Officials from the Royal Thai Embassy in Pretoria have arrived in Durban after the arrest of 26 Thai women who are alleged to have been brought into the country to become sex slaves.
High-level discussions are under way between the embassy's Second Secretary, Jeerasak Pomsuwan, and officials from the Organised Crime Unit. Pomsuwan, who arrived in Durban late on Monday afternoon, said investigations were still ongoing and that they needed to establish whether the women arrested were indeed victims of human trafficking.
"The women need to be categorised and, if found to be victims, then it will be our duty to assist them via the proper channels," he said. The arrests occurred over the weekend when members of the Organised Crime Unit swooped on a gentlemen's club called After Dark in Cato Street, Durban,
and a brothel in Pinetown at the weekend.
Organisations dealing with women trafficking have reacted with concern to the arrest of the women. Joan van Niekerk, the director of Childline, said the arrests were shocking and very sad.
"People are not aware of the extent to which children and women are trafficked in South Africa and across international borders," she said. "Corruption is the biggest problem fuelling trafficking, as people are moving across borders without any relevant papers. "It's difficult to measure the problem as it is hidden and run by an illegal underground operation using forged documents."
She said trafficking was not like abuse. In many cases these people were from different countries, rarely spoke English, were powerless and did not know where to go for help. She said this particular case had attracted prominence because the case involved Thai women, but we needed to realise that we had a problem inside our country as well.
"Children are being moved from rural to other rural areas, or to urban areas inside the country," said Van Niekerk. Rebecca Pursell, a social worker with the Reducing Exploitive Child Labour in Southern Africa project, shared the sentiments. She said women and girl children from neighbouring countries like Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe as well as girls and women from international countries were trafficked to South Africa for sex work.
"These women are not made to work in public places like sex clubs, but rather in clandestine brothels - or they are sold off to one individual," said Pursell. "It is commonly known that these women are lured out of their countries by promises of employment. They come not knowing that they are going to be involved in sex work."
Adapted from: Bhavna Sookha. "High-level talks after 26 'sex-slave' arrests." http://iol.co.za. 19 December 2006.
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