guy. Bob is a highly competent professional and a true believer in the cause. He cares for children with conviction, and that’s a trait common with every operator in OUR. They’re willing to trade their lives, if needed, to save a child from slavery and bondage. That is exactly Bob’s demeanor as we pull into the “rally point.”

The Rally Point and Plan

The rally point is a safe location just outside the village where we gather information and gear, as well as get briefed on what we were about to do. The target is a small strip of road within the village rumored to be trafficked with children in multiple brothels. I listen as Bob bluntly lays out the scenario. This is not a safe environment. There are some very bad dudes taking advantage of some very innocent kids. Westerners don’t frequent this part of Thailand, so we’ll stick out. Our height alone will make us suspect.

Our cover is as two lost tourists looking for a good time. If we manage to talk our way into one of the brothels and confirm that underage kids are inside, we can take evidence to the Thai police. The problem is locals turn away anyone not from the village — Thai and foreign alike. If you don’t live there, it’s a no go. Bob explains how we’ll first do a drive by of the entire street. If he estimates the danger as manageable, we’ll park and approach the brothels.

Go Time

It’s roughly 8:30 p.m. and the single lane streets in the village are pitch black. Tiny lights from within shanty houses provide the only illumination. Bob turns down the target street and lowers both our sun visors so they provide some cover for our faces. Pretty soon, the brothels come into view, as well as the prostitutes hanging out on porches and in doorways. There are at least eight or so visible brothels, but probably more hidden away. Halfway down the street is an outdoor market and bar where a group of men drink heavily, blitzed out of their minds. We mentally make note of their numbers, estimating about 10 to 15 men, a potential problem, but one we ultimately decide is manageable. Bob gives the okay and parks down the street.

We begin our walk down towards the string of brothels and immediately get into character, beginning to joke around and act like typical, naive tourists out for a good time. We’re smiling and laughing, but simultaneously calculating everything we see.

Two Curious White Guys

At the first brothel, we approach four prostitutes hanging out on the front porch — all barely look 18. It’s difficult to gauge how old they are, but the goal is to charm our way inside and get eyes on what’s inside. Intel collected by OUR describes children of extremely low age on display in the back. These kids are typically kidnapped and sold into slavery. As Bob begins talking to the girls, I’m now less worried about our safety and more concerned about our success. It hits me like a Mack truck that kids’ lives are at stake here, and we can’t screw this up.

The girls are very friendly. We try to converse with them, but the language barrier is holding us back. It becomes pretty clear they’re speaking with us — two white guys — out of curiosity rather than seeing us as potential clients. An older woman inside whispers something to girl number four and she relays that to girls one through three. All conversation stops. They bury their eyes into their phones and refuse to look up. Failure number one.

Heading down the road, Bob surveys the surroundings. Pretty soon we hear a commotion coming from the drinking men. White people don’t come out here, so this must be an odd change in their nightly routine. Some look hostile, but the majority seems more amused than anything else. We keep tabs on them as best we can, and they for sure keep an eye on us.

FaceTiming Madam

Approaching the next brothel, we hope for better results. Bob’s like a machine, perfectly in character while I try to keep up. Like the last brothel, there are about four girls sitting on the porch. I can see through the front door a bit, and there’s a blue light illuminating the interior with hardly any furniture inside. Again, there’s an older woman inside sitting at a small table. She looks to be conducting business on a cell phone and doesn’t seem to notice us at first. These girls are also very friendly and giggling nonstop, making fun of us more than anything else and having fun at our expense. The older woman inside hears the commotion and walks out.

She’s FaceTiming with someone on her phone and holds the camera up to show the person on the other line our faces. While Bob is trying to communicate and gather information, I glance over at the group of men getting trashed and notice they’re watching us intently. This isn’t looking good.

Eventually the girls decide they’ve had enough “fun” and the older woman gives a similar whisper to one of the girls, everything stops. One of the girls gives me a cold stare and then buries her face in her phone. Failure number two.

Bob and I agree the safety situation is getting worse, and we’ve clearly outstayed our welcome. The playful banter has ceased. The drunken men on the street are eyeing us and yelling, and someone has seen us on the older woman’s phone. Time to leave.

I feel extremely deflated, knowing kids are inside living a nightmare, powerless to stop it. Bob on the other hand is business as usual. This is how surveillance and investigations are done, day in and day out. It’s not always sexy. You’re not always kicking in doors and rescuing innocents every day. It takes time and OUR is on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I have no doubt their operatives will bring down that street of horror.

9:30 PM • Somewhere Two Hours From Bangkok

Bob drives while I struggle to stay awake. It’s been a brutal two days work, with just a handful of sleep. I get a text from Tim Ballard, head of OUR, who informs me that two of his deep undercover operatives are working on several big leads. He invites me to tag along. Soon after, I get another text with an address. Two hours later, I say goodbye to Bob and book it on foot through the streets of Bangkok. I head into the seedy underground of Bangkok and the freaks are out to play. Most of the people in this area are prostitutes and Western men looking to pick them up. It’s disgusting.

James Bond

Now 11:45 p.m. or so, I think I’ve arrived at the location to link up with OUR’s undercover operatives. Let’s call them Agent James and Agent Bond — and let me tell you, their namesake would be very proud. These guys are legit. I’ve worked with human intelligence teams in the Middle East, and these two guys could easily lead any of them.

James greets me and gives a quick briefing on the night. Fifty meters up the street is a group of African prostitutes who promise to deliver a 15-year-old within a minute. I get into my assigned character, playing a role that perfectly fits the story they’re running. Thinking I would only be observing from a distance and getting camera footage, this was a bit of a surprise to me, but I was excited for the opportunity to help. I was also looking to have some success after the earlier “failures” with Bob.

I follow James to the group of prostitutes, immediately surprised that many of them speak English, making negotiating much easier than before. James transforms right in front of my eyes, becoming a jerky American looking for underage girls. As promised, the leader of the group motions a little girl over to us. She is also of African descent. The innocence in her face shows she’s not like the others. She wears skimpy clothing and a ton of makeup — just like the others — but keeps her head lowered the entire time, cowering. She stares at her high heels, clearly inexperienced, and hobbles off balance as she walks. Not once did she look the other prostitutes, or us, in the eye.

James keeps the story running, gathering all the information he can and leaving with everything needed to continue the investigation and move on to the next phase. I’m blown away by his skill.

We turn and walk back about 50 meters to our original meeting point. I think we’re done, but he immediately begins briefing me on the next operation. His partner Bond is working another group around the corner, down a seedy back alley. They had worked a source earlier in the day and arranged for the trafficker to bring proof that he had underage kids for sale. He agreed, claiming to have a 12-year-old and a couple of 14-year-olds.

Under the Influence

The plan is the same. I am to play my role, but this time James tells me to sit next to the 12-year-old girl and talk to her while he gets intel from the trafficker. My first thought is, Oh, hell no. There is no way I can pretend to be one of these monsters preying on little kids. It must be the feeling any undercover investigator or operator goes through initially. I had never experienced it before. All of my experience has been in the military, catching enemy combatants and terrorists. This is completely different.

As we walk closer I begin to see the little girl and immediately get a sick feeling in my stomach. She is clearly on some drug, resting her head on a table. James taps her shoulder to wake up, sliding a chair next to her and motioning me to sit down. I want to throw up. She speaks a few words of English, similar to how I speak Spanish: yes, no, hello, thank you. I try to stay in character while, at the same time, say things that might make her feel better. From my right ear, I can hear James negotiating with the trafficker, who explains he has many more kids as young or younger than the 12-year-old sitting next to me. Apparently he could have brought more — but they have school. I almost lose it right then and there. Win the Battle and Lose the War? Plans of action shoot through my mind. This guy was tiny, as were his bodyguards. I could snap their necks in a heartbeat, and we could rescue this girl and she’d be safe. My adrenaline is pumping . . . fists are clenched . . . leg muscles are ready to shoot out of the chair.

My attention is diverted as Bond starts hooting and hollering across the table with two more girls this trafficker has brought in. My nerve is breaking, but his is strong. Did he notice me folding? I never ask him, but I’m glad he got vocal at that moment. It makes me realize there are two more kids here. Not only that, but MANY more back at a secret location James is learning about. I feel helpless, so I continue small talk with this poor girl.

James finishes and motions for Bond to get up. We begin to walk away and the trafficker grabs me by the arm: I got you covered. Many, many more kids. I take one last look at that girl, turn around and walk away.

Walking away was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Walking away changed something inside me that I don’t think I’ll ever get back. It’s gone for good.

Baby Steps

James and Bond explain how this was a crucial meeting, an opening salvo in a long process of gathering information and intelligence to build a case. They held their nerve, as I almost didn’t, and the lives of countless children are at stake. James received a treasure trove of information, one more crucial battle in this long fought war.

The night goes on as I follow James and Bond through the darkest, seediest alleys in Bangkok. I watch and listen as they approach potential traffickers. They are clinical. The way they get information from people seems almost effortless, they’re that good. They get at least one more lead from a madam that brought a 14-year old-girl to show to us. She is dressed like a veteran prostitute while simultaneously clutching a teddy bear.

Our night ends around 2:30 a.m. James and Bond hop in a cab, but I decide to walk back to my hotel. I need time to process.

I thought I had seen and known evil throughout my many travels. Turns out, I knew nothing. This was evil in its purest form. This was the worst humanity has to offer. As I write, I’m still struggling to get the image of that little girl out of my head. She remains in a remote, secret location among many more child slaves. But I know something her captors don’t: OUR and their Thai partners are on their trail. The goal? The liberation of every single child involved in this depravity and the evil men responsible to be thrown in jail. I’m counting the seconds.

 

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