By Julia Randall
When “Nam” responded to a Facebook post advertising employment, she thought that she would be leaving Thailand to work at a Kuala Lumpur restaurant and club. Upon her arrival in the foreign city, Nam (name changed to protect her identity) discovered she had been lied to. The “restaurant/club” was a disguised brothel. She was now trapped in the brothel’s apartment, where she was held against her will and forced into sex work. Nam was not alone in her plight—several other women were caught with her after being similarly tricked. But Nam showed great courage and found a way to get the help she needed to escape and help secure the freedom of other women who had been deceived—six women were freed in the initial rescue.
A trafficking network that used Facebook and other social media to lure, trick and trap victims into sex slavery was broken up by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations (DSI) in July 2015. DSI arrested three men for human trafficking. The Exodus Road collaborated with our partners at Freeland with The Liberty Alliance to assist the DSI by providing information and analysis during the investigative phase and provided aftercare to the several of the freed survivors.
The leader, a Malaysian known as “Boss Steven,” used employment advertisements for club and restaurant jobs to Thai and Vietnamese women, enticing them to travel to Kuala Lumpur with promises of perks and bonuses. Once the women arrived, they were held captive and forced into sex work.
Despite the threat of recrimination, Nam resourcefully found a way to ask for help via an online chat channel. Nam’s message was eventually received by the trafficking hotline at Freeland, who analyzed the information for authenticity before giving it to Thai authorities, who then conducted a remarkable undercover investigation.
Nam eventually found a chance to sneak out of the brothel compound and find her way to the Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Concern for Nam’s safety led the DSI to swiftly repatriate her to Thailand, where Freeland and TER sponsored her care while the DSI continued to gather evidence against “Boss Steven” and two of his cohorts.
Nam continued to demonstrate great strength and courage when she faced down fear of retaliation from her traffickers and an arduous process of testimony by continuing to provide information to the DSI. Nam’s information was not only key in securing the arrest of “Boss Steven” and his partners, but also in freeing other victims. The Exodus Road is honored to know Nam and to have been able to provide aftercare for her and several other survivors, along with follow-up support and some services.
Because of your generosity and with a shared grant from One Day’s Wages for aftercare services, The Exodus Road was able to sponsor a debt repayment for one of the survivors and pay for medical services for another. We are also in the process of funding the educational fees for several survivors’ children and a motorbike that a survivor will use to launch her business.
We continue to see that fighting trafficking within the legal system is a long, arduous process and that providing services for survivors, especially those who are of age, is equally as difficult. Thankfully, though, we were able to serve as a light along the pathway to freedom for Nam and her friends.
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