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Understanding the complexities of responding to child sex trafficking in Thailand and Cambodia

Deanna Davy (University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The market in trafficked children bought and sold for sexual exploitation is one of the most inhumane transnational crimes that appear to have been facilitated by globalisation and its many effects, such as growing disparity in wealth between North and South. Child sex trafficking (CST) in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) is an extremely complex problem, deeply rooted in historical injustice, gender inequality and poverty. In addition to the complexities of the child trafficking issue, the organisations that seek to combat CST are themselves not always a united force and display their own internal and inter-agency complexities. The purpose of this paper is to examine some of the key complexities of responding to CST in Thailand and Cambodia.


The methodology for this research consisted of 22 semi-structured interviews with anti-child trafficking experts in Thailand and Cambodia, in addition to field observations in various child sex tourism hubs in Southeast Asia.


The complexities of the CST problem in Thailand and Cambodia are discussed as well as analysis of the internal and inter-agency barriers faced by the organisations that seek to combat CST. The research finds that, due to limitations in donor funding, anti-trafficking organisations face difficulties in effectively responding to all aspects of the CST problem. The recommendation is made for improved advocacy networking against this transnational crime. Recent success stories are highlighted.

Research limitations/implications

The research for this paper involved semi-structured interviews with staff from non-government organisations and United Nations agencies, but not with government representatives. The lack of available data from Thai and Cambodian government representatives limits the ability of the researcher to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-trafficking organisations’ response to the child trafficking issue. Also lacking is the voice of child trafficking victims, the key beneficiaries of anti-trafficking organisations’ aid and advocacy efforts.


There is an abundance of literature on the subject of CST but a dearth in scholarly literature on the subject of advocacy and policy responses to CST in Southeast Asia. This paper provides a valuable contribution the knowledge base on child trafficking by analysing both the complexities of the CST issue and the complexities, for anti-trafficking organisations, of effectively combating CST in the GMS.



Davy, D. (2014), "Understanding the complexities of responding to child sex trafficking in Thailand and Cambodia", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 34 No. 11/12, pp. 793-816.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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