Posted by Matt Friedman

One of the ways in which young girls are trafficked from Myanmar to Thailand into the sex industry is through a recruitment process that includes ‘loverboys’ or ‘romeo pimps’ who act as recruiters.


The way this plays out, the boy identifies a girl who appears to be vulnerable. She might be part of a family that suffers from alcoholism, gambling, physical and emotional abuse, dire poverty, debt or simply neglect.


The trafficker befriends his victim by being kind, sweet, and very patient. He showers her with affection and small gifts. Every step of the way is calculated to allow her to see him as a trustworthy, honorable young man who really cares about her. They spend more and more time together as her affection for him grows.


One day, he suggests that they take a day trip to the Thailand border. Since the border between these two countries is porous at different locations, it is easy for local people to cross over, do some shopping, have a meal, and then return home. 


Because such a trip would not be accepted by most parents, her “boyfriend” will ask her to lie to her parents and say she’ll be with her girlfriends for the day.


So, they take the six-hour bus ride to the border, cross over, and then the girl is drugged or simply whisked away in a van by waiting accomplices.


To address this problem, one of the NGOs realized that the buses along the border route often had dramatic movies being shown to help the passengers pass the time. Seeing this as an opportunity, the NGOs decided to develop a short 15-minute film that dramatically portrayed the entire “Romeo trafficker” recruitment process.


So here you have a girl, unaware that she is sitting right next to her trafficker, watching a dramatic representation of exactly what she was going through in real-time. It eerily showed everything: the early contact, the affectionate grooming, the romantic date trip across the border, and then ultimately the drugging and trafficking play out right before her eyes. 


Since these videos were shown several times, many of these girls would put 1 and 1 together and it suddenly dawned on them that they were in great danger. As a result, a number of girls got off the bus and sought help immediately from the border guards or the police.


I’ve always appreciated this prevention approach because it provided the timely information a person needed to escape being sold into slavery and saved them a lifetime of unspeakable pain.


a picture of a person sitting on a chair


As I have said in previous posts, for a prevention program to be effective, it must meet three basic criteria:

1.    It must target the right people.

2.    It should result in behavior changes so that individuals avoid being trafficked.

3.    It should be cost-effective and replicable.


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