9 Rescued – 3 Arrested
They have no passports, no birth certificates and no country. They are considered people with no identification. Stateless. And they live in one of the most dangerous places on earth: The Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia.
This worn-torn part of the world, is made up from parts of Myanmar (formerly Burma), Laos and Thailand, and is known mostly for its opium and heroin production. The area is heavily littered with land mines due to the last 50-60 years of civil unrest and its people are chewed up and spit out by heartless taskmasters.
Children born into such circumstances have little hope of escaping a life in either the drug or sex trade. It is for this very reason that Operation Underground Railroad’s brave jump team dared to venture into this lawless land.
“This was an extremely dangerous operation and we worked very closely with the Thai Border Police and the Thai Army Rangers,” said the team leader. “We also had some special contacts that we’ve worked with previously, who helped us on the borders with the investigation.”
One such contact alerted O.U.R. to victims of sex trafficking who were being held by a Burmese father and son team. The victims had recently come from refugee camps in Bangladesh and Bhutan and were tricked into believing they had found good fortune.
“They are coerced with promises of schooling or a good job,” said O.U.R.’s team leader. There are safe houses or holding houses the traffickers use near and around the border to hold the victims.”
Once at the border, the traffickers use various means to get their victims across and into other countries where they can be sold.
“They will dress these children in school uniforms, pretending they are being sent across the border for school. Once on the other side, they are usually sold from there to a brothel owner or a labor trafficker,” said O.U.R.’s team leader. “They are also used to carry drugs across the border.”
In Operation Jungle Cat, O.U.R. worked very closely with law enforcement to ensure the safety of the children as well as our operatives. It was a very tense and dangerous mission, which led to a total of nine victims being rescued.
It is not unusual in third world countries for younger people and their parents to be fed a story of opportunity for school or success or employment. They are so desperate for that hope that they become vulnerable to predators. Then families who were already barely making ends meet do not have the means or ability to search for their children or convince officials to spend limited resources on these missing children cases. The children resign themselves to participate due to the severe threats of abuse and retribution they have experienced at the hand of the traffickers. The added transfer across a conflicted region leads to a lack of follow-through on such cases. The children truly are lost between government agencies and there are little resources for these cases.
Determining where to place the rescued victims of Operation Jungle Cat was complicated in this lawless land with stateless people. Some were returned to Myanmar while some of the children are in Thailand where members of O.U.R. will follow up with them. Three traffickers were arrested and will most likely serve a minimum of ten years in prison.
Kudos to O.U.R.’s jump team members and all those who risk their lives to find and rescue these victims of sex trafficking. Well done!
Written by: Cheryl L. Karr