The New Slavery


excerpted from the book

Disposable People

New Slavery in the Global Economy

by Kevin Bales

University of California Press, 2004, paper


... slavery has not, as most of us have been led to believe, ended. To be sure, the word slavery continues to be used to mean all sorts of things, and all too often it has been applied as an easy metaphor. Having just enough money to get by, receiving wages that barely keep you alive, may be called wage slavery, but it is not slavery. Sharecroppers have a hard life, but they are not slaves. Child labor is terrible, but it is not necessarily slavery.

We might think slavery is a matter of ownership, but that depends on what we mean by ownership. In the past, slavery entailed one person legally owning another person, but modern slavery is different. Today slavery is illegal everywhere, and there is no more legal ownership of human beings. When people buy slaves today they don't ask for a receipt or ownership papers, but they do gain control-and they use violence to maintain this control. Slaveholders have all of the benefits of ownership without the legalities. Indeed, for the slaveholders, not having legal ownership is an improvement because they get total control without any responsibility for what they own. For that reason I tend to use the term slaveholder instead of slaveowner.

In spite of this difference between the new and the old slavery, I think everyone would agree that what I am talking about is slavery: the total control of one person by another for the purpose of economic exploitation. Modern slavery hides behind different masks, using clever lawyers and legal smoke screens, but when we strip away the lies, we find someone controlled by violence and denied all of their personal freedom to make money for someone else.

Slavery is an obscenity. It is not just stealing someone's labor; it is the theft of an entire life. It is more closely related to the concentration camp than to questions of bad working conditions.

My best estimate of the number of slaves in the world today is 27 million.

This number is much smaller than the estimates put forward by some ( activists, who give a range as high as 200 million, but it is the number I feel I can trust; it is also the number that fits my strict definition of slavery) The biggest part of that 27 million, perhaps 15 to 20 million, represented by bonded labor in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Bonded labor or debt bondage happens when people give themselves into slavery as security against a loan or when they inherit a debt from a relative (we'll look at this more closely later). Otherwise slavery tends to be concentrated in Southeast Asia, northern and western Africa, and parts of South America (but there are some slaves in almost every country in the world, including the United States, Japan, and many European countries). There are more slaves alive today than all the people stolen from Africa in the time of the transatlantic slave trade.

... These slaves tend to be used in simple, non-technological, and traditional work. The largest group work in agriculture. But slaves are used in many other kinds of labor: brickmaking, mining or quarrying, prostitution, gem working and jewelry making, cloth and carpet making, and domestic service; they clear forests, make charcoal, and work in shops. Much of this work is aimed at local sale and consumption, but slave-made goods reach into homes around the world. Carpets, fireworks, jewelry, and metal goods made by slave labor, as well as grains, sugar, and other foods harvested by slaves, are imported directly to North America and Europe. In addition, large international corporations, acting in ignorance through subsidiaries in the developing world, take advantage of slave labor to improve their bottom line and increase the dividends to their shareholders.

... in some countries there are ethnic or religious differences between slaves and slaveholders. In Pakistan, for example, many enslaved brickmakers are Christians while the slaveholders are Muslim. In India slave and slaveholder may be from different castes. In Thailand slaves may come from rural parts of the country and are much more likely to be women. But in Pakistan there are Christians who are not slaves, in India members of the same caste who are free. Their caste or religion simply reflects their vulnerability to enslavement; it doesn't cause it. Only in one country, Mauritania, does the racism of the old slavery persist-there black slaves are held by Arab slaveholders, and race is a key division. To be sure, some cultures are more divided along racial lines than others. Japanese culture strongly distinguishes the Japanese as different from everyone else, and so enslaved prostitutes in Japan are more likely to be Thai, Philippine, or European women-rarely, they may be Japanese. Even here, the key difference is not racial but economic: Japanese women are not nearly so vulnerable and desperate as Thais or Filipinas. And the Thai women are available for shipment to Japan because Thais are enslaving Thais. The same pattern occurs in the oil-rich states of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where Muslim Arabs promiscuously enslave Sri Lankan Hindus, Filipino Christians, and Nigerian Muslims. The common denominator is poverty, not color. Behind every assertion of ethnic difference is the reality of economic disparity.

... three basic forms slavery:

1. Chattel slavery is the form closest to the old slavery. A person is captured, born, or sold into permanent servitude, and ownership might be asserted. The slave's children are normally treated as property as well and can be sold by the slaveholder. Occasionally, these slaves are kept as items of conspicuous consumption. This form is most often found in northern and western Africa and some Arab countries, but it represents a very small proportion of slaves in the modern world.

2. Debt bondage is the most common form of slavery in the world. A person pledges him- or herself against a loan of money, but the length and nature of the service are not defined and the labor does not reduce the original debt. The debt can be passed down to subsequent generations, thus enslaving offspring; moreover, "defaulting" can be punished by seizing or selling children into further debt bonds. Ownership is not normally asserted, but there is complete physical control of the bonded laborer. Debt bondage is most common on the Indian subcontinent.

3. Contract slavery shows how modern labor relations are used to hide the new slavery. Contracts are offered that guarantee employment, perhaps in a workshop or factory, but when the workers are taken to their place of work they find themselves enslaved. The contract is used as an enticement to trick an individual into slavery, as well as a way of making the slavery look legitimate. If legal questions are raised, the contract can be produced, but the reality is that the "contract worker" is a slave, threatened by violence, lacking any freedom of movement, and paid nothing. The most rapidly growing form of slavery, this is the second-largest form today. Contract slavery is most often found in Southeast Asia Brazil, some Arab states, and some parts of the Indian subcontinent.

... slavery can be found in virtually every country. A recent investigation in Great Britain found young girls held in slavery and forced to be prostitutes in Birmingham and Manchester. Enslaved domestic workers have been found and freed in London and Paris. In the United States farmworkers have been found locked inside barracks and working under armed guards as field slaves. Enslaved Thai and Philippine women have been freed from brothels in New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Almost all of the countries where slavery "cannot" exist have slaves inside their borders-but, it must be said, in very small numbers compared to the Indian subcontinent and the Far East. The important point is that slaves constitute a vast workforce supporting the global economy we all depend upon.

One of the drawbacks of the old slavery was the cost of maintaining slaves who were too young or too old. Careful analysis of both American cotton plantations and Brazilian coffee farms in the 1800s shows that the productivity of slaves was linked to their age. Children did not bring in more than they cost until the age of ten or twelve, though they were put to work as early as possible. Productivity and profits to be made from a slave peaked at about age thirty and fell off sharply when a slave was fifty or more. Slavery was profitable, but the profitability was diminished by the cost of keeping infants, small children, and unproductive old people. The new slavery avoids this extra cost and so increases its profits.

The new slavery mimics the world economy by shifting away from ownership and fixed asset management, concentrating instead on control and use of resources or processes. Put another way, it is like the shift from the "ownership" of colonies in the last century to the economic exploitation of those same countries today without the cost and trouble of maintaining colonies. Transnational companies today do what European empires did in the last century-exploit natural resources and take advantage of low-cost labor-but without needing to take over and govern the entire country. Similarly, the new slavery appropriates the economic value of individuals while keeping them under complete coercive control-but without asserting ownership or accepting responsibility for their survival. The result is much greater economic efficiency: useless and unprofitable infants, the elderly, and the sick or injured are dumped. Seasonal tasks are met with seasonal enslavement, as in the case of Haitian sugarcane cutters." In the new slavery, the slave is a consumable item, added to the production process when needed, but no longer carrying a high capital cost.

This shift from ownership to control and appropriation applies to virtually all modern slavery across national or cultural boundaries, whether the slave is cutting cane in the Caribbean, making bricks in the Punjab, mining in Brazil, or being kept as a prostitute in Thailand. Mirroring modern economic practice, slavery in this respect is being transformed from culturally specific forms to an emerging standardized or globalized form. The world shrinks through increasingly easy communication. The slaveholders in Pakistan or Brazil watch television just like everyone else. /hen they see that industries in many countries are switching to a "just in time" system for the delivery of raw materials or necessary labor, they draw the same conclusions about profitability as did those corporations. As jobs for life disappear from the world economy, so too does slavery for life. The economic advantages of short-term enslavement far outweigh the costs of buying new slaves when needed.



... Thai men go to brothels in increasing numbers. Several recent studies show that between 8o and 87 percent of Thai men have had sex with a prostitute. Up to 90 percent report that their first sexual experience was with a prostitute. Somewhere between 10 and 40 percent of married men paid for commercial sex within the past twelve months, as have up to 50 percent of single men. Though it is difficult to measure, these reports suggest something like 3 to 5 million regular customers for commercial sex. But it would be wrong to imagine millions of Thai men sneaking furtively on their own along dark streets lined with brothels: commercial sex is a social event, part of a good night out with friends. Ninety-five percent of men going to a brothel do so with their friends, usually at the end of a night spent drinking. Groups go out for recreation and entertainment, and especially to get drunk together. That is a strictly male pursuit, as Thai women usually abstain from alcohol. All-male groups out for a night on the town are considered normal in any Thai city, and whole neighborhoods are devoted to serving them. Most Thais, men and women, feel that commercial sex is an acceptable part of an ordinary outing for single men, and about two-thirds of men and one-third of women feel the same about married men.'

For most married women, having their husbands go to prostitutes is preferable to other forms of extramarital sex. Most wives accept that men naturally want multiple partners, and prostitutes are seen as less threatening to the stability of the family.' Prostitutes require no long-term commitment or emotional involvement. When a husband uses a prostitute he is thought to be fulfilling a male role, but when he takes a minor wife or mistress, his wife is thought to have failed. Minor wives are usually bigamous second wives, often married by law in a district different than that of the first marriage (easily done, since no national records are kept). As wives, they require upkeep, housing, and regular support, and their offspring have a claim on inheritance; so they present a significant danger to the well-being of the major wife and her children. The relationship may not be formalized (polygamy is illegal) but it nevertheless will be regarded as binding, and the children still have legal claims for support. For the minor wife from a poor background, attachment to a well-heeled older man is a proven avenue to upward social mobility. The potential disaster for the first wife is a minor wife who convinces the man to leave his first family, and this happens often enough to keep first wives worried and watchful.

Given that sex is for sale everywhere, and that noncommercial sex threatens the family more gravely, it is little wonder that Thai wives maintain a "don't ask-don't tell" policy about prostitution. As greater spending power means their husbands can buy sex at will, most Thai women are resigned to it, simply hoping that his interest doesn't shift to a minor wife. Within this context, their husbands' occasional visits to brothels with the boys are overlooked by wives. Because it is part of a normal outing, most men feel little or no shame in buying sex. Certainly any hesitation they might feel is quickly melted by alcohol and peer pressure. Not all nights out lead to the brothel, of course, but a promotion, pay raise, or any sort of celebration makes a visit more likely. Not all groups of friends will go to brothels on their night out Some groups of married men never do, but others will go often, their drinking parties naturally evolving into trips to the brothel. And once Thai men are out drinking, it is normal for one reveler to pay for the group, thereby hosting the party; picking up the tab is also a form of conspicuous consumption, deployed to impress one's colleagues. This carries over to the brothel as well and often makes the difference in whether a man will use a prostitute. Interviewed in a recent study one man explained, "When we arrive at the brothel, my friends take one and pay for me to take another. It costs them money; I don't want to waste it, so I take her." Having one's prostitute paid for also brings an informal obligation to repay in kind at a later date. It is something many men would avoid because of the expense, if sober, but in the inebriated moment of celebration most men go along for the ride.

Buying prostitutes for someone else happens for other reasons as well. Businessmen in negotiations will provide or expect sex as part of the bargaining process. For most Thais this is a perfectly unremarkable part of business practice and necessary if one's firm or job is to continue and prosper. Men who travel on business are also more likely to use prostitutes, taking advantage of being away from their hometown or village. Government officials touring rural areas are offered local "flowers" as hospitality, and there is a saying that a man has not really been to a place until he has had a "taste" of it. Even first-year university students will be taken en masse to brothels in their first week as part of an initiation by upperclassmen. All of this behavior is made easier by the assumption that men are not responsible when they are drunk, and groups of friends egg each other on in heavy drinking-an opened whiskey bottle can never be resealed. In the macho Thai culture, drunken accusations that a reluctant man is afraid of his wife almost always push him to accept an offered prostitute. Thai culture also emphasizes group solidarity and conflict avoidance, so acquiescence in commercial sex is often seen as better than disagreement or embarrassment. And whatever happens, men keep their secrets. Friends never admit to their wives or others what happens when the group is out drinking.

For most Thai men, commercial sex is a legitimate form of entertainment and sexual release. It is not just acceptable: it is a clear statement of status and economic power. Women in Thailand are things, markers in a male game of status and prestige. It is thus no surprise that some women are treated as livestock-kidnapped, abused, held like animals, bought and sold, and dumped when their usefulness is gone. When this customary treatment is combined with the relentless profitmaking of the new economy, the result for women is horrific. Thousands more must be found to feed men's status needs, thousands more must be locked into sexual slavery to feed the profits of investors. And what are the police, government, and local authorities doing about slavery? Every case of sex slavery involves many crimes-fraud, kidnap, assault, rape, sometimes murder. These crimes are not rare or random; they are systematic and repeated in brothels thousands of times each month. Yet those with the power to stop this terror instead help it grow Land grow in the very lucrative world of the modern slaveholder.

The brokers and agents that buy girls in the villages and sell them to brothels are only short-term slaveholders. Their business is part recruiting agency, part shipping company, part public relations, and part kidnapping gang. They aim to buy low and sell high, while maintaining a good flow of girls from the villages. Brokers are equally likely to be men or women and usually come from the regions in which they recruit. Some will be local people dealing in girls in addition to their jobs as police officers, government bureaucrats, or even schoolteachers. Positions of public trust are excellent starting points for buying young girls. In spite of the character of their work they are well respected. Seen as job providers and sources of large cash payments to parents, they are well known in their communities. Many of the women brokers were once sold themselves, spent some years as prostitutes, and now, in their middle age, make a living by supplying girls to the brothels. These women are walking advertisements for sexual slavery. Their lifestyle and income, their Western clothes and glamorous sophisticated ways, point to a rosy economic future for the girls they buy. That they have physically survived their years in the brothel may be the exception-many more young women come back to the villages to die of AIDS-but the parents tend to be optimistic. Whether these dealers are local people or traveling agents, they combine the business of procuring with other economic pursuits. A returned prostitute may live with her family, look after her parents, own a rice field or two, and buy and sell girls on the side. Like the pimps, they are in a good business, doubling their money on each girl within two or three weeks, but like the pimps, their profits are small compared to those of the long-term slaveholders.

The real slaveowners tend to be middle-aged businessmen. They fit seamlessly into the community; and they suffer no social discrimination for what they do. If anything, they are admired as successful, diversified capitalists. Brothel ownership is normally only one of many business interests for the slaveholder. To be sure, a brothel owner may have some ties to organized crime, but in Thailand organized crime includes the police and much of the government. Indeed, the work of the modern slaveholder is best seen not as aberrant criminality but as a perfect example of disinterested capitalism. Owning the brothel that holds young girls in bondage is simply a business matter. The investors would say that they are creating jobs and wealth. There is no hypocrisy in their actions, for they obey an important social norm: earning a lot of money is a good enough reason for anything.

The ways of Western markets and economics are avidly imitated by the new businesspeople throughout Thailand. Looking to the developed countries they see investors putting their money into stock-market mutual funds on the basis of returns above all else-and that the portfolio might include firms making land mines or instruments of torture need not concern anyone. But the amount of distance needed to plead ignorance doesn't have to be so great; a single step is enough to separate an investor from his or her conscience.

To understand the business of slavery today we have to know something about the economy in which it operates. In spite of the economic boom, the average Thai's income is very low by Western standards. 'Within an industrializing country, millions still live in rural poverty. If a rural family owns its house and has a rice field, it might survive on as little as 500 baht ($20) per month. Such absolute poverty means a diet of rice supplemented with insects (crickets, grubs, and maggots are widely eaten), wild plants, and what fish they can catch themselves. Below this level, which can be sustained only in the countryside, is hunger and the loss of any house or land. For most Thais an income of 2,500 to 4,500 baht per month ($100 to $180) is normal. Since the economic crash in 1997, the poor have only gotten poorer and more numerous as jobs evaporated: in the cities rent will take more than half of the average income, and prices climb constantly. At this income there is deprivation but no hunger since government policies artificially depress the price of rice (to the impoverishment of farmers). Rice sells for 20 baht cents) a kilo, with a family of four eating about a kilo of rice each day. They might eat, but Thais on these poverty wages can do little else. Whether in city, town, or village, to earn it they will work six or seven twelve- to fourteen-hour days each week. Illness or injury can quickly send even this standard of living plummeting downward. There is no system of welfare or health care, and pinched budgets allow no space for saving. In these families the 20,000 to 50,000 baht ($800 to $2,000) brought by selling a daughter represents a year's income. Such a vast sum is a powerful inducement and blinds parents to the realities of sex slavery.

Brothels are just one of the many outlets for commercial sex, but because of their rapid turnover they serve a large proportion of men buying sex. The average brothel keeps between ten and thirty prostitutes, and most average around twenty. In the countryside the brothel may just be someone's house with three or four women working, but it is the brothels in cities and towns that hold girls in debt bondage. Many brothels benefit from economies of agglomeration, bunching together in a red-light district. If they have any sign outside (and most don't), it will be cryptically neutral. One working-class brothel I visited had a small lighted sign hanging by its gate that read "Always Prospering"; below it in smaller type and different paint had been added "restaurant." This addition, I was told, had been made at the suggestion of the police, though no food was for sale inside. The buildings themselves are as a rule dilapidated, dirty, leaky, and cobbled together from scrap. Rats and roaches infest them and sanitation is minimal. The women who must work in them are young, rarely over thirty and often younger than eighteen. There is little difference between them and their customers. Both are from poor backgrounds, though the girls are more likely to be from the northern region. In the far south of Thailand the men may be Malay or Singaporean Muslims, but the girls will still be northern Thai Buddhists. The exception to the regular use of northern Thai girls is the recent increase in women trafficked from Burma and Laos, and enslaved in brothel.

Girls are so cheap that there is little reason to take care of them over the long term. Expenditure on medical care or prevention is rare in the brothels, since the working life of girls in debt bondage is fairly short-two to five years. After that, most of the profit has been drained from the girl and it is more cost-effective to discard her and replace her with someone fresh. No brothel wants to take on the responsibility of a sick or dying girl.

Enslaved prostitutes in brothels face two major threats to their physical health and to their lives: violence and disease. Violence-their enslavement enforced through rape, beatings, or threats-is always present. It is the typical introduction to their new status as sex slaves. Virtually every girl interviewed repeated the same story: after being taken to the brothel or to her first client as a virgin, any resistance or refusal was met with beatings and rape. A few girls report being drugged and then attacked; others report being forced to submit at gunpoint. The immediate and forceful application of terror is the first step in successful enslavement. Within hours of being brought to the brothel, the girls are in pain and shock. Like other victims of torture they often go numb, paralyzed in their minds if not in their bodies. For the youngest girls, with little understanding of what is happening to them, the trauma is overwhelming. Shattered and betrayed, they often have little clear memory of what has occurred.

After the first attack the girl has little resistance left, but the violence never ends. In the brothel, violence and terror are the final arbiters of all questions. There is no argument, there is no appeal. An unhappy customer brings a beating, a sadistic client brings more pain; in order to intimidate and cheat them more easily, the pimp rains down terror randomly on the prostitutes. The girls must do anything the pimp wants if they are to avoid being beaten. Escape is impossible. One girl reported that when she was caught trying to escape, the pimp beat her and then took her into the viewing room; with two helpers he then beat her again in front of all the girls in the brothel. Afterward she was locked into a room for three days and nights with no food or water. When she was released she was immediately put to work. Two other girls who attempted escape told of being stripped naked and whipped with steel coat hangers by pimps. The police serve as slave-catchers whenever a girl escapes; once captured, girls are often beaten or abused in the police station before being sent back to the brothel. For most girls it soon becomes clear that they can never escape, that their only hope for release is to please the pimp and to somehow pay off their debt.

In time, confusion and disbelief fade, leaving dread, resignation, and a separation of the conscious link between mind and body. Now the girl does whatever it takes to reduce the pain, to adjust mentally to a life that means being used by fifteen men a day. The reaction to this abuse takes many forms: lethargy, aggression, self-loathing and suicide attempts, confusion, self-abuse, depression, full-blown psychoses, and hallucinations. Girls who have been freed and taken into shelters are found to have all these. Rehabilitation workers report that the girls suffer emotional instability; they are unable to trust or form relationships, to readjust to the world outside the brothel, or to learn and develop normally. Unfortunately, psychological counseling is virtually unknown in Thailand, as there is a strong cultural pressure to keep any mental problems hidden, and little therapeutic work is done with girls freed from brothels. The long-term impact of this experience is unknown.

A clearer picture can be drawn of the physical diseases that the girls accumulate. There are many sexually transmitted diseases, and prostitutes contract most of them. Multiple infections reduce the immune system and make it easier for infections to take hold. If the illness affects their ability to have sex it may be dealt with, but serious chronic illnesses are often left untreated. Contraception often harms the girls as well. Some slaveholders administer contraceptive pills themselves, continuing them without any break and withholding the monthly placebo pills. Thus the girls stop menstruating altogether and work more nights in the month. Some girls are given three or four contraceptive pills a day; others are given Depo-Provera injections by the pimp or the bookkeeper. The same needle might be used for injecting all of them, passing HIV from girl to girl. Most girls who become pregnant will be sent for an abortion. Abortion is illegal in Thailand so this will be a backstreet operation, with all the obvious risks. A few women are kept working while they are pregnant, as some Thai men want to have sex with pregnant women. When the child is born it can be taken and sold by the brothel owner and the woman put back to work.

Not surprisingly, HIV/AIDS is epidemic in enslaved prostitutes. Thailand has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Officially, the government admits to 800,000 cases, but health workers insist there are at least twice that many. From 1997, a campaign to reduce HIV infection had a significant effect. While the target was 100 percent condom use for commercial sex, the reality was a reduced but steady cross-transmission between men and prostitutes. The epidemic has passed beyond the high-risk groups of sex workers and drug users, who now have infection rates as high as 50 percent in some areas. The group with the greatest increase in HIV infection today is wives exposed through their husbands' visits to prostitutes. In some rural villages where the trafficking of girls has been a regular feature, the infection rate is over 20 percent. Recent research suggests that the younger the girl, the more susceptible she is to HIV due to the lack of development of the protective vaginal mucous membrane. In spite of the distribution of condoms by the government, some brothels do not require their use. Many young girls understand little about HIV and how it is contracted. Some feel that using condoms is too painful when they have to service ten to fifteen men a night. In fact, the abrasion of the vagina brought on by repeated sex with condoms can increase the chances of HIV infection when unprotected sex next occurs. Even in brothels where condoms are sold or required, girls cannot always force men to use them. Most northern villages house young girls and women who have come home from the brothels to die of AIDS. There they are sometimes shunned and sometimes hounded out of the village. There are a few rehabilitation centers run by charities and the government that work with ex-prostitutes and women who are HIV-positive, but they can take only a tiny fraction of those in need. Outside the brothel there is no life left for most of these women, and some will stay in the brothel even when they have the chance to leave.

This belief in an omniscient pimp is supported by the other, more distant, relationships each girl has with slaveholders and the government. From the policeman who comes each day to the brothel, to the police chief in the city or district, to the political boss that the police chief must answer to, and so on up the ladder of government, the machine of the state is the machine of enslavement. That is not to say that the police or government directly enslaves girls in brothels; instead they provide a system of protection and enforcement for the slaveholders that makes slavery possible. At all levels of government, officials turn a blind eye to the crime of slavery. A complete set of laws on the statute books lies unenforced: they forbid trafficking in women, prostitution, rape, sexual abuse of minors, establishment of brothels, kidnapping, forced labor, debt bondage, and slavery. Some officials profit from bribes; others regularly use the brothels. The result is an unofficial but highly effective system of state enforcement of sex slavery. The power of the pimp is enormously enhanced by the power of the national police. Thailand's Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai admitted in 1992 that "the problem [of sex slavery] would be less if those who have the weapons and enforce the law were not involved," but he added that "if the problem cannot be solved, I won't order the authorities to tackle it."" Since 1992 police involvement has, if anything, increased

[Slaveholders] are faced with an increase in demand for prostitutes and a diminishing supply the price of young Thai girls is spiraling upward. Their only recourse is to look elsewhere, to areas where poverty and ignorance still hold sway. Nothing, in fact, could be easier, for there remain large oppressed and isolated populations desperate enough to believe the promises of the brokers. From Burma to the west and Laos to the east come thousands of economic and political refugees searching for work; they are defenseless in a country where they are illegal aliens. The techniques that have worked so well in bringing Thai girls to the brothels are again deployed, but now across the borders.

Throughout the 1960s, the interior minister publicly championed expansion of the sex industry to promote tourism. Not long after prostitution was made illegal in 1960, a Service Establishments law was passed that legitimated "entertainment" as an industry. The law explained that women in entertainment were expected to provide "special services"-in other words, sex. This law gave power to brothel owners as "entertainment providers" (legal) over the women who had been prostitutes (illegal). It drove independent women sex workers into brothels and set up a legal category for these "service establishments." In the 1960s and early 1970s these service establishments did very well from the 40,000 American soldiers who were stationed in Thailand and the large numbers that were sent there on R&R leave during the Vietnam War. As the U.S. bases closed down in the late 1970s, the Thai government looked to tourism and to sex as important sources of income that might replace those lost earnings. In 1980 the vice premier encouraged the provincial governors to create more sex establishments to bring tourism to the provinces: "Within the next two years we need money. Therefore, I ask all governors to consider the natural scenery in your provinces, together with some forms of entertainment that some of you might think of as disgusting and shameful, because we have to consider the jobs that will be created." Thailand's economic boom included a sharp increase in sex tourism tacitly backed by government. International tourist arrivals jumped from 2 million in 1981 to 4 million in 1988 to over ii million in 2003.30 Two-thirds of tourists are unaccompanied men: in other words, nearly 5 million unaccompanied men visited Thailand in 1996. A significant proportion of these were sex tourists. Because they feared it would diminish the large foreign exchange earnings gained from sex tourists, government officials consistently denied the "rumor" of a worsening AIDS crisis throughout the 1980s. As late as 1989 the prime minister declared that AIDS was "no problem" in Thailand." Helped along by sex tourism, HIV/AIDS is now epidemic in Thailand, but sex tourism continues to be a major source of foreign exchange and not one that the government would want to restrict.

Thailand is a country sick with an addiction to slavery. From village to city and back, the profits of slavery flow. Once authorities and businesspeople become accustomed to this outpouring of money, once any moral objection has been drowned in it, a justification of slavery is easy to mount, and Thai culture and religion stand ready to do so. The situation is similar to that of the United States in the 1850s-with a significant part of the economy dependent on slavery, religion and culture are ready to explain why this is all for the best.

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