Anti-Trafficking in Southeast Asia
- Julie HamJulie HamDepartment of Sociology, University of Hong Kong
The positioning of Southeast Asia (comprising Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar or Burma, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) as an anti-trafficking hub belies the global relevance of regional patterns. The configurations of anti-trafficking vary across countries; however, the specific trends and patterns hold relevance to the region as a whole. For instance, the research on anti-trafficking in Thailand examines the co-constitutive interactions between the illegibility of human trafficking and the growth of the anti-trafficking industry, particularly in relation to market-based interventions. Critical research on Vietnam offers an instructive analysis of the fusion between humanitarianism and punishment that characterizes “rehabilitation” efforts in anti-trafficking. Research on Singapore and Indonesia considers the function of co-constitutive interactions between the hyper-visibility of sex trafficking and the relative invisibility of labor trafficking. In Indonesia—as a country of origin, transit, and destination—the fractured contours of anti-trafficking responses have produced unexpected or unpredictable interactions, marked by competing understandings of what trafficking is and the accountability of differing governmental bodies. Recent research on the Philippines illustrates the use of gendered surveillance in barring the departure of Filipino nationals as a means of “preventing” human trafficking. These patterns demonstrate the uneasy fusions and alliances among humanitarianism, market economies, law enforcement, and border control that mark responses to human trafficking in Southeast Asia.