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CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

I. Summary
II. Key Recommendations
III. Context
IV. Profiles
V. International Legal Standards On Trafficking In Women
VI. Recruited In Thailand--Sold On Japan
VII. Servitude In The "Snack Bars"
VIII. Deportation As "Illegal Aliens"
IX. Response Of The Japanese Government
X. Response Of The Thai Government
XI. International Response
XII. Recommendations
  • To the Japanese Government
  • To the Thai Government
  • To the Japanese and Thai Governments
  • To All Governments
  • To Intergovernmental Organizations
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
International Organization For Migration (IOM)
International Labor Organization (ILO)
World Health Organization (WHO)
Human Rights Watch OWED JUSTICE
Thai Women Trafficked into Debt Bondage in Japan

Human Rights Watch
New York Washington London Brussels
Copyright September 2000 by Human Rights Watch.
All rights reserved.
Printed in the Unted States of America.
ISBN 1-56432-252-1
Library of Congress Card Number: 00-107963

VI. RECRUITED IN THAILAND--SOLD ON JAPAN

The trafficking of women from Thailand to Japan involves a wide range of actors: the initial recruiter who contacts the women; the agent in Thailand who pays the recruiter, arranges travel documents, and holds the women until they are ready to leave; the escorts who accompany the women to Japan, often via other countries such as Singapore, Malaysia or South Korea; the brokers who meet the women upon their arrival and pay the agent for delivering them; and the procurers who run the sex establishments and pay large sums of money to the brokers for the acquisition of the women.(1) In some cases, these networks also rely on the cooperation of government officials who prepare false documents and/or turn a blind eye to violations, apparently in return for bribes.

The strong demand for Thai women's labor in Japan, coupled with restrictive immigration policies, has provided an ideal environment for these networks to flourish. Women who wish to migrate from Thailand to Japan for work are rarely able to make the arrangements themselves and instead rely on intermediaries to obtain the necessary travel papers, negotiate border controls, and arrange their job placement. Research by Human Rights Watch and others indicates that, in most cases, these intermediaries engage in serious human rights abuses, and women who agree to migrate for lucrative employment opportunities find themselves trafficked into compulsory labor.

Trafficking networks use deception, the threat and use of physical force, and other forms of coercion to place women from Thailand into debt bondage employment in Japan. The agents and brokers derive enormous profits by "selling" the women for amounts exponentially greater than the costs they have incurred, and this "price" becomes the basis of a woman's debt, which she must repay through months of grueling unpaid labor. Agents regularly misrepresented the conditions under which women would work upon their arrival in Japan, giving false or misleading information about crucial issues, such as the type of work they would do, the range of choice they would have, the amount of money they would owe, and the amount of money they would earn. Agents failed to explain the legal implications of the women's travel and employment as well as the highly controlled circumstances under which they would be forced to repay their "debt." Furthermore, once a woman agreed to go to Japan, and the agent began to make arrangements, women lost the ability to safely change their decision or negotiate the terms of their agreement.

Methodology

Human Rights Watch traveled to Japan and Thailand several times over the six year period from 1994 to 1999. In Japan, we conducted interviews in Tokyo and Kyoto, and in Chiba, Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Nagano, Nagoya, and Osaka prefectures; in Thailand, we traveled to Bangkok and to the provinces of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Phayao. We interviewed women who had recently escaped from debt bondage, as well as women who had paid off their debts and either returned to Thailand or continued working in Japan; we could not interview women while they were in debt bondage, due to the heavily controlled conditions of their employment. Our interviewees included twenty-three women(2) from Thailand who described the circumstances under which they came to Japan. Most of these interviews were conducted together with Friends of Women in Asia (FOWIA), a Thai NGO based in Bangkok. We also received detailed testimonies from thirty-five other women, twenty-eight of whom were interviewed by local researchers(3) and seven by staff members at a women's shelter in Japan. In addition, we have drawn on the results of interviews with 170 Thai women that were conducted by staff at the House for Women "Saalaa"(4) between September 1992 and May 1995, as well as the work of Dr. Suriya Samutkupt, a professor of anthropology at Suranaree University of Technology in Thailand. Dr. Samutkupt met with almost one hundred Thai women working in the sex industry in Ibaraki prefecture while conducting research in Japan in 1995, 1996, and 1997. He explained to Human Rights Watch that he was not able to speak to any of the women who were then working in debt bondage, but the women he talked to had arrived in Japan in "debt" and "described the hell that they went through."(5)

In the great majority of the cases we documented, abuses qualifying as trafficking occurred during women's recruitment, travel, and job placement (see table below). All but one of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed or obtained a detailed interview transcript for explained that agents in Thailand arranged their travel and job placement in coordination with contacts in Japan.(6) The great majority of these women described elements of deception and coercion that amounted to trafficking for debt bondage or forced labor. In many more cases, there were strong indications of coercion--for example, the women had extraordinarily high "debts" to pay off when they began working--but the women did not provide enough information about the terms and conditions of their employment to reach definitive conclusions about whether the situation constituted debt bondage. The women's initial employment was nearly always in the entertainment industry, typically in a "dating" snack bar, where their work included providing sexual services to male clients.(7) The abuses that the women suffered during the course of their migration and initial employment in Japan are described below and illustrated with examples from the women's testimonies.(8) Due to circumstances, and to their personal decisions, some of the women did not discuss all of the issues dealt with in this report. Human Rights Watch's findings were confirmed by the groups and individuals we spoke to in Thailand and Japan.

Table: Cases documented by Human Rights Watch

(twenty-three women were interviewed by Human Rights Watch; thirty-five testimonies were provided to Human Rights Watch by local researchers and advocates)

Trafficked? total snack bar hostess other position
Yes 41 37 (all in debt) 1 (lover and

domestic servant of a snack bar owner; no debt)

1 (mama and lover of a snack bar owner; no debt)

2 (brothel; in debt)

Not clear 14 11 (all in debt) 1 (factory; in debt)

1 (exotic dancing; in debt)

1 (massage parlor; in debt)

No 3 1 (came with husband--

managed a Thai restaurant)

1 (factory; no debt--she paid 200,000 baht (US$8,000) in

advance)

1 (dish washing)

TOTAL 58 48 (all in debt) 10 (2 in snack bars)

Recruits

As seen in the case histories described in the "Profiles" chapter, the women we interviewed had different backgrounds and expectations when they left for Japan. But they had similar motivations in going. Most of the women said that they were attracted by the high salaries promised; they wanted to provide a better standard of living for themselves and their families and were often coping with difficult relationships or other family problems. Saalaa, a shelter for foreign women in Kanagawa prefecture in Japan, similarly reported that most of the women there had been persuaded to go to Japan by promises of large wages, though some also wished to separate from husbands or boyfriends.(9) The women trafficked from Thailand were generally recruited while they were in their twenties, but some went to Japan when they were under eighteen or over thirty.(10) Most of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed were Thai nationals, but there is also a problem of women and girls without Thai citizenship being trafficked out of Thailand and into Japan. These include migrants from neighboring countries such as Burma, China, Laos and Cambodia; "hilltribe" people, who may have been born in Thailand but have no records to prove their nationality; and "refugees," who were permitted to live in Thailand only as long as they remained within designated refugee camps. These women find themselves even more vulnerable to exploitation because of the discrimination and economic disadvantages that they face in Thailand, and once they leave the country they are often unable to return.(11)

The following are excerpts from the testimonies provided by several of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed about their decisions to work in Japan. Though all of them made consensual decisions to migrate to Japan for work, and many knew they would be employed as sex workers, each of these women were subsequently trafficked into coercive labor conditions:

  • Rei grew up in southern Thailand. She completed the twelfth grade in school and then got a job as a receptionist for five months. For the next four years, she took many different jobs, but didn't keep any of them for more than five months. During much of that time, Rei had no job at all. So, she said, "I heard about many women going to work in Japan, and I knew many agents in my neighborhood who could arrange for me to go. I knew I would have to be a prostitute, but the promise of a good salary was very appealing."(12)

  • Phan was born in Burma. She is the second of seven children. In 1985, when Phan was fourteen years old, she and her sister moved to Thailand to join their parents and siblings, who had moved there a year earlier. The next year, when Phan was fifteen and her parents were having difficulty finding enough money to support the family, Phan began working at a brothel in Chiang Rai province. After about four years of working as a sex worker in Thailand and Malaysia, Phan was approached by a Thai man who asked her if she wanted to go work in Japan.(13)

  • Soi was born in Chiang Rai province and was a seamstress in Bangkok. She was making 3000 baht (US$120(14)) a month. Soi was twenty-four years old when she was recruited in 1990. A Thai friend whom she had known for two years asked her if she would be interested in going to Japan. As Soi recalled, "[My friend] didn't tell me what kind of work there was, but said I could make a lot of money. I was interested."(15)

  • Bua was an only child, and her father died when she was young. She lived with her mother, grandmother, and grandfather. After she finished sixth grade, she stopped going to school. She wanted to continue her studies, but the school was far from her house and her family could not afford to send her. When she was fifteen years old, her friends went to work as sex workers, and she went with them. Over the next four years, she worked variously in Bangkok, southern Thailand, and her village, sending money home to support her family. In 1991, she met someone who asked her to go to Japan.(16)

    Expectations and understanding of the process of recruitment and job placement, and of the work they would be doing in Japan, differed greatly among the women we interviewed:

  • At age twenty-three, when Bun was asked to go to Japan, she was heavily in debt and agreed to go in order to pay back her debt and make some additional money. But when she arrived in Japan, she found that she had been misled about the conditions and financial arrangements of her employment. "I left for Japan in August 1994 with the agreement that I could either work in a restaurant or as a prostitute as I wished. . . . [The day after I arrived,] I was ordered to strip dance on a table at a snack bar and play stripping games with the customers." In addition, Bun found herself saddled with an outrageous and unexpected "debt." "I didn't know I was going to be in debt 400 bai (4 million yen; US$39,000). I only knew that I would have to work for free for two or three months."(17)

  • Faa, who worked at a sewing shop in Udon Thani province before going to Japan, explained to Human Rights Watch that she knew she was going to work as a sex worker, but not that she would have to work off a debt. At nineteen, she arrived in Japan to find that she had to work every day for the next five months without compensation as she struggled to pay the money she "owed."(18)

  • The Thai man who recruited Phan to work in Japan told her that she would have to pay off a debt of 100,000 baht (US$4,000) and that it would take her about two or three months to do so. "I said I wanted to go, but I didn't have any documents. They said, 'no problem,' they could arrange all the documents. I saw so many other girls going to Japan, so I agreed." Later, when Phan arrived in Japan, she found that her debt was more than seven times the amount to which she had agreed.(19)

    In the interviews Human Rights Watch conducted, the majority of the women indicated that they knew they would be working as sex workers in Japan, and some had already worked in this industry in Thailand. Others were promised jobs as waitresses or factory workers, though in almost all cases they were placed into the sex industry when they arrived. Saalaa found that of the 170 Thai women who stayed at the shelter from 1992 to 1995, 158 had worked as indebted sex workers in Japanese snack bars. And while a majority of these women knew that they would be working in restaurants or bars with at least the option to perform sex work, only a quarter of the women understood that they would have to sell sexual services, and a third expected work outside of the entertainment industry altogether.(20) Siriporn Skrobanek, Executive Secretary of the Foundation for Women (FFW) in Thailand,(21) told Human Rights Watch that according to FFW's research, when women from Thailand first began migrating to Japan in the late 1980s, only about ten percent of the women knew they were going into sex work. A decade later, it has become more difficult to deceive women about the type of the work they will do in Japan, but Siriporn Skrobanek explained that recruiters are increasingly targeting women in northern villages who do not have previous experience of working in the Thai sex industry, because they consider such women easier to deceive about the financial arrangements and other aspects of the work.(22)

    None of the women whom Human Rights Watch interviewed had fully understood the economics of the situation they were entering, nor had any clear idea of the kind of conditions they would face. While some women were told that they would be in debt, the amount of the debt and/or the amount of time it would take to repay the debt was misrepresented. Furthermore, women were not told how debt repayment calculations would be determined. This was left to the discretion of their employers in Japan, who routinely used the woman's "debt" to extract labor under abusive and coercive conditions. And the methods of coercion that employers regularly applied to ensure that women fully repaid their "debts" were, of course, not described by recruiters or agents.(23)

    Finally, women did not have a clear understanding of the legal implications of their migration. Agents handled women's travel and job placement arrangements, often obtaining falsified documentation for them and always providing escorts to accompany them on their trip. Women were given only as much information as they needed to get through immigration procedures. In many cases, women traveled to Japan legally, on their own passports with Japanese tourist or transit visas, and they did not understand that their visa status prohibited them from working. Other women traveled to Japan on falsified passports, in which their name and/or travel history had been changed, but they did not necessarily know that false documentation had been prepared for them until after they arrived at the airport in Thailand, or even later. In other cases, women were told to memorize fake names and stories before they left Thailand, so they realized that they would be deceiving the airport authorities. But in these cases too, the arrangements were made by the agents, and women were required to follow the agents' instructions. Once a woman had agreed to go to Japan and an agent had begun to make preparations on her behalf, the woman was in the agent's debt; she was not allowed to change her mind. Moreover, the women traveled under conditions of deception; the promises of their recruiters and agents had not yet been proven false.

    Many women Human Rights Watch interviewed spoke of their surprise and confusion regarding their legal status and Japanese laws in general:

  • Jaem, who entered Japan at age sixteen, stated, "I didn't know the law and I didn't know that coming to Japan and doing this kind of work was illegal. Before I went to Japan, nobody told me that it was illegal. I don't know Japanese law at all. Now I understand that whatever Thai people do in Japan is illegal."(24)

  • "I didn't know anything before I went to Japan. The agents never told me that I would be legal or that I would be illegal. They just took me to make a passport and told me that I would work at a restaurant as a waitress with a good income. . . . I didn't know Japanese law. But after I arrived in Japan I knew that I was illegal, so I just hid and escaped when police came," explained Aye, who went to Japan in 1992 at age twenty-seven, after having been a sex worker since the age of fourteen or fifteen in Thailand.(25)

  • Jo, who traveled to Japan in 1990 at age twenty-three after seven years of sex work in Thailand, confided, "I never knew the law in Japan or even in Thailand. When I arrived in Japan I knew that I had come illegally, so I was afraid of being arrested. They [her bosses at the snack bar] said that if you meet police or immigration officers you have to run away from them. Everybody said that we stayed illegally, but nobody explained what was legal or illegal."(26)

    Our interviews with women who have worked in Japan, as well as with nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives in Japan and Thailand, suggest that many of them understood that they were taking a risk in migrating to Japan for work. Some women had heard firsthand stories about abusive conditions in Japan, or knew women who had returned to their villages in Thailand sick and empty-handed. Awareness of the dangers of migration has increased as a result of information campaigns launched by the Thai government and local NGOs as well.(27) But women also knew there was the possibility of making large amounts of money in Japan and thereby improving the standard of living of their parents, children, and other family members. In some cases, they lived near large houses built with remittances sent by women working in Japan, and they saw women who had returned to their villages after achieving financial success in Japan. As Yui explained to Human Rights Watch, "when I was nineteen years old, a villager invited me to go work in Japan. I knew three or four women from the village had already died in Japan, but other women got a lot of money, so I decided to go."(28)

    Naiyana Supapong, who served as the Director of Friends of Women in Asia (FOWIA) from 1992 to 1998, helping women who had decided work overseas in Japan, Hong Kong, and other countries, explained:

    Women only get positive information from agents and returning women, but they don't know about the negative things. So I gave them both--the positive and the negative information. I said to them, "some women are successful, but do you know about the suffering behind their success?" . . . Most of the women said: we've heard about the bad situations, but some women have good luck, and we hope we'll be one of them. So most went anyway--they had already made the decision to go when I met them--but this way they were better prepared.(29)

    And, according to another Thai NGO worker,

    In the case of Japan, lots of women know what they'll do and know they'll have hardships, but they still want to go because they are so poor. The Social Welfare Department tries to prevent them from going with information campaigns in the villages saying how hard it will be in Japan, that they'll be beaten, etc. A police officer who is also a song writer (Police Colonel Surasak Sutharom) even wrote a song about exporting women, saying that it is not a heaven but a hell. There were also ex-sex workers on talk shows on television saying don't go to Japan. But still women want to go.(30)

    Recruiters

    Most of the women explained that they were first approached by a relative, neighbor, or other acquaintance, who told them about opportunities to work in Japan:

  • Rei's recruiter was a Thai man who lived in her neighborhood. He was known as the "boss lek" and was known to have arranged jobs for many women in Japan.(31)

  • Khai was recruited in 1991, at age sixteen, by a client while she was working as a masseuse and sex worker in a massage parlor in southern Thailand. As she explained to Human Rights Watch, "a client invited me to work in Tokyo. I explained that I had no identification, but he said he could get me a passport because he was a member of parliament. So I agreed, and the client took me to a place to have my body checked. There I saw many other Thai girls trying to go to Japan. I was told I would work as a server."(32)

  • Faa had left her village in Thailand to work in a sewing shop in Bangkok. When she was nineteen years old, her relatives in Bangkok convinced her to go to work in Japan.(33)

  • Nam had been working at a restaurant in Chiang Rai Province when she was invited to go to Japan by a friend in 1991. As she recalled, "I could not find a job in Thailand and I saw that many women in the village had gone to Japan, so I decided to go." She was twenty-eight years old at the time.(34)

    If a woman expressed interest in going to Japan, the recruiter typically offered to introduce her to an agent who could make all the arrangements. Once a woman agreed to see an agent, the recruiter hurried to make the introduction. After that, the woman generally did not see her recruiter again. Chan was recruited to go to Japan in 1993, by friends of her aunt's whom she had known for a long time. She told Human Rights Watch that one of these friends "introduced me to an agent, and the agent gave her [the recruiter] 30,000 baht [US$1200(35)]."(36)

    Agents

    The women interviewed by Human Rights Watch and Saalaa typically identified their agent as a Thai man, whom they referred to as "boss." When there was more than one agent, the women called them boss yai (big boss) and boss lek (little boss). Of the Thai women in contact with Saalaa shelter from 1992-1995, almost eighty percent of the 158 women who had worked as indebted snack bar hostesses when they arrived in Japan reported that their agents were Thai, while an additional thirteen percent dealt with agents from Japan.(37) This corroborates the experiences of our interviewees, most of whom were first introduced to Thai agents, though others said their agents were from Japan, Singapore, or Malaysia. The agent paid the recruiter for the introduction, and then made arrangements with a broker in Japan to receive the woman. Some agents have contacts with brokers in many different countries so they are able to move women according to the demand. For example, according to a report in a major Thai newspaper in 1994, the arrest of three agents in Bangkok revealed a book noting the expenses for sending women to Japan, the United States, Australia, Sweden, South Africa and Italy. These agents were arrested following leads given to the Acting Thai Police Chief by seven Thai women who had been arrested in South Africa and claimed to have been trafficked by them.(38)

    In some cases, agents inspected women's bodies first to ensure that they were suitable for the work overseas:

  • Khai explained that the first thing her recruiter did when she agreed to go to Japan in 1991 was take her to "a place where I had my body checked."(39)

  • As mentioned in the "Profiles" chapter, Kaew recounted that when she was introduced to an agent, "the agent in Bangkok decided that I was beautiful enough to go to Japan, though I had to get a nose job first, and they kept messing it up--they had to do it four times to get it right. The agent wanted me to get my eyes done too, but I refused. Other women got plastic surgery for their breasts, eyes, or other body parts. Women who were not beautiful enough were given a bus ticket home to their village."(40)

    Agents also handled women's travel arrangements, including booking their flights and assisting them in obtaining the necessary travel documentation. Thai and Japanese government policies have made it difficult for women to obtain passports and Japanese visas legally, but agents are able to overcome these legal barriers through a variety of tactics, including obtaining authentic passports and then switching the photographs; arranging "marriages" to facilitate passport and visa applications; booking flights to the United States or other destinations with a layover in Japan, as transit visas are easier to obtain than tourist visas; and using passports from third countries such as Singapore where visas are not needed to enter Japan. While most of the women we interviewed traveled on Thai passports, others used passports from Malaysia, Singapore, and even Japan. Over half of the women we interviewed said agents used false passports to secure their Japanese visas and entrance into Japan:(41)

  • As described above, Khai had no identification or citizenship papers when she was recruited to work in Japan, but the recruiter promised to take care of that for her. "I was told to say I was another person and given all the woman's documents--her house registration and identification card--and sent to make a passport under this person's name. Getting the passport was no problem, even though I couldn't sign my own name, let alone the name they gave me. I went to apply for the passport with the agent, and then the agent went to collect it on another day. When I went to apply for a Japanese visa, I was never asked any questions and got the visa without difficulty."(42)

  • The agent who made arrangements for Korn was equally adept at fixing documents. When she first decided to go to Japan in 1993, she applied and received her own passport with the help of the agent. However, when she was unable to pass the interviews with the Japanese embassy for a visa, the agent produced a new passport for her, complete with visa, within a week. She did not know whether the new passport was in her name, because she was never allowed to hold it.(43)

  • In Rei's case, her agent, whom she referred to as "boss lek," helped her obtain her passport and a Japanese tourist visa. "The boss lek gave me 1,000 baht (US$40) to apply for my passport. Then he gave me another 500 baht (US$20) to collect it and 50 baht (US$2) to deliver it to him. The boss lek accompanied me to the passport office the first time, but I went to collect my passport by myself. Then, boss lek took me to the Japanese Embassy and told me what to do. However, I actually went into the Embassy alone and did it myself. The boss lek told me to tell the Embassy that I was going to Japan to look at a plastic factory, since I am the boss of a plastic factory in Thailand. Boss lek gave me a letter which stated that I was the boss of a factory. I also gave the Embassy a phone number for the factory. When the Embassy called the 'factory'--it was actually the boss lek's number--the boss lek answered and said I was gone to a meeting for the day. The embassy never called again. I got my Japanese visa a couple days later."(44)

  • Miew explained that she agreed to go to Japan because, "I was told I could work in Japan as a waitress at a restaurant or snack bar and serve alcohol or food and sit down and talk with customers. I was also told I would get a monthly salary and extra tips, and I wanted to go because my family's business in Thailand had collapsed and I wanted to help support them. The 'boss' in Thailand arranged everything for the trip. In late January 1999, I left Thailand from the southern border and went to Singapore. Then I left Singapore on a ticket for Los Angeles via Japan. I traveled with a passport that the boss gave me. The first page of the passport had been changed with my name, photo, age, and sex, but the other pages were from someone else who had lived in the United States for ten years and had even been to Japan before."(45)

  • Kay was twenty-seven years old when she went to Japan from Thailand's Lop Buri province. Kay entered Japan in 1988 on her own passport, but her agent had arranged a marriage for her to facilitate the visa application process. According to Kay the agent told her that, "a 'Mrs.' on my passport would make it easier for me to get a Japanese visa. I met the man who was to be my husband at the district government office when we registered our marriage, and I have never seen or heard of him since."(46)

    The women's testimonies suggest that in some cases agents relied on the cooperation of government officials to procure travel documents. Several women, for example, reported that they had obtained Japanese visas without having to answer a single question, despite an official Japanese policy heightening scrutiny of Thai visa applicants. A Thai government official stationed in Tokyo in 1995 affirmed these suspicions, explaining to Human Rights Watch that agents in Thailand could then procure Japanese visas from Embassy staff for approximately 40,000 baht (US$1600) each.(47) The Thai press has also published reports of Thai officials preparing false documentation to facilitate applications for Japanese visas in return for bribes.(48)

    Once an agent began to make the travel arrangements and obtain the necessary documentation, the women were obliged to follow the agent's instructions. Agents used a combination of persuasion, deception, and coercion to ensure that the women stood by their decisions to go to Japan. Invariably, they misled women regarding the financial arrangements and other conditions under which they would work. In some cases agents spoke to the recruits about their costs and the debt the women would incur, and women often understood that they would have to repay agents for their travel costs. But agents frequently lied about the amount of debt, or the amount of time it would take women to repay it. And those who did not lie outright used vague and misleading jargon that made it virtually impossible for the women to understand the nature of their financial arrangements prior to arriving in Japan. For example, traffickers referred to 10,000 yen (about US$84(49)) as one bai (a Thai word for paper note) and then discussed prices, expenses, and debts in terms of bai:

  • When Khai agreed to go to Japan in 1991, she was told that she would owe 120 bai [1.2 million yen; US$9,000] when she arrived. As she explained, "I didn't know how much that was, but I thought it was about 30,000 baht [US$1,200] because I asked what the price was of the round-trip ticket from Bangkok to Tokyo. When I arrived in Japan I was taken to Shinjuku [an area in Tokyo] and sold to a mama for 120 bai. Later she told me that I owed 280 bai, and then she added 70 bai more to cover additional expenses. In total I had to pay off a debt of 350 bai [3.5 million yen; US$26,000]."(50)

  • Wanna said that the agent in Thailand told her that she would be doing sex work and that she would have a debt to repay, but she told us that after she arrived in Japan, "I was surprised when I heard my debt was 700,000 baht [3.3 million yen (330 bai); US$28,000]."(51)

  • Keak went to Japan in 1988 at the age of twenty-three after eight years as a sex worker in Thailand. She went through a Malaysian escort in Bangkok, and was told that her debt would be 300,000 baht (1.5 million yen; US$12,000). But after arriving in Japan, "I was shocked to hear that my debt was 2.8 million yen [550,000 baht; US$22,000]. I cried without eating for two days."(52)

  • Aye explained, "I didn't know anything before I went to Japan. [The agents] said I could earn 20,000 to 30,000 baht [US$800 - 1200] per month. But when I went to Japan [in 1992], they told me that I owed a debt of 300 bai [3 million yen; 600,000 baht; US$24,000]."(53)

    While explicit threats were generally unnecessary to elicit women's compliance while their travel arrangements were being made, several of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed spoke of being confined to a hotel room during that time. And a few women were expressly forbidden from going out unescorted or from making any contact with friends or family during this period, which usually lasted about a week though sometimes was as short as two or three days. Thus, women who had voluntarily agreed to go to Japan found themselves confined against their will, deprived of their basic right to freedom of movement, and unable to change safely their decision to go to Japan.

  • As Bun recalled, "Once I agreed to go, I was put in a room by the agent and not allowed to go around. The agent gave me a passport, and I went to Japan a week after Du did with a farang [Westerner] escort. We told immigration that we were on our honeymoon."(54)

  • Pong decided to go to Japan in 1986. She was eighteen years old and had been working at a bar in southern Thailand for two years. "On the day I agreed to go, my friend introduced me to an agent. I let him take a photo of myself and went home. Two or three days later I was called to go to a hotel. I stayed there for twenty-four hours--I wouldn't have dared to go out--and left the next day. At the airport, I was given a passport with a false name."(55)

  • Phan was working in a brothel in Hat Yai near the Malaysian border in January 1991 when she was invited to go to work in Japan. She agreed because it sounded as though she could make more money, but she had no documents. The agents assured her they could take care of everything. Two days later, they helped her escape from the brothel and then held her in a hotel for five days until she left for Japan. During that period, she was guarded and not allowed out of the room.(56)

  • Sri is from a village in the province of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. In 1985, Sri was a twenty-one-year-old sex worker in a massage parlor in Bangkok, when a client invited her to go to work at a massage parlor in Macau. Sri agreed, and the client introduced her to an agent. The agent said he liked Sri and would send her to Japan where she could make more money. After Sri agreed, the agent brought her to an apartment in Bangkok. "The agent wouldn't let me out of the apartment at all. I was kept there with five other girls." The women were held for three days before beginning their trip to Japan.(57)

    Escorts

    Women were accompanied on their flights to Japan by escorts who were responsible for delivering the women to brokers, or the brokers' associates, in Japan. Most of the interviewees reported that their escorts were Thai men, though others were escorted by women and/or non-Thais, and in some cases the escorts changed as the women traveled through other countries on their way to Japan. Most of the women we talked to met the escort for the first time in the airport or as they were boarding the airplane; none of the women we interviewed saw their escorts again after they were delivered to brokers in Japan. The escorts facilitated the women's departures from Thailand and entry into Japan, often via third countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore, or South Korea. In some instances, escorts contacted agents in transiting countries to change passports or to collect or deliver other women. The escorts held the women's travel documents, tickets, and money during the trip. None of the women interviewed by Human Rights Watch were allowed to carry their own passports except briefly when passing through immigration, after which they were immediately taken from them again by the escort. And those women who stopped in other countries along the way reported that they were strictly guarded at all times.

  • Janya was twenty years old in August 1991 when she was sent by an agent in Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to meet a Malaysian woman who escorted her to Japan. "I entered Japan through Narita airport. I was carrying a Singaporean passport with a Malaysian-Chinese name on it and my photograph. I came with the Malaysian woman and her five year old daughter. I was a little worried because the passport was fake, but the Malaysian woman told me I didn't have to say anything. She told me to just practice writing my new name and said that she would take care of everything at customs. Nothing happened at customs; I got through easily."(58)

  • Nat did not even realize she would end up in Japan when she left Thailand at age twenty and traveled with a friend and two escorts to Malaysia. When she and her friend arrived in Malaysia, they were taken to Kuala Lumpur and placed in a large apartment with about one or two hundred other Thai women. Nat was confined to that apartment for a month while agents prepared a Malaysian passport for her. As she recalled, "They gave us meals, but the only things to do were watch television and sleep. We were not allowed to go out." When the passport was ready, she flew to Narita airport in Japan.(59)

  • Thip flew to Japan via Singapore in 1999. "I began the trip to Japan on my own passport. I didn't have a visa for Japan--I didn't know that I needed one. I flew from Bangkok to Singapore on my passport, but on the flight from Singapore to Japan, about thirty minutes before arrival, the Japanese man who was escorting me gave me a Japanese passport and told me to use it with the immigration officers in Japan. I was very surprised, and I asked why. He answered, 'a Japanese passport will make it easier for you to enter Japan,' and I didn't know what else to do, so I did as he said."(60)

    Several women explained that they were able to pass through customs despite patently false stories and/or documentation, and, based on the suspicious behavior they observed, at least two of the women concluded that airport immigration officials had collaborated with their traffickers:

  • Khai entered Japan in December 1991 with five other people who were posing as her "family": three other girls who were to be her "sisters," another woman who was the "mother," and a man who was the "father." But, she explained, "none of us were related, or looked like it for that matter. All the women were actually going to work, and the man was the agent." Khai was also traveling on a false passport with a description that did not match her physical characteristics. "I knew in my fake passport the woman was 162 centimeters and I was not even 150 centimeters. But I memorized all the details and passed [through airport immigration] with no problems."(61)

  • Sri traveled to Japan from Hat Yai airport in 1985 with five other Thai women. "At the Thai immigration in Hat Yai, they asked me what I was going to do in Japan. The officer was laughing and I believe he knew exactly what we were going to do. Then the [escort] arranged all of our passports with the immigration officer and we passed through without any other questions asked."(62)

  • Pot flew to Japan via South Korea in 1992. She was put on a flight to South Korea with four other Thai women and one Thai man nicknamed Dee. "Dee told me and the other four women the specific Thai immigration officer to go to . . . In hindsight I believe that the immigration officer at Don Muang airport in Bangkok knew what I was going to do in Japan better than I did at the time of my departure. Because the officer was buddy-buddy with Dee and just kept smiling at us [the Thai women] as he stamped our passports."(63)

  • Nuch said that when she arrived in Japan in 1993, her escort "told me to go in a specific line and she went in another line at Narita immigration. She went through first and then came to help me. She spoke Japanese and got me through."(64)

    We found that those traveling on false passports often traveled through Hat Yai, a Thai city in Songkhla province near the Malaysian border.(65) Nid , who went to Japan in 1991, explained to Human Rights Watch that "most women who use false passports go through Hat Yai [airport] because it is easier to pass immigration."(66) Sean confirmed that, when she went to Japan in 1992, she had to fly through Hat Yai because "I had a fake passport and Hat Yai could arrange my departure without any problems."(67) There are also agents in Hat Yai who can arrange for women to travel to Malaysia by boat. Nat, whose experiences in Malaysia are described above, traveled from Hat Yai to the Thai coast, where, she explained, "Two men were waiting and they took me and my friend on a small boat. Both were policemen. On the boat, my friend and I were told not to tell anyone that the two men were police. . . . After about two hours, the boat arrived at a pier with fishing nets everywhere. The border police seemed to have been informed about our arrival and immediately opened the lock for the wire fence." Nat and her friend had arrived in Malaysia; a month later, Nat flew to Japan on a Malaysian passport.(68)

    Allegations that corrupt officials are involved in facilitating trafficking operations have been supported by a number of sources, including Thai officials. A Thai Labor Affairs Officer stationed in Tokyo told Human Rights Watch about a case in which a twenty-year-old Thai woman entered Japan with the passport of a fifty-year-old woman; only the photo had been replaced. The Thai woman had explained to the officer that she used a password, as she had been instructed, and passed through immigration at Narita airport without any questions asked.(69) There have also been reports in the Thai press of collaboration by both Thai and Japanese officials in such scams. During the investigation of the murder of two Thai agents in March 1995, the Northern Bangkok Metropolitan Division Deputy Commander, Kongdej Chusri, told reporters that he believed that for there to be trafficking in women, both Thai and Japanese officials had to be involved in the trafficking of women. He explained, "It is difficult to leave Thailand and enter Japan with a fake passport. Without assistance from the immigration authorities, it would be almost impossible for them to slip through the tight control [of immigration]."(70) And a study published by Chulalongkorn University of Thailand in 1998 noted that agents who exploit Thai labor migrants, facilitating their travel arrangements and then subjecting them to indentured labor, are "aided by corrupt police and other government officials in the immigration office, the airport authority, and other offices."(71)

    Brokers

    After the women passed through immigration and customs in Japan, they were typically handed over to a broker, who either went to the airport to meet the women, or sent someone to pick them up. According to our interviews, most of the brokers were either Japanese men or Thai women, but some women also reported that certain Thai and Taiwanese men had acted as brokers. The brokers provided the connection between the agents in Thailand and the employers in Japan, and they held the women while making arrangements for their "procurement." In a few cases, the escorts served as brokers, delivering the women directly to procurers. While a woman's placement was being arranged, she was confined and denied access to the outside world. Women were also deprived of their passports, which were held by the brokers and then given directly to the procurers.

    Descriptions of the brokers' "job placement" activities indicated that the women were treated as property, rather than as job applicants. The women consistently referred to being "sold," and they had no opportunity to negotiate their "contract" nor any ability to select or refuse their placement. In the majority of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch, women were placed into work in the sex industry, usually as "hostesses" in "dating" snack bars.(72) This was true regardless of the type of job promised by recruiters and agents in Thailand. Interviews with NGO staff, Thai Embassy officials, and others in Japan who work with women from Thailand, as well as with women returning from Japan to Thailand, confirmed this. The women's shelter Saalaa reported that out of the 170 Thai women who stayed in the shelter from 1992 to 1995, 158 (eighty-five percent) were "sold to small bars called snacks."(73)

    The following cases provide examples of recruits' first few days in Japan. Here and below we focus on women who were placed into employment in snack bars:

  • Phan arrived at Narita airport in Japan in early 1991. She and three other Thai women were then taken by their escort to an apartment where they were handed over to a Taiwanese broker. All of the women were told to shower, after which they drove through the night to Kofu city in Yamanashi prefecture. There they were given some winter clothes and told to shower again and change. According to Phan, the women "were sold by the Taiwanese broker for 150 bai [1.5 million yen; US$11,000] each. The broker explained that our debt would actually be 380 bai [3.8 million yen; US$28,000] to cover all our travel and other expenses. Then we were taken to different snacks. I was taken to a snack bar run by a Taiwanese mama. I was given another 20 bai [200,000 yen; US$1,500] to pay for clothes and told my total debt was 400 bai [4 million yen; US$30,000]."(74)

  • Pong told us that when she and her sister arrived in Japan, "we were handed over to a Thai man who lived in Japan. He took us to a Thai woman, the broker, where I stayed for two nights. Then this woman sold me and my sister. I saw the money changing hands and didn't know at first what it was about, but then realized I was being sold. . . . We were told at the time of purchase that we were six months in debt. This was the first I had heard about the debt."(75)

  • Rei was escorted to Japan by a wealthy woman whom she knew from her village in Thailand. When they arrived at Narita airport, the escort handed Rei a passport and money to show to the immigration officials. After Rei passed smoothly through immigration control, the escort took back the passport and money and brought Rei to a hotel in Tokyo by train. Rei recalled, "I stayed at the hotel with my escort for two nights. On the third day, I was bought by a Taiwanese mama and taken to Ibaraki prefecture by car. I didn't find out where I was until about a week later when I asked a woman I was working with."(76)

  • When Pot arrived at Narita airport in 1990, she was handed over to a Thai woman named Chan and put into a van with several other women. Chan spent the next five days taking the women around to different locations in Tokyo. "She was trying to sell us like cattle. Then on the fifth day a Thai woman bought me and took me to another woman named 'Chan' in Ibaraki prefecture, who paid 380 bai [3.8 million yen; US$26,000] for me. When I got to the snack I learned that the 380 bai that I was bought for was to be my debt."(77)

    Procurers/Employers

    Once the women were "sold" to snack bar owners or managers, their procurers demanded that they work to repay their purchase price--plus other fees and expenses. As one women recalled, "When I refused [to work as a snack bar hostess], I was told, 'we bought you so we want you to give us back that amount of money.'"(78) According to interviewees, the bar owners were typically Japanese men with close ties to the Yakuza, often referred to as "boss," while managers, referred to as "mama" or "mama-san," were almost always foreign women, typically the wife or girlfriend of the owner. Most of the women interviewed by Human Rights Watch worked under Thai or Taiwanese mamas, and a few interviewees pointed out that the mama herself was often living and working in Japan in violation of immigration law, like the women who work for her. For example, one woman we interviewed explained that she became a "mama" when a client paid off her debt in one snack bar and then forced her to repay another debt by working as the mama in a snack bar he owned.(79) The mama operated the bar for the owner and managed both the working and living arrangements of the women who worked there. She was also the one who kept track of women's "debts," and she exercised strict control over those whose debt had not yet been paid off, as is discussed further below. In some cases, women were procured by mamas who were not directly employed by one snack, but instead had connections to several different snacks, where they brought the women to work each day. This arrangement was particularly common in the Kabuki-cho district of the Shinjuku ward in Tokyo, an entertainment district with numerous small snack bars and other sex venues.

    VII. SERVITUDE IN THE "SNACK BARS"

    While I was in Japan, I worked like a slave to pay off my debt. It took almost one year.(80)

    Women recruited and transported into Japan for sex work typically were subjected to a period of servitude in the sex industry when they arrived, and forced to work without pay until they repaid exorbitant "debts," equivalent to around US$25,000 to US$40,000.(81) In most cases, the conditions under which such "debts" were imposed, calculated, and repaid clearly constituted debt bondage, a slavery-like practice outlawed by international law.(82) The women involved also reported a range of other coercive tactics which were used to ensure their obedience while they were "in debt," such as the imposition of "fines" for misbehavior, the confiscation of their passports and other identification documentation, threats of "resale" into renewed debts and/or worse conditions, strict controls on the women's freedom of movement and communication, and threats and use of physical force. In some cases, the conditions women described amounted to forced labor. Furthermore, "indebted" women were compelled to work under highly abusive labor conditions, subjected to excessive work hours, abuse by clients, and significant risks to their physical and mental health.

    This chapter describes women's experiences after they were trafficked from Thailand and "sold" in Japan. It begins with a brief description of the type of snack bar in which most of the women who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch had worked, and then describes the methods which were used to coerce women to work in these establishments for months--or longer--effectively without pay or recompense, and often at serious risk to their physical and mental health. Escape from these conditions was difficult and dangerous, and most of the women we interviewed stayed in debt bondage until their employers determined that their debts were "finished." Other women, however, did manage to escape, and their compelling stories are also recounted below.

    Snack bars

    Though debt bondage and other slavery-like practices occur in a variety of work places, the discussion below focuses on the conditions in Japanese snack bars where the vast majority of our interviewees worked. Snack bars, often referred to simply as "snacks," are a common venue where many Japanese go for relaxation and conversation. The many different types of snack bars are not necessarily distinguishable to outsiders but are well known to the locals in the area. A baishun--or prostitution--snack bar is one which involves sexual exchanges and is almost exclusively patronized by men. The women interviewed by Human Rights Watch distinguished between different types of baishun snacks by the arrangements of sexual exchanges. As noted in the previous chapter, most of the women we interviewed were placed in "dating" snack bars, in which clients may take women out of the bar for sexual services. Of the forty-eight interviewees who were placed in snack bars when they arrived in Japan, all but one of the women described going out with customers to provide sexual services as their primary responsibility.(83) All discussion of snack bars below refers to "dating" snacks.

    "Dating" snack bars typically employ anywhere from five to twenty women as "hostesses"(84) and a female manager, who is called "mama" or "mama-san." Both the hostesses and the mamas are most commonly from Thailand, the Philippines, or Korea, although there are also women from other countries, including Japan. When a man enters the bar, he is immediately greeted by the mama, who comes to his table and asks what he wants to drink and what kind of woman he would like. If the customer is a regular, the mama will know without having to ask. Clients can choose a hostess for either two hours or a whole night, and they may take her out of the snack if they wish. Typically, a hostess is taken by her client to a nearby hotel, and the client is then responsible for paying for the hotel room and for returning the woman to the snack or the apartment where she lives, depending on the time. According to the women we interviewed, average fees were 20,000 to 30,000 yen (US$170-250(85)) for two hours and 30,000 to 40,000 yen (US$250-340) for the night, and the money was given directly to the mama. The women explained that once paid for, a woman was expected to satisfy all of the client's demands.

    The operation of baishun snack bars is closely tied to the Yakuza.(86) The owners are often Yakuza members (or former members) themselves, or else are linked to Yakuza gangs to which they pay regular protection money. The Yakuza are powerful and dangerous groups with connections to police and other government officials. According to our interviews with women who worked as hostesses, as well as with advocates and researchers in this field, the Yakuza's involvement in snack bar operations has important implications for women's ability to challenge the terms or conditions of their employment and to seek redress for violations. Women spoke of their fear of Yakuza retaliation for disobedience or escape attempts, and several advocates pointed to Yakuza involvement in the snack bar industry as a key reason behind the lack of adequate police response to abuses.(87) Sri, who worked as a mama in Kofu from 1985 to 1992, told Human Rights Watch that she paid the Yakuza 8 bai (80,000 yen; US$630(88)) per month to protect her snack bar, follow clients who did not pay, and follow girls who tried to run away.(89)

    Many women also alleged that corrupt police officers--together with Yakuza--helped to protect snack bar operations. Several women explained to Human Rights Watch that police or immigration officials either exempted their snack bars from raids, or else gave their owners advance warning, in return for bribes:

  • Pot explained that the owners of her snack bar and others paid a "tax" to the police so that their hostesses would not be arrested in raids. "When there are raids on snack bars everyone agrees it is because the owner didn't pay the necessary tax."(90)

  • According to Chan, "immigration came once, but there was a telephone call which notified the snack just before and so almost all of the women ran out. Those who didn't get out were arrested."(91)

  • Janya said that "the bar owners were not afraid of the police because the police warn them in advance of inspections by immigration officials. I never saw this, but I heard about it often."(92)

  • Nung recalled that while she was afraid of immigration and police officers, the "boss" at the snack bar was not. "Boss easily got information about immigration crackdowns. So during immigration crackdowns, the Thai people stayed at the apartment and the snack was closed."(93)

    Debt Bondage

    All of the women whose cases Human Rights Watch documented--either through directly conducting in-depth interviews or drawing upon detailed interview transcripts from other researchers--and who were placed into employment as snack bar hostesses upon their arrival in Japan, reported having to repay a substantial debt to their employers.(94) The amount of the women's debts varied, but most of the women were told they owed between 3 million and 5 million yen (US$25,000 - 42,000(95)) when their work began. Our findings have been corroborated by researchers, advocates, and government officials in Japan and Thailand.(96) The women's shelter Saalaa, for example, found that of the Thai women who worked in Japanese snack bars, more than ninety-five percent arrived in debt. Moreover, in ninety-five percent of those cases, the women "owed" more than 3 million yen (US$24,000(97)), which they were forced to reimburse through sex work under highly coercive conditions. Saalaa published a report on these findings which points out that although this amount is called a "debt," this is a misnomer, as the women have not actually borrowed the money.(98)

    Human Rights Watch found that while the crime of debt bondage was closely linked to the crime of trafficking--as women were placed into debt bondage by the same networks that arranged their travel to Japan--women also could be "sold" into debt bondage in snack bars by persons unconnected to their travel into the country. Human Rights Watch interviewed two women who accepted job offers while they were already in Japan in 1995 and then found themselves in debt bondage, with debts of 300 bai (3 million yen; US$32,000):

  • Korn came to Japan in 1993. Her first debt was 380 bai (3.8 million yen; US$34,000), which she paid off in three months, working as a sex worker at a snack bar. Then Korn and her friend Gaew, another sex worker from Thailand, met a Thai woman who told them they could earn a lot of money at another snack bar in Chiba prefecture. So, as Korn explained, "we both came to work the snack on March 23, 1995. But, upon arrival at the snack, we realized we had been sold for 300 bai [3 million yen; US$32,000] each and were in debt again for this amount. As soon as we realized we had been tricked we tried to escape."(99)

    The actual time it took women to repay their debt, and the work they had to perform while in debt, often differed greatly from the promises made at the time of recruitment. Mamas used arbitrary and non-transparent methods of account-keeping, and women had no control over the initial level or on-going calculation of their debt. Not surprisingly, abuses were rampant. In virtually every case Human Rights Watch documented, debts were increased at employers' discretion as fees were levied for housing, food, clothing, medication, fines, and other expenses. Some women were never told how much their debt was to begin with, and in any case, the details of the debt repayment calculations were never fully explained:

  • Unable to find a job that paid a good salary, Chan left Thailand for Japan in 1993, when she was twenty-three years old. Chan told Human Rights Watch, "I was charged 100,000 yen [US$900] a month for all my expenses, and this amount was added to my debt. All I knew was that this included 30,000 yen [US$270] per month for housing. I didn't know how the rest of the money was divided."(100)

  • Before going to Japan, Sean worked in a market. Sean was twenty-eight years old when she arrived at Narita airport in December 1992, and was sent to work at a snack bar in Kofu. "I worked in a 'dating snack' and had to 'date clients' in order to pay off my debt of 120 bai [1.2 million yen; US$11,000(101)]. Each month, another 3 bai [30,000 yen; US$270] was added to the debt for the apartment and all other expenses, such as food and clothing. The Japanese owner also added 3 bai per month to my debt for having given me the job. My agent had told me I could pay off my debt in three to four months, but it took me nine months to pay off my debt."(102)

  • Phan's mama paid for her apartment and food, but Phan said she had to cover all of her other expenses, including birth control pills: "I tried to buy all the extra things I needed with my tip money so it wouldn't be added to my debt."(103)

  • When Miew arrived in Japan in early 1999, she was told that each month she had to pay 50,000 yen (US$430(104)) protection money, 50,000 yen (US$430) for housing, and 30,000 yen (US$260) for food. These expenses, totaling 130,000 yen (US$1,100) a month, were added to her debt.(105)

  • Sri, a Thai woman working as a mama at a snack bar in Kofu, told Human Rights Watch in 1995 that, though an abortion at a private hospital costs about 6-7 bai (60,000-70,000 yen; US$640-740), if a hostess becomes pregnant while in debt, snack bar employers may charge her up to 30 bai (300,000 yen; US$3,200) for an abortion and then add this amount to her debt.(106)

    With fees and other expenses imposed at their mama's discretion, women often found it impossible to keep track of their debt repayment calculations. And, even when they tried, they found that their efforts were fruitless, as they were forced to defer to their mamas when calculations differed:

  • Faa was told she owed 120 bai (1.2 million yen; US$9,000(107)). "I paid off this debt in five months. I served at least one client a night and at most three. The snack paid for room and board, but I had to pay for my birth control and my own health care and personal needs.  But I didn't really know exactly how the debt worked or what I owed for what. I just waited to be told my debt was paid."(108)

  • Pot recalled, "In all, I worked for eight months to pay back my debt and I had calculated that I must have paid it back long ago, but the mama kept lying to me and said she didn't have the same records as I did. . . .  I tried to keep track of my own records quietly, but I didn't know all the additional expenses that the mama was adding to my debt. And I did not want the mama to know I was keeping track for fear that she would get angry."(109)

    Even in cases where women were released from debt within the promised time frame, the discretion that their employers exercised over the conditions of their employment, as well as over the debt repayment calculations, often qualified the arrangement as debt bondage. While in "debt," women had no power to negotiate the nature or conditions of their work and could not take sick days or rest days without permission. They could not refuse clients or clients' demands, making them highly vulnerable to violence and other abusive treatment. They furthermore received no compensation for their labor, and while the women we interviewed were typically allowed to keep tips from clients, in some cases even that was not allowed. An advocate who worked on a hotline for foreign women told Human Rights Watch about a Thai woman whose mama demanded that hostesses hand over their tips: "So she rolled the tips in saran wrap and put them in her vagina to escape detection by her mama. Then she mailed the money home, but it was stolen along the way and never got there, so it was all for nothing."(110) And a Thai woman who had been arrested for murdering her mama wrote the following in a letter composed from prison in 1993:

    The mama took all the money I got by engaging in sex with dirty-minded men, but she did not pay anything to me. . . . Moreover, she charged us food, rent, and other things as well, and our debt to her went up--although we never really borrowed from her. . . . When [the other hostesses] saw me get tipped, they threatened that they were going to tell the mama that I got a tip unless I gave them some. So I gave them some. I thought that giving some to them was better than having it all taken away by the mama.(111)

    Interviewees explained that their indebtedness was consistently used as a justification for the strict control that mamas exercised over all aspects of their lives, which included the confiscation of their passports, strict isolation, constant surveillance, and the threat and use of violent punishments for disobedience. The debt itself also provided a strong incentive for hard work and obedience. Women came to Japan with the primary objective of sending money back to Thailand, so when they learned that they had to repay a debt before they could keep their earnings, their top priority became repaying their debt (or having it repaid) as quickly as possible. This meant staying on good terms with the mama, who had ultimate control over calculating debt repayment and even reserved the right to "resell" women into higher levels of debt and/or worse working conditions. Finally, the lack of wages obstructed women's access to outside assistance and increased their dependency on their employers for food, medical care, housing, and other necessities.

    Dr. Suriya Samutkupt, a Professor of Anthropology at the Suranaree University of Technology, in Thailand, spent several months in Japan in the mid to late 1990s, interviewing Thai women who were working as sex workers in Ibaraki prefecture. These women had arrived in Japan in debt bondage, but had successfully paid off their debts and were now sending money home to Thailand each month. Samutkupt recalled their descriptions of the period of debt bondage, emphasizing that "these were women who had 'made it' in Japan, so their experiences were not as bad as many others":

    They didn't really understand the finances or the accounting, but they knew that cooperation and obedience would get them through. If they cooperated with the boss and the clients, their chances of getting tips and getting free were much, much better. They prayed to be bought out of their contracts [by clients] and they tried to stay away from drugs and drink. They said that the younger women would get into trouble by getting involved in drugs and alcohol and by disobeying. Then they would be beaten or resold. But they explained that "as long as you do your job, the gangsters aren't too bad and will take care of you when you're sick." They also explained that if you're young and pretty you have a better chance.(112)

    Fines

    The system of debt bondage provided snack bar managers with punishments that could be used to exact strict obedience from women without resorting to the explicit threat or use of physical force. Strict rules were imposed regarding matters such as punctuality, weight gain, and failure to fully satisfy clients, and mamas fined women for minor infractions, thus prolonging their period of indebtedness. Women also reported facing fines if any of their customers complained, thus encouraging them to yield to all customer demands.

  • At Kaew's snack bar, "women were fined for coming back late, fighting with each other, or not agreeing to sit with a client, so," Kaew explained, "I did what I was told."(113)

  • Chan explained, "I could eat anything I wanted, but I was penalized if I ever weighed more than 54 kilograms [119 pounds]."(114)

  • Lee, who had left her two-year-old twins with her family in Samut Sakhon Province to come to Japan in 1991, when she was twenty-three years old, explained that her mama added a 10,000 yen (US$75) fine to the debt of a woman who gained even one kilogram.(115)

  • Noi was twenty-one when she arrived in Japan. She described her mama as nervous, and sometimes cruel, and said women were "fined if they were fat or gave bad service to clients."(116)

  • Miew was fined 500,000 yen (US$4,300(117)) for giving the snack bar's telephone number to her parents. She explained that "Women also got fines for asking customers to help them escape [if the customer told on them] or for not satisfying the customer."(118)

    "Resale"

    Many women reported being faced with the threat or actuality of having their debt renewed by being "resold" to another snack bar. In a clear demonstration of the slave-like status of indebted women, procurers considered it their right to "sell" a woman, this time acting as her broker, or to return her to her original broker. Many women were resold, or threatened with resale, into higher levels of debt and worse working conditions as a punishment for disobedience or "causing trouble." Women also explained that being found HIV positive was considered grounds for "resale":

  • Chan said that she served three to four clients every night and explained that she and the other hostesses "weren't exactly forced to take clients but we were pressured, and if we didn't cooperate our lives could be made very difficult. So everyone learned to do as we were instructed. I had to take clients from the first day. I had never done this type of work before, and I had to serve about three or four clients every night. The mama said we had to work hard to pay off our debt within five months, or she would sell us again."(119)

  • Kaew said she "saw lots of women who tried to run away from their debt, but were caught and resold, even caught back in Thailand."(120)

  • According to Miew, she had to be careful in asking clients to help her escape, because "if I asked a customer to help me escape and he told my mama, I would be sold to another place with double debt."(121)

  • Janya was resold after more than a year of working to repay her debt because her boss, a Thai woman, owed heavy gambling debts and wanted to return home to Thailand. It then took her another year to repay her debt to the second snack bar.(122)

    Samutkupt's discussions with Thai sex workers in Japan confirmed that "indebted women could be resold, because they were under contract. They might be resold for misbehavior, or for some other reason, such as because their boss was in debt, or because the club owners changed."(123)

    Tactics to prevent escape

    Passport Deprivation

    One of the ways in which brokers and employers prevented women from attempting escape was by confiscating their passports and other documentation. None of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed were allowed access to their passports while in debt, and in some cases women could not get their passports back even after their debt was paid. Khai's mama kept her (fake) passport while she was in debt, and then, when Khai finished paying off her debt in 1992, demanded a fee for its return. Khai was told to pay 50 bai (500,000 yen; US$4,000) and, since she didn't have the money, she never saw her passport again.(124) Without their passports and other papers, women were left without any proof of their identity, making it difficult for them to arrange transportation back to Thailand. A Japanese man who has helped many Thai and Filipina women escape from debt bondage in snack bars explained that, when he attempts to rescue women, most of them are very concerned about their passports. Their employers have told them that they cannot go home without a passport or identification, and the women believe them.(125) Furthermore, foreigners in Japan are required to carry their passports with them at all times. Failure to produce a passport upon demand by a police or immigration official is punishable by a fine and often leads to detention as a suspected illegal immigrant. Thus, if a woman leaves the snack bar without her passport, she faces the risk of being placed into detention by police or immigration officials. Pot explained that "the mama had my passport so I never dared to run away or even consider running to the police. Without my documents I was sure I would be arrested and jailed. I never got my passport back from the mama even after my debt was paid."(126)

    Restrictions on movement and communication

    Snack bar employers also used strict supervision and restrictions on women's freedom of movement and communication to limit opportunities for successful escapes. Virtually all of the women interviewed by Human Rights Watch complained that every aspect of their lives, during both working and non-working hours, was controlled by the mama while they were in debt. They were housed in apartments with other snack bar hostesses under the supervision of the mama, and they could not go out of the apartment without an escort, if at all. Communication was also tightly controlled. Women were often forbidden to speak in Thai, and one woman reported that though she could send and receive letters, both incoming and outgoing mail was opened and read.

  • Nat worked in a bar with a Singaporean mama. "The mama had lived in Japan for twenty-four years and had been employing Thai women. Because she often traveled to Thailand, she spoke fluent Thai and knew well how to scold in Thai. The mama managed the women very strictly. She watched our every move from her house. Video cameras were set up for this purpose at the snack bar and in the room on the second floor where we lived. All doors made a sound when opened or closed and we could not go anywhere.(127)

  • Miew lived next door to the snack bar and was watched all the time. "There was a motion sensitive light that went on if anyone went up or down the stairs to the apartment. I don't know who was watching us, but someone was."(128)

  • Rei called home about once a month for thirty minutes and was also able to send and receive letters. But she explained that none of the women were allowed to go out alone.(129)

  • Pong worked at a snack bar with eight other Thai women. "I lived with the mama in the same apartment, and I had no freedom to go out. I was watched and controlled all the time. When somebody went out to buy food, another woman had to go with her. Mama ordered the Yakuza to watch the women to prevent escape. Mama told us that if anybody escaped from here, she would be killed." Pong's communication with family members in Thailand was also strictly limited. "I could send letters to my family in Thailand, but I could not receive any letters from my family because I was prohibited from telling our address to anybody."(130)

    The extreme isolation many women are subjected to was described in wrenching words in a letter written by one Thai woman, who has since disappeared, to her father:

    I live without hope. What I do everyday is just have customers. I cannot go out. There are more than ten Yakuza here. This letter must be hidden from them. If they find it, I will be beaten. If I try to run away from here, I will be killed, and my body will be thrown to the sea. . . . I do not know where I am now. All of us do not speak. There are lots of Thais and Filipinas. I am prohibited to talk to them. . . . The Yakuza are always watching me carefully. I am forced to stay at the place where Yakuza live. The restaurant where I work is located on an island. The Yakuza are threatening me. . . . Living here is like living in hell. Yakuza sometimes take us somewhere in order for us to get customers. They pack us into a truck without windows. I cannot look outside.(131)

    Violence/Intimidation

    Finally, many women reported that brokers and employers used physical violence and threats of violence to frighten women into submission. Women were beaten for failing to please their clients, for failing to prevent a coworker's escape, or for other acts of disobedience.

  • Khai complained that the clients would not use condoms, and "if I tried to get a client to use one and he told the mama, I would get in trouble. If I did anything that did not please the client and he complained I would get beaten." She also said that the mama beat the women at the snack bar if they asked clients for any tips or favors.(132)

  • Jaem explained that she was beaten often by her employers because "I wouldn't say I was wrong when I hadn't done anything wrong."(133)

  • Phon arrived in Japan in 1993 at age eighteen and was "sold" to a snack bar owner named Yoko. When two of her coworkers escaped from the snack bar, the boss "beat and kicked me and another woman, asking if we knew something about the two women's escape."(134)

    Threats and intimidation were commonly used to prevent women from trying to escape, and women often heard stories of others who were severely punished, and even killed, for fleeing before they were released from their debt. Rei told Human Rights Watch about an eighteen-year-old woman who was caught trying to escape: "they took the girl back and the mama sold her to the Yakuza. Now she has to work for them in a Yakuza brothel, or 'black jail,' indefinitely with no pay. . . . Some women who try to escape are killed."(135) Another woman, Miew, explained that "a friend of mine working at the same snack told me about a woman who had tried to escape. The first time she was caught and returned to the snack and then, when she tried again, she was killed and found dead in the forest. My friend said that if a woman escapes, she is killed and thrown away in the forest or the ocean."(136) Suriya Samutkupt told Human Rights Watch that in his conversations with Thai women who had been released from debt bondage in snack bars in Japan, he also "heard of many others who had disappeared, either resold or killed by the Yakuza. . . . The women had heard stories of women being thrown into the sea or into the forest for disobeying their bosses." He went on to explain, "I don't know if these stories were true or if they were just threats used as a control tactic," but regardless of their accuracy, they were effective in eliciting obedience. Despite the terrible conditions that they described, none of the women Samutkupt met had ever tried to escape.(137)

    Some employers also told women that if they left the snack bar before their "debts" were repaid, their family members would face violent retaliation back in Thailand. Korn, for example, whose successful escape from debt bondage is described below, told Human Rights Watch, "even though we [Korn and one of her coworkers] escaped, we will not return to our families in Thailand because our agents know where we are from and might seek revenge. My mama threatened to kill my mother and older sister if I ever ran away."(138) Human Rights Watch was unable to determine whether such retaliation was commonly carried out in practice, but according to shelter staff and other advocates whom we interviewed in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Bangkok, these threats are credible, and the fear generated by such threats serves as a significant deterrent against escape attempts and other acts of disobedience.(139)

    Excessive hours

    Nearly every woman Human Rights Watch interviewed was forced to work seven days a week while in debt, without days off for rest or, in some cases, even for illness.(140) Typically, the women were taken to the snack bar at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m and worked until at least 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. They provided sexual services for two to four clients each night and often performed other tasks as well, including cleaning, washing dishes, serving food and drinks, and entertaining clients by singing or playing games with them at their tables:

  • Rei explained that she tried to work hard to pay off her debt as fast as possible. "If I was sick I could rest for two or three days and mama gave me medicine (the cost of which was added to my debt). But I rarely stopped, even when sick, and the mama pushed me to work." Rei said her mama insisted that she serve at least two clients a night, and most nights she served three.(141)

  • In one of the snack bars where Nuch worked, she was woken up every morning at 9:00 a.m. to clean the house and the snack bar before lunch. After lunch, she and the other women from the snack bar had to work in a field behind the bar where the owners grew vegetables and rice. They worked there until dinner-time, and they were closely supervised to make sure they did not steal any produce; anything they wanted to eat from the fields had to be purchased with their tip money. After dinner Nuch went to work in the snack bar, serving clients from 6:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. as she struggled to repay her debt.(142)

  • Lai was twenty-three when a friend in southern Thailand recruited her to go to Japan in 1993. Once there, she was forced to work every day from 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., without any compensation or days off. Her clients paid 20,000 yen (US$180) for two hours or 30,000 yen (US$270) for an overnight stay, but the money went straight to the snack bar owner.(143)

    Several women reported taking contraceptive pills without any days off (to allow for menstruation), so that they could go out with customers every day of the month. Some women said their mamas "forced" them to take pills daily; in other cases, they felt compelled by the urgent need to pay back their debt as quickly as possible:

  • Khai told us that her mama made her pay for her own birth control and take it without any days for menstruation: "I bought the birth control pills on the black market for 2,500 yen [US$20(144)] per month. I didn't have my period for one and a half years. Then when I stopped taking birth control I bled every day for one and a half months."(145)

  • Kaew had been sterilized so she did not need to take birth control pills for contraceptive purposes. But, she said, I took the pill daily so that I wouldn't get my period and could work every day. The mama said to me, 'don't let your period come, or you'll never finish paying your debt.'"(146)

    One woman we interviewed was able to avoid taking birth control pills without regular breaks by sitting on ice to clot her blood when she was menstruating, so that she could still serve clients.(147)

    Abuse by clients

    Women's inability to turn down customers meant that they were often forced to tolerate even the most abusive clients. Many of the women we interviewed explained that some of their clients were sadistic and violent:

  • Khai told us, "I was beaten by clients several times. One client even burnt me many times with a cigarette." But Khai was never allowed to refuse clients. "The clients could do whatever they wanted to me. There were times when I was bruised all over by the clients and still the mama made me go with them for as long as the client was willing to pay. . . . One Thai woman who worked with me was beaten by a client and when she returned to the snack bleeding the mama stilled yelled at her and blamed her for not pleasing the client. The mama kept saying it was her fault for not pleasing him."(148)

  • Rei also reported having to accept every client and fulfill all of their requests. "The client could do anything they wanted with me and could ask me to do anything and I couldn't refuse. The only thing the mama said to the clients was 'these women belong to the Yakuza so be careful with them.'"(149)

  • According to Jo, "Some clients were violent with us. Once we went out with a client, we had to follow his instructions and satisfy him."(150)

    A volunteer staff member at a Japanese women's shelter told Human Rights Watch that, during the year and a half that she worked there, from early 1998 to mid-1999, nine Thai women escaped to the shelter from snack bars and two escaped from brothels. Several women reported traumatic experiences with clients, including one woman who was forced to have sex in the snow, and was then left in the snow by her client when she fainted. She was rescued by her mama, who went to find her when the client returned with only the woman's clothing.(151)

    Risks to physical and mental health

    Women working in debt bondage in Japan's sex industry face serious risks to their physical and mental health. These include the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)--including HIV/AIDS--from their clients. Several women interviewed by Human Rights Watch explained that they were unable to negotiate or insist on condom use, especially while they were still in debt. Kaew said she tried to use condoms during oral sex "but some of the clients refused to use the condoms."(152) Nam explained, "I could not refuse clients, and very few clients used condoms."(153) We also spoke to a Thai mama, Sri, who told us that while she tried to convince clients to use condoms with the women who worked for her, she did not insist on it; if clients refused to use a condom, the women had to follow their clients' wishes or it would be bad for the snack bar.(154) A staff worker at MsLA, a women's shelter and hotline and counseling center in Yokohama, corroborated the testimony of Human Rights Watch interviewees regarding condom use: "Thai women are very concerned about STDs. They ask for condoms but ten out of ten customers refuse. Condoms are a common form of birth control in Japan, but it is something to be used with wives. Men feel that since they have paid for the services of a prostitute, they should be able to do whatever they want."(155)

    Women's limited access to medical testing and treatment exacerbated the health risks they faced from sexually transmitted diseases. Restrictions on women's freedom of movement meant that they could not visit a doctor without their mama's approval, and, typically, her accompaniment. Language barriers--coupled with a lack of interpreters in Japanese hospitals and clinics--compounded the problem, making it impossible for women to communicate directly with health care providers. Indebted women also lacked the funds to pay for exams and medication, and their undocumented immigration status served to exclude them from nearly all government health care subsidies, including government-subsidized HIV/AIDS treatment. Not only did this mean that women's access to medical care depended on their mamas' decision to pay for it, it also meant that visits to the doctor could prolong their period of indebtedness, as all health care costs were added to their debt.

    The result was that, while in debt, women's access to testing and medication for STDs and other illnesses was strictly controlled by their mamas. Some women were never tested. Pong, for example, explained that she was never checked for STDs, even though very few clients used condoms.(156) Other women were given blood tests, but the results were provided to their mamas--in violation of their right to privacy--while being withheld from the women themselves. Providing medical test results to the women's managers constitutes a serious breach of the principle of doctor-patient confidentiality. Still other women were given the results, but could not afford to pay for the medication they needed. And those who did receive treatment saw their debts increase as a result:

  • Rei told Human Rights Watch that while she was working as an indebted snack shop hostess, she and her coworkers went to the hospital once a month for blood tests to check for STDs and HIV/AIDS. The cost of the health visits were added to the women's debt, and the test results were given to the mama. Rei knows that she had syphilis twice, but she does not know whether she has HIV/AIDS because her mama never told her.(157)

  • Soi worked at a snack bar in Chiba prefecture for two months and then was transferred with her mama to a snack bar in Mie prefecture. During the four months that she worked without compensation, from October 1990 to January 1991, she and the other hostesses were taken to the doctor for blood tests twice a week, but the doctor discussed the results only with their mama. In Soi's words, "The doctor checked us for diseases by taking out blood and listening to our chests with a stethoscope. The mama paid the doctor. The doctor never told us our diagnosis. He would tell the mama. . . . The mama said she would tell us if we were sick."(158)

  • When Khai had her blood checked, the health center told her that she "had too many white cells"--meaning she was HIV-positive--but her mama refused to give her money for medication.(159)

  • Ooi saw a doctor once while she was at the snack bar. "The doctor took my blood and examined my vagina. It took a week for me to find out my results. I was told I did not have syphilis. But I was not told anything else. The mama made me see the doctor. One of the clients asked the owner to bring the women for medical check-ups because some diseases can be transmitted. So the owner told the mama to take the girls to the doctor because if the client got a disease, then he might take back his money. The mama paid the doctor's fee. After I got back to the apartment, the mama told me that my debt would be increased. . . . One month before I was arrested, I was taken to a hospital for a check-up. The doctor gave me a month's supply of medicine. I did not know what the medicine was for."(160)

    Based on her conversations with Thai women, a staff member at MsLA observed, "Half the women get regular checkups and the medical fees are added to their debt. The other half have no way of knowing if they have any disease."(161)

    There is also some evidence that women trafficked from Thailand into the Japanese sex industry are at risk of developing serious mental health problems as a result of the abuses they suffer. Though there are no statistics estimating the extent of mental disorders among undocumented female migrants from Thailand in Japan, such problems have been identified by physicians who treat foreign patients in Japan as one of the major medical problems facing Thai women. Takashi Sawada, a physician at the Minatomachi Medical Clinic, told Human Rights Watch that, in his experience, acute psychosis and substance abuse are prevalent among Thai women working as entertainers or sex workers in Japan.(162) Human Rights Watch spoke to several women who appeared to be suffering from addictions and/or serious mental health problems after working in debt bondage in Japanese snack bars. A few of their stories are related below, though we do not have sufficient information or expertise to reach definitive conclusions about how or why their problems developed:

  • When we met Khai, she had escaped from debt bondage in a snack bar and was working on the streets in Osaka. She was living with a Japanese boyfriend, and explained that she was trying to stop working, but without the work she gets bored and has no money of her own. "I am still addicted to the drug 'U' and so I need some money. I get angry with myself sometimes and beat myself by sticking needles in my arms and banging my head against the wall hard. If I am drunk or on drugs I feel better. I often have severe headaches."(163)

  • Bee was working at a bar in Bangkok that served primarily Japanese clients when a friend of hers asked her to go to Japan. Bee agreed, but when she got to Japan and was sold to a snack bar in Ibaraki prefecture, the conditions proved unbearable. She began consuming large amounts of cough syrup and drugs, and then had problems with her nerves. "I became crazy and then the neighbors reported me." It is not clear whether her neighbors called the police or the hospital, but Bee was taken to a mental hospital, where she was treated and then turned over to the police.(164)

  • Four months after her baby was born, Faa began having temper tantrums. She was eventually sent to a psychiatric hospital in Japan and then transferred to Thailand. When we spoke to Faa at the psychiatric hospital in Thailand, she did not remember her temper tantrums or know why she had been committed to hospitals in Japan and Thailand. The hospital staff believed that her mental disorders were probably a result of her addiction to medicated cough syrup during the nearly four years she was in Japan.(165)

    Japan's public health system provides for free treatment to undocumented migrants whose cases are so severe that they are considered at risk of physically harming themselves or others and are in need of emergency intervention. But for women with less extreme problems, the high cost of treatment can deter them from seeking assistance. The fact that there are few Thai-speaking psychiatrists in Japan means that effective care is often unavailable even in emergency cases.(166)

    Snack bar hostesses may also suffer from a range of illnesses or injuries, particularly given the excessive work hours and the prevalence of physically abusive clients and/or employers. Again, Human Rights Watch found that the risk to their health was heightened by their dependence on their employers for access to medical care and medication: they needed permission from their mama to see a doctor, as well as a "loan" to pay for the visit and any necessary medication. And again, the cost of any medical care that women did receive was added to their debts and thus could prolong their period of debt bondage. Joy reported, "We had to work even if we were ill or menstruating. And as long as we were in debt, we were not allowed to go to the doctor, even if we were sick."(167) Wanna described her mama as a "cold-hearted woman," and complained that "when I was ill I had to take clients."(168) Nuch said that when she developed a rash and fever, her mama bought her medicine, but did not take her to see a doctor and the cost of her medicine was added to her debt.(169)

    Women continue to face problems in obtaining affordable health care after being released from debt. Excluded from government health benefits on the basis of their immigration status, the high cost of medical care could prevent women from even seeking treatment. Rei told Human Rights Watch that, while she was working as a sex worker on the streets, after paying off her debt in a snack bar, a client took her to an apartment and threw her down a flight of steps. Despite her resultant injuries, she did not go to a doctor: "I had no health care insurance and no money." Instead, she simply stayed at home for a month without working.(170) Women who successfully obtain medical care find themselves saddled with expensive medical bills. Most found the money to cover their bills, but those without the resources to pay could be forced into excruciating choices. Nid explained that, when she was pregnant in 1995, her inability to pay her medical expenses, which totaled 800,000 yen (US$8500), nearly led her to give up her unborn children to a woman who offered to cover her hospital bills in return.(171) Fortunately, staff members from the Japanese NGO Saalaa intervened and assisted Nid in arranging both child care and a hospital payment plan.(172)

    In 1994, a staff worker from OASIS, a Japanese women's association that was set up in 1983 to help foreign workers in Japan, noted that "Japanese authorities reported that twenty Thai girls died in 1993 after working in the snack bars or brothels because of various 'illnesses.' The illnesses were caused by the fact that they were forced to work too hard and because they had no time to rest and no money to see a doctor."(173) In interviews with Human Rights Watch in 1999, Thai officials, including the First Secretary of the Royal Thai Embassy in Japan and the Japan Desk Officer at the Consular Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited similar mortality rates for Thai women in Japan, stating that about fifty Thai nationals die in Japan each year, and the majority of the deceased are women. They did not, however, provide any information about the causes of death.(174)

    Release from debt

    "Dat tact"

    In some cases, a woman's release from debt bondage was expedited by a client who paid off her outstanding debt. Women referred to this as "dat tact"(175):

  • Soi had spent two months working in a snack bar without compensation, when one of her clients, Mr. Takashi,(176) paid her boss to release her. "He came to the snack for the first time in December 1990. He met me there, bought me [for the night], and then bought me about ten times after that. Then he proposed to me. I did not understand what he was saying so the mama interpreted for me. He asked me to stop working at the snack and to live with him. He paid 1.5 million yen [US$11,000] to my boss to set me free. I left the snack in January 1991 and started living with Mr. Takashi and his eighty-two-year-old ailing mother. I got a job and worked illegally at a button producing factory. I worked there for a year and a half. In November 1993, Mr. Takashi and I went to the ward office to get married. I went to the office with my real passport, which I had brought to Japan with me [though she entered Japan on a Malaysian passport]. It had no 'entry' stamp for Japan, but the ward office said I could get married if I had my real passport." When she spoke to Human Rights Watch in March 1994, Soi had applied for a visa as a spouse of Japanese national and hoped to receive it within the year.(177)

  • While Kaew was working to repay her debt at a snack bar in Nagano prefecture in 1992, she met a man who was a friend of the owner. "He came to the snack bar often, but he never took women out, he just talked to them. I had to talk to him, and at first I was upset because I knew he wasn't going to pay to take me out, but then he gave me tips just to sit and talk. He told the owner that he liked me and asked to buy out my contract, and the owner agreed since it was his friend. Usually, they didn't allow men to buy women out. So he paid the 130 bai [1.3 million yen; US$10,000] that I owed [she had already repaid 250 bai (2.5 million yen; US$20,000)] and set me up in an apartment. He gave me money, and I also continued to work at the same snack bar, but I wasn't in debt so I earned money."(178)

    Samutkupt found that it was common practice for clients to "buy" women out of debt in the snack bars and then take them as mistresses. The women he met with in Ibaraki prefecture explained that while they were in "debt," "they dreamt of getting out of their contract, and their goal was to be bought out of debt." Many of the women he interviewed had been "bought out" by Japanese men, who then rented apartments for the women, gave them spending money, and visited them once or twice a week.(179)

    Women preferred "dat tact" to remaining in debt bondage, but they were also vulnerable to being exploited by the person who had purchased their "release" and thus felt entitled to demand services and obedience. Furthermore, the women continued to live in fear of deportation and became dependant on their "boyfriend" for protection against the authorities and access to housing, medical care, and other necessities. We interviewed one woman who was "released" from debt by her "boyfriend" while she was working at a snack bar in 1985, only to be told that she owed him a debt of 80 bai (800,000 yen; US$3300):

  • Sri had been working in Japan for five months when her Japanese 'boyfriend' paid off the rest of her debt--she never found out how much that was -- and took her to live with him. Then he brought her to Kofu, where he had just opened a snack bar of his own. "He told me I was to work there and pay off another debt of 80 bai [800,000 yen; US$3300]. He then bought another ten Thai girls for 180 bai [1.8 million yen; US$7500] each, and each of these girls had to work off a debt of 300-350 bai [3-3.5 million yen; US$12,400-14,500]. The girls' debt varied according to their age and beauty, the younger and more beautiful they were, the higher their debt. I was told that my debt was less because I was to be the mama in that snack."(180)

    "Finishing" the debt

    Most women worked until they were told that their debt was "finished." While the amount of time it took women to repay their debts varied greatly, most of the women whose cases Human Rights Watch documented were released within a year:(181)

  • Joy was "sold" to a snack bar in Gumma prefecture in 1991, where she was held in debt bondage and forced to work every day to repay a debt of 350 bai (3.5 million yen; US$26,000). She described her mama as "mean and malicious." "If we [Joy and her coworkers] didn't listen to the mama, she reported us to the Yakuza. We had to work even if we were ill or menstruating. And as long as we were in debt, we were not allowed to go to the doctor, even if we were sick." But after two and a half months, Joy had repaid her debt, and she went to work at a factory, earning about 130,000 yen (US$1000) a month after taxes.(182)

  • When Pat went to Japan in 1990 at age twenty-four, she said, "I understood that I owed a debt of 2.3 million yen [US$16,000] and what type of work I would do. But I didn't know how long I had to work, and in the end I spent more than a year finishing my debt because I was resold to other snack bars several times." After her debt was "finished," she moved in with her forty-three-year-old Japanese boyfriend, whom she later married.(183)

  • Lee agreed to come to Japan in 1991. "The agent told me I would work serving drinks in Japan. I did not know until after I arrived that I had to pay off my debt of 400 bai [4 million yen; US$30,000] through prostitution. That time was very difficult. I was sent to a snack bar, and it took me seven months to pay off my debt. I had one regular customer who came every other night which helped, but besides him I had to serve any client who wanted me and I couldn't refuse." Lee stayed at the snack for several months after repaying her debt, until she had saved enough money to move. Then she got a job at a snack bar near Narita airport in Chiba prefecture, and worked there for more than a year.(184)

    After they were released, most of the women continued to work in Japan, either in sex work or other types of employment. These women were finally able to collect wages for their work, and many women sent significant amounts of money home to their families in Thailand. Non-indebted hostesses in the snack bars had more choices about where they worked, when they worked, the types of services they performed, and the clients they accepted. However, some women reported that their mamas continued to exercise abusive levels of control, even after their debt was repaid. In some cases, women found themselves with no choice but to continue working at the same snack bar, because they did not have enough money to leave:

  • Phan spent five months paying off a debt of 400 bai (4 million yen; US$30,000) after she arrived in Japan in January 1991. Then she agreed to enter into a second debt. "The mama asked me if I wanted another contract. I was not allowed to earn the money I made and save it along the way--the mama explained that according to her system, you had to take the advance and then worked it off. So I agreed to extend my contract by 100 bai [1 million yen; US$7,500], which I sent home to my family. The mama said that for 100 bai I would have to pay off a debt of 200 bai [2 million yen; US$15,000], and I agreed. During the second debt, a client offered to 'dat tact' [pay off the rest of Phan's debt to have her 'released'], but the mama wouldn't allow it. I never went out of the apartment or snack because I was afraid of the mama's temper and also because I knew I was illegal and could be arrested. Then after I paid off the second 'tact' [contract], I took 150 bai [1.5 million yen; US$11,000] advance to send to my family and worked off a third debt of 300 bai [3 million yen; US$22,000]. In all I worked in this snack for the Taiwanese mama for more than a year. Once I paid off my third debt [in early 1992], I worked to get an extra 20 bai [200,000 yen; US$1,600] to leave. . . . The mama warned me that once a woman leaves her snack she has to leave the town of Kofu.  This is because the mama is afraid that if the woman goes to work at another snack, her clients will follow her and take the mama's business away. So I went to work in an 'awk kaek' snack in Shinjuku, Tokyo." Two months later, however, Phan decided to return to Kofu because her friends and regular customers were there. "When the mama from the snack I had worked at found out I was back in town, she threatened me, telling me to either work for her or to leave town. I refused. Then the mama with her older sister, a friend and two Yakuza members (who were also taxi drivers) took me out of town and beat me up." Phan left again, and this time stayed away for almost a year, until her Japanese boyfriend in Kofu offered to pay off the Yakuza to allow her to return.(185)

  • Khai said that while she was in debt in 1992, her mama yelled at her, telling her that if she did not work harder to please the clients it would take at least a couple years for her to pay off her debt of 340 bai [3.4 million yen; US$27,000]. "But, I worked hard and actually paid off my debt in six months. I paid off my debt faster than any other woman in that snack. Then the mama told me I had to work for an additional two months at the snack, but I didn't have to take clients if I didn't want to. I still had to go with clients in order to get some money to leave the snack with, but I did not have to take as many clients as before. After these two months, I didn't have enough money saved to leave, and I didn't know where to go. But the mama told me I had to pay her 50 bai [500,000 yen; US$4,000] a month to continue working there. She also told me she would give me the (fake) passport that I traveled to Japan with, if I gave her 50 bai. I told her I had already paid off my debt and had the right to get my passport back. However, the mama insisted on the 50 bai and so I said 'forget it.' Soon after that, the mama sold me to another snack. I left with very few clothes or possessions. This snack was run directly by the Yakuza. I was told I was again in debt; this time for 200 bai [2 million yen; US$16,000]."(186)

    Escape

    The testimonies of women who escaped from debt bondage provide important insights into the difficulties and dangers of such attempts. Unfamiliar with Japan and far from their friends and family, women did not know where to go or who to turn to for help. Many resisted turning to Japanese authorities. Unable to communicate in Japanese, aware of their illegal status, and believing--in at least some cases correctly--that their employers had connections to the police, they feared being arrested and punished as illegal aliens or returned to their employers. Moreover, while all of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed about their escape attempts were successful, there is evidence that others are not so fortunate. As related above, Human Rights Watch heard stories of women being caught and killed or otherwise punished for trying to escape before their "debts" were repaid. We were not able to verify these accounts, but the fear they instilled in trafficked women was potent and real.

    Human Rights Watch spoke to one woman who was returned to her snack bar owner by the police after she voluntarily surrendered to them in an attempt to get home. Sri recalled,

    When I arrived in Japan [in 1985] I was first sent to a snack bar in Ibaraki prefecture. I worked there for only one month. Then there was a fire at the snack, and the police came to the snack and asked who wanted to go home. I said I wanted to go home and asked to be arrested. The police took me and two other Thai women who also wanted to go home to the police station. We were separated at the police station and questioned by the police, but only about the fire. When the questioning was done the police released us the same day to our snack bar owner. The owner sold us to another snack in Ibaraki for 80 bai each [800,000 yen; US$3300].(187)

    In a widely reported incident in the early 1990's, two police officers were forced to resign after releasing two Thai women in their custody to a former Yakuza member. An advocate who later assisted these women provided some of the details of the case to Human Rights Watch:

    On May 24, 1991, in Suzuka city, Mie prefecture, three Thai women were arrested. One Japanese man was with the women. There was some trouble and the police hit the man, and the man later said he would sue the police. He had gotten a doctor's certificate as proof of his injuries. The police negotiated to return the women to him if he would drop the charges. . . The police arranged with the man to release the women to him at Nagoya station on their way to Nara city. The police would pretend that the women had escaped while going to the toilet. It turned out that the Japanese man was a former member of the Yakuza and was at Nagoya station with a current member of the Yakuza. Of the three women, two were thus returned to the Yakuza. The other one was taken to Tokyo Immigration. This case was widely reported in the media in the end of July. The police chief of Mie prefecture was transferred. The top officer from Suzuka city was forced to resign, with pension. He was the one responsible for investigating the case. The two police officers from Suzuka city who had directly negotiated with the man were also forced to resign on July 25, 1991, but were not charged with any crime. These two were members of the crime prevention unit that deals with bars, gangsters, and so on.(188)

    An attorney working with a women's shelter in Tokyo explained to Human Rights Watch that "there are many cases in which women are returned by the police to snack bars because they cannot speak Japanese." She recounted one case in which a Filipina woman went to the police after being assaulted at the snack bar where she was working: "She was pushed down a flight of stairs and went to the police for help. The police returned her to the bar. She ran away twice and eventually went to [the shelter]."(189)

    Women were also reluctant to turn to Japanese or Thai authorities because when officials assisted women in escaping, the women were deported as illegal aliens without any opportunity to seek back wages or other compensation for the violations they had faced. Still, Human Rights Watch interviewed four women who successfully relied on the assistance of Japanese or Thai government officials in their attempts to escape from debt bondage in snack bars (Miew, Korn, Gaew, Chan), and we received testimonies of two more cases from staff at Japanese women's shelters (Lai, Phon).(190) These women preferred to return to Thailand, even empty-handed and fearing retaliation from their traffickers, rather than continue to face the abuses of their bosses and clients.(191)

  • Chan had been working in debt bondage for three months when a client left her to take a taxi back to her apartment alone. Instead, she took the taxi to Tokyo and asked how to get to immigration. Immigration officials were not very helpful. "My mama's husband had followed me to the Japanese immigration office, but neither the Thai translator nor the immigration staff would help me hide from him." Finally, the Thai translator called a travel agent to help arrange Chan's trip back to Thailand, and the travel agent referred her to a nearby guesthouse for the night. The next day, Chan went to the Thai Embassy and, after spending one night there, she was sent to stay at a women's shelter until she was deported later that month, in February 1994. After Chan was deported, an agent followed her to her home in Korat asking for the rest of the debt. "I was afraid, so I left my family's home and came to Bangkok. I am still afraid they are following me even though it is one year later. I am afraid that if they catch up with me they will kill me. When I was in Japan, I heard that that is what they do to those who don't repay their debt. That is why very few women dare to escape. Everyone I knew stayed and finished their debt."(192)

  • Miew's mama was very concerned about preventing escape attempts. "The mama told us [Miew and her coworkers] that if we tried to escape we would be followed and found by the Yakuza or police. She also took a pornographic photo of me to prevent me from escaping." Furthermore, one of Miew's friends at the snack bar told her about a woman who was killed for trying to escape. Still, Miew began thinking about ways to escape as soon as she realized the conditions under which she had to work to repay her debt. After about three months, in April 1999, she succeeded in escaping. "I asked many customers to help me escape. It was difficult at first because I didn't know who I could trust and I didn't speak enough Japanese to explain what I wanted to my clients. Also, if I asked a customer to help me escape and he told my mama, I would be sold to another place with double debt. Finally, a customer that really liked me agreed to help me escape. I was lucky to get a regular customer who liked me. He contacted the Thai Embassy and got them to make up a CI paper [a CI paper, or "Certificate of Identity," is a temporary travel document that permits a Thai national who lacks a valid passport to reenter Thailand] for me (to prove my nationality, my family sent my house registration documents to the Embassy from Thailand). One day when the CI was ready, the client and I planned my escape. According to our plan, he drove down the street next to the apartment when I went to take the garbage out, and I jumped into the car. I was afraid of being seen so I laid down on the floor of the car while we drove away." Miew stayed at a women's shelter in Tokyo while awaiting her return to Thailand. While she was there, she told her story to the police. "At first I was afraid of the police, because I thought they might tell someone where I was staying. But the shelter staff told me not to worry about that. So I gave all of the information to the police because I was angry at my boss and mama, who told me I owed heavy debts. Also, some other women at the snack wanted to escape."(193)

  • In 1995, Korn and Gaew accepted job offers at a snack in Chiba prefecture, but then found that they had been sold into debt bondage. According to Korn, "As soon as we realized we had been tricked, we tried to escape." Korn wrote to her brother in Thailand, who asked a journalist to help her. The journalist knew an official at the Thai Embassy in Japan, Udom Sapito, and sent him the photograph and telephone number of the snack, which Korn had given her brother. Sapito then referred the photograph and telephone number to a women's shelter that assists trafficking victims and other foreign women in Japan, and the shelter staff arranged a rescue attempt by Japanese men posing as snack bar clients. The rescue was successful and Korn and Gaew were taken to the women's shelter to await deportation. But as mentioned above, these women told Human Rights Watch that they would not return to their families because of the threats of retaliation made by their mama. (194)

    When we spoke to the then recently-appointed First Secretary of the Thai Embassy, Nopporn Ratchawej, in April 1999, he told us that in his first three months at the Embassy, he had helped rescue four women who were being held against their will in snack bars or brothels. He had arranged to meet them near their place of work or residence, took them back to the Embassy, and then placed them in privately-run Japanese women's shelters. And he had done this without the help of the Japanese police. He explained to Human Rights Watch that he did not have time to ask for their assistance: "One woman, for example, called at night and I had to meet her the next morning. She was working in [a Tokyo suburb], and she said she could get out when the mama was sleeping in the morning. So I told her to meet me at the subway station the next day."(195) Human Rights Watch later met this woman while she was staying at a woman's shelter awaiting her return to Thailand. She said that her agent in Bangkok had promised her a job as a waitress, but when she arrived in Japan she was forced to work in a brothel, serving numerous clients each day. So she called a relative in Thailand to get the Thai Embassy's phone number in Tokyo, and then managed to call the embassy one night when her employers were sleeping. "Fortunately," she said, "I spoke to an officer who understood my situation. He told me how to get to the train station and then he brought me to stay at [the woman's shelter]."(196)

    Occasionally, women may escape from debt bondage without turning to government officials for assistance. The following women escaped from their initial employers and then continued to live and work in Japan for several years, despite threats of retaliation from their traffickers:

  • Bee escaped from a snack bar in Yokohama without fully repaying her debt, but her agent, who was also one of her relatives, found out and threatened her family. "The agent went to my family and warned 'if Bee cannot pay her debt, I will take your land and house from you.' My family was shocked and they contacted me, saying 'there is a big problem, so send money to us immediately.'" So Bee sent them money to pay off the agent.(197)

  • When Pong went to Japan with one of her sisters, she had an older sister who was already working there. Pong explained that she was able to escape because she had this older sister living in Japan whom her mama did not know about: "After two months, I called my older sister and ran away. I had argued with the mama before and told her that I would call the police, and she said to go ahead, that I had more to fear from them than she did. I wasn't afraid of the mama. She was also without legal status. She was from Laos, and she couldn't go out without her boyfriend's permission. When I left, I threatened to go to the police, so the mama didn't dare do anything. But when I called the snack bar later to talk to one of the other women, the woman told me that the mama had sent the Yakuza to follow me.(198) But the Yakuza couldn't find me because I had gone to my older sister's. My other sister stayed at the snack for three more months. She was afraid to escape right away. When she left, she had been working for five months so she had one month of debt left."(199)

  • Khai escaped with the help of a Yakuza member after being resold by her mama to another snack bar. She explained, "This snack was run by the Yakuza directly. I was told I was again in debt and this time for 200 bai. I paid off nearly 100 bai of this debt. Then I met a Thai woman who invited me to work in Osaka. I ran away from the snack with the help of a Yakuza member. I had to leave without anything and the Yakuza member gave me ten bai to go to Osaka."(200)

    VIII. DEPORTATION AS "ILLEGAL ALIENS"

    Nearly all of the women trafficked to Japan eventually return to Thailand. Most voluntarily surrender to Japanese immigration officials after they have been released from debt and have decided to go home. Some turn to the authorities for assistance in their efforts to escape from debt bondage. And others are arrested during police or immigration raids. In all of these cases, the trafficked women are deported to Thailand as "illegal aliens," without any official acknowledgment of the coercive nature of their migration and employment in Japan. While Thai and Japanese officials sometimes facilitate the women's deportation, helping them obtain the necessary documentation and funds for the trip, neither government takes any steps to provide trafficked women with redress for the abuses they have suffered. Moreover, some women have reported abusive treatment by Thai immigration officials upon their arrival back in Thailand, and others have found themselves indefinitely barred from reentering Thailand due to their inability to provide proof of Thai nationality. Finally, trafficked persons who are arrested by Japanese officials are subjected to punitive treatment that is wholly inappropriate for victims of trafficking and, often, fails to meet minimum international standards for due process and treatment of detainees.

    Voluntary surrender

    In 1995, the Immigration Bureau estimated that about seventy percent of foreigners who overstay their visas in Japan eventually surrender to authorities voluntarily in order to return to their country of origin.(201) Human Rights Watch found that this was common practice among women from Thailand, and most of the women we interviewed returned to Thailand after voluntarily surrendering to immigration. Some had just escaped from the abuses of debt bondage, but most decided to return some time after their debt had been repaid in order to rejoin the families they had been working to support. Women who surrendered voluntarily were generally issued deportation orders by Japanese immigration officials and then allowed to await their deportation without being held in detention facilities. Those in need of shelter were referred by Japanese or Thai officials to privately-run women's shelters--government women's shelters do not accept undocumented migrants--where they stayed while travel arrangements were made. For women with the necessary documentation and funding for the return trip to Thailand, these arrangements could be completed within a few days.

    Difficulties in obtaining the documentation and funds to return home

    Other women, however, faced long delays as they tried to collect the identification and funds needed to return home. In some cases, Thai or Japanese officials facilitated women's deportation by contacting their employers and demanding their passports and/or travel money. Chan explained to Human Rights Watch that, after she escaped from her snack bar in 1994 without any identification or money to return home, "The Thai embassy called the mama for my passport. After talking with her for a long time, the bar owner sent the passport and 50,000 yen (US$490) for the air ticket."(202) A local government labor official in Tokyo confirmed that this is regular practice among Japanese immigration officials as well:

    I have heard that immigration officials try to get unpaid wages back themselves in some cases to pay for plane tickets. I understand that they do this because detainees don't have any money, but they should get back all of the wages, not just enough to cover travel expenses. Sometimes they will ask for more than just the travel expenses, but if the detainee has enough for the ticket already, they won't contact the employer at all.(203)

    Attorney Yoko Yoshida, who has assisted migrant women in detention, confirmed this practice, though she described it somewhat differently: "The interest of immigration officials is to deport foreigners, and they don't want to use Japanese government money.(204) So they use the provision in the Immigration Act that prohibits employing illegal migrants as a threat to get travel money from employers. They are not interested in punishing the employers or collecting the women's wages. In some cases, they will enforce penalties for employing illegals, but only when the working conditions are very bad or there are many workers."(205)

    Women who cannot produce a valid passport--either because they entered Japan on fraudulent papers or because their documents were confiscated by their brokers or employers and cannot be retrieved--must convince Thai Embassy officials that they are Thai nationals, in order to obtain a "Certificate of Identity" (CI paper) that allows reentry into Thailand. An officer at the Japan Desk of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Division of Consular Affairs in Bangkok told Human Rights Watch that she contacts family members of women who wish to return to Thailand to collect birth certificates, house registration, and other documents, and then sends these papers to embassy officials. The First Secretary of the Thai Embassy in Japan, Nopporn Ratchawej, said that he can also issue CI papers on the basis of a personal interview.(206)

    The Thai Embassy will also assist women in collecting the necessary funds to return home by contacting friends in Japan or asking the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to collect money from the women's relatives in Thailand. Eventually, if a woman is still unable to raise enough money for her airfare, the Thai government will give her a loan. The Japan Desk Officer at the Consular Affairs Department of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained to Human Rights Watch that there is no deadline for repayment, but there is a ban on traveling abroad again until the loan has been repaid.(207)

    Women who cannot produce any proof of identity, however, face a more intractable problem. In particular, women whose nationality was questionable--or undocumented--before they left Thailand can find it extremely difficult to prove their nationality after being trafficked to Japan. Human Rights Watch found that staff of Japanese NGOs have stepped in to help women in particularly difficult cases. Reiko Aoki, Secretary of the Kyoto YWCA, described the case of a Thai woman who was born in Bangkok, but whose birth was never registered: "This woman went to Japan and worked, and then she wanted to return to Thailand, but they wouldn't accept her because she wasn't registered as a Thai national. It took us six months to get in touch with the man she thought was her father, get him to go to the hospital where she was born, get the hospital to issue a birth certificate, and then finally get permission for this woman to return to Thailand."(208)

    Other women have found themselves barred indefinitely from reentering Thailand. One woman interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Japan explained that she wanted to return to Thailand, but had no way to prove her identity. Khai grew up in Thailand, but she has no idea where she was born. At age four she was taken to Bangkok to live with a family as their maid. She was never allowed to go to school because she had no official papers, and she was always told that she was a refugee. When Khai was about sixteen years old--she is not sure of her exact year of birth--she went to see the doctor who had arranged her placement in this family's home:

    I insisted he tell me where my mother was. The doctor told me my mother had remarried and had two more kids so I should not make things difficult for everyone. Then I went back to the home of the family who raised me. I tried to swallow enough medicine to kill myself because no one cared about me. I was so lonely and everyone was disgusted by me, even the other kids. It was like I wasn't human. The family even referred to me as an animal, rather than a person. I was taken to the hospital where I was treated for one month for the overdose. During that time no one came to see me and the staff treated me so badly.

    When I was released I went to the house to get my belongings and left to find a job. The son of the family I was living with rented me an apartment and brought me clients to prostitute myself. I was a prostitute just as I was beginning to get breasts and before I even started menstruating. I worked for this "brother" for quite some time.(209)

    Khai was trafficked to Japan in December 1991. After working for eight months to pay off her debt in one snack bar, and then being resold to another, Khai escaped. When we interviewed her in 1995, she had been working independently at snack bars and on the streets since her escape, sending her earnings to a friend in Thailand who she thought would help her get a Thai ID card. As she explained, "I sent all my money to my friend's account in Thailand. I recently learned that my friend spent all my money and didn't save it for me as she had promised. So, now I have no savings at all. I gave my friend so much money believing she would help me get a Thai ID card. I would like to go back to Thailand."(210)

    In our conversations with activists and lawyers in Japan, Human Rights Watch learned of numerous cases in which women were denied the right to return to their homes and families in Thailand. Rutsuko Shoji, the Director of HELP Asian Women's Shelter in Tokyo, told Human Rights Watch about three cases that HELP was pursuing at the time of our interview. The women concerned had traveled from Thailand to Japan through trafficking networks, who provided them with false passports, handled their travel arrangements, and then delivered them into debt bondage labor in Japan. Two of the women were hilltribe people and the third was a third generation Vietnamese "refugee" from Thailand.(211) The Vietnamese woman was born and raised in a designated refugee camp in Thailand and had lived in Thailand continuously until leaving for Japan at age sixteen. Her family members were later accorded Thai citizenship under legislation that was adopted after she had left the country. The two hilltribe women grew up with their families on the Thai-Burma border. Their births were not officially registered, and they did not possess official Thai citizenship, though one had a hand-written letter from a village leader in northern Thailand stating that she was born in December 1968 in his general vicinity.

    When we interviewed Shoji in April 1999, these three women were living in a state of legal and social limbo. They had been denied permission to reenter Thailand, despite their strong links to the country, as evidenced through their family ties, place of birth, language, and long-term residency in the country. The Japanese authorities, on the other hand, had issued them orders of deportation; while they were allowed to reside outside of detention facilities, they did not have the right to work and could not access any of the health or social services that are reserved for Japanese citizens and long-term (or permanent) legal foreign residents.(212)

    The women first realized that they were "stateless" after they surrendered voluntarily to Japanese immigration officials, expecting to be issued CI papers by the Thai Embassy and repatriated. The Thai Embassy, however, refused to recognize them as Thai nationals and denied them permission to reenter the country. The women then turned to HELP for assistance. HELP staff members tried without success to convince Thai officials to allow the women to reenter Thailand. They also lobbied the Japanese government to regularize the women's status by granting them special residency permits. They hoped that if the women had permission to reside in Japan, the Thai government would provide them with at least temporary visitor visas for Thailand. But Japanese officials also dragged their feet. Under pressure from the Tokyo bar association, the immigration bureau eventually agreed to accept the women's applications for permits, but many months passed before the women were called in for interviews to complete the application process.

    When Human Rights Watch followed up on the women's situation in March 2000, they were still in Japan, but progress had been made. With persistent efforts on the part of HELP staff members, as well as pressure from local protection officers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, two of the women had been issued one-year Japanese residency permits with reentry permission. In response, the Thai government had agreed to issue them visitor visas for Thailand. The third woman could probably have gotten a permit as well, but HELP staff members had lost touch with her. She left Tokyo when it seemed she had little chance of ever being able to return to Thailand, and HELP staff members were unable to locate her to tell her about the progress they had made with Japanese officials.(213)

    Human Rights Watch interviewed one woman who managed to return to Thailand from Japan despite her lack of citizenship. Her testimony demonstrates how the Thai government's unyielding policy provides criminals and corrupt government officials with opportunities for profit:

    Phan was born in Burma, but moved to Thailand with her family as a young teenager. Her experiences of being trafficking into Japan and then working under conditions of debt bondage are described in the previous two chapters. About four years after arriving in Japan, Phan decided that she wanted to return to Thailand. She had repaid her debt, saved some money, and was pregnant with her Japanese boyfriend's child, and she wanted to have the baby in Thailand where it would be less expensive and her extended family would be there to support her. Phan recalled, "When I told my friends I wanted to go home, they told me about 'Y.' They said he could help to get me home. 'Y' told me I would either have to buy an illegal Thai house registration or else agree to go back to Burma. So I bought a fake Thai house registration for 30,000 baht [US$1,200] plus another 6,000 baht [US$240] to get it and send it to me. When I received the documents I went to the Thai embassy with 'Y.' I gave them the documents and four photos and received my CI. . . . I returned to Thailand in 1995. When I arrived at Don Muang airport I just walked off the plane and a Thai immigration officer asked me 'are you the young Burmese girl?' I said 'yes.' The same friend who had arranged for me to get a fake Thai house registration had also arranged for me to get through immigration. I paid the immigration office 15 bai [150,000 yen; US$1,600] in Japanese yen. I had also bought three bottles of whiskey--one for the immigration officer and one for [my friend's] relative and the other for my father."(214)

    Abusive treatment of deportees

    Once they obtain the necessary funds and paperwork for their return to Thailand, trafficked women are deported by the Japanese government as illegal aliens. In accordance with Japan's usual deportation procedures, fines and jail terms for immigration offenses are typically waived or suspended, but a temporary ban on reentering Japan is imposed on the basis of the women's alleged immigration offenses (until February 18, 2000, this penalty was one year; it has since been increased to five years).(215) Human Rights Watch recognizes states' right to control their borders. However, Japan's application of this punitive measure when repatriating victims of trafficking is symptomatic of the government's generally inappropriate response to the problem of trafficking. Far from being treated as victims of serious human rights abuses, trafficked women are held responsible for violations of Japanese immigration laws that have resulted directly from their being trafficked. In addition, for women who have started families in Japan--and seek to return to Thailand so that they can reenter Japan legally on spousal visas--this penalty has meant long family separations.

    After women arrive in Thailand, those traveling on CI papers have to submit to a special interview with Thai immigration officials at the airport: Human Rights Watch was told that officials often try to extort money from the women returning from Japan. Nung told us that when she surrendered to Japanese immigration authorities, an officer warned her that she might have trouble with the immigration officials at the airport in Thailand. Later, when she arrived at Don Muang airport, "an officer who knew I had returned from working in Japan asked me to pay 10,000 yen [US$84(216)]. At that time, I had only 1000 baht [US$40] in my purse, and he took 500 baht [US$20] away. My friend had 5000 yen [US$42] taken away by officers."(217) Another woman, Pong, explained how she avoided giving money to immigration officials when she arrived in Thailand in 1991. Since she was traveling on CI papers, "I had a long interview with immigration officers in the airport here. They asked me whether I made a lot of money, and when I said 'no' they didn't bother me. Usually, if you say you made lots of money, they ask for some."(218)

    Arrest, detention, and deportation

    Though most women voluntarily surrender to authorities, many others are deported after being arrested by police or immigration officials for their undocumented immigration status. Human Rights Watch found that their treatment routinely violates international standards. Victims of trafficking are subjected to arbitrary and sometimes prolonged detention, without sufficient judicial oversight. They are not informed of their rights, including their right to consular assistance, and there is a strong presumption of guilt in the determination of their cases. Human Rights Watch also found evidence of substandard, and even abusive, detention conditions, as well as excessive restrictions on--and censorship of--detainees' communication.

    Arbitrary arrest of trafficking victims

    During raids on snack bars and other establishments where undocumented migrants are employed, trafficking victims are routinely arrested and then detained until their deportation date. Police even arrest and detain women who are clearly working under coercive conditions at the time of the police raid. This treatment is inappropriate, as women who have been deceived into entering the country illegally; placed into debt bondage upon their arrival and forced to remain in the country until after their visas have expired; or forced to perform activities "outside their visa status" are not guilty of the associated immigration offenses.

    Human Rights Watch interviewed two women who were arrested for immigration violations and received detailed testimonies from four others. At least four of these women were victims of trafficking; the other two did not provide enough information about the circumstances of their travel or initial job placement to determine whether or not they were trafficked. One of the women we interviewed was arrested before her debt had been repaid:

  • Nuch was arrested in 1993 when police officers raided the snack bar where she was being forced to work off a debt of 380 bai (3.8 million yen; US$34,000). According to Nuch, the police came at 9:00 a.m. before anyone had gotten up, and, when the mama's daughter opened the door, she was faced with numerous police officers and police cars. The officers included three Japanese women who spoke Thai. Nuch recalled, "they asked me and the others in Thai whether we wanted to go home, and said if so, to get our clothes. Only myself and one other woman got our clothes, but everyone was arrested: the mama, her husband, his two Taiwanese friends, and the seven Thai women [who worked in the snack bar]. One Thai woman had just finished paying off her debt after two years and was about to be paid for the first time for twenty clients. She was especially upset. We were all taken to the police station in the town. There we were asked for all of the details about what had happened to us."(219)

    Nuch was then detained in three different jails over the next few months before being transferred to an immigration detention center, and finally returning to Thailand.

    In another case we documented, seventeen Thai women who were working in debt bondage in Kofu were arrested and deported for overstaying their visas. The mama of the bar, Sri, insisted that she treated the women well, but she also described coercive conditions amounting to forced labor. Her boyfriend, the snack bar owner, "bought" the women and forced them to repay a debt of approximately twice their purchase price. Sri paid the Yakuza each month for services which included following any of the women who ran away. When the snack was raided in 1992, all of the women were detained and deported, but the snack bar owner spent only twenty days in jail. As Sri recalled:

    The snack was raided and all seventeen girls working there were arrested; only I managed to escape. I think the snack next door reported us because they were jealous of our business. My boyfriend was arrested and had to pay 500 bai [5 million yen; US$39,500] and spend twenty days in jail. Afterwards he was on probation for three years and was not allowed to operate another snack during that time. The seventeen girls were detained as overstayers and deported back to Thailand.(220)

    Newspaper accounts of raids on snack bars and other entertainment venues also consistently indicate that Japanese officials arrest foreign women for immigration violations, such as failure to carry their passports, overstaying their visas, or working without proper work visas, even when they find clear evidence of coercion on the part of their employers.(221)

    Arbitrary and prolonged detention

    Persons detained for immigration offenses are almost always kept in detention until their day of deportation. Human Rights Watch conducted interviews with (or received detailed interview transcripts from) six women who recounted their arrests for immigration violations. Orn, who was seven months pregnant, was allowed to reside at a women's shelter in Tokyo while she awaited her deportation date.(222) But the other five women were forced to remain in detention while arrangements for their deportation were being made, even though at least three of them had been trafficked into Japan.(223)

    International human rights standards provide that detainees have the right to prompt judicial review of both the initial detention decision and any continuance of detention.(224) The strong presumption towards continued detention in immigration proceedings, and the lack of either periodic review or time limits for continued detention, suggests a violation of the right to fair legal procedures for the review of detention decisions. Japanese immigration law provides that suspects may be held for up to sixty days before a deportation determination is made,(225) and indefinitely once deportation orders have been issued.(226) The law does not explicitly mandate the continued detention of all suspects, but internal guidelines prepared by the Immigration Bureau state, "As regards the deportation procedures, though there are no explicit provisions stipulating that all suspects should be detained, it is understood that the Act provides for a so-called 'detention always comes before deportation' ('detention in principle') policy."(227) The Immigration Control Act allows for provisional release of persons detained under written detention or deportation order,(228) but in practice such release is rarely granted. The Immigration Review Task Force (IRTF) found that only one of forty applications for provisional release is accepted, and concluded that release is generally granted only to "those who are prepared to leave at their own expense and are married to Japanese nationals."(229) Attorney Yoko Yoshida similarly explained, "Provisional release, even on bail, is never granted to overstayers unless they are married to a Japanese person. A detainee can ask for provisional release, but they will be refused unless they have a connection to a Japanese person, like a Japanese husband."(230) Rieko Aoki, who assists foreign women through her work with Asian People Together (APT) at the Kyoto YWCA, told Human Rights Watch about a migrant woman who was detained for immigration violations when she went to the police after being raped by an assailant armed with a knife:

    We tried to get provisional release for her. This woman was suffering from injuries she had sustained when she was raped by an assailant who was armed with a knife, and so she was suffering in detention. . . . We asked the immigration officials and the judge to release her, but they refused, saying that because she was an overstayer she had no address. We offered to be responsible and to use the YWCA's address, but they still refused. So she was detained until she was deported.(231)

    According to local advocates in Japan, it is not unusual for the period of immigration detention to exceed six months.(232) Human Rights Watch interviewed one woman, Kaew, who spent only five days in the Tokyo IDC before returning to Thailand. "I didn't have to stay long," she explained, "because I had my passport and enough money for the trip home." But she also noted, "Many women had been in the IDC for a long time."(233) As explained above, the deportation of trafficked women is often delayed by the difficulties they face in obtaining the necessary documents and funding to return home. In at least one case in the early 1990s, a woman from Thailand was held in detention for nearly two years while her nationality was in dispute.(234) The Immigration Review Task Force has reported that detention pending deportation is also commonly prolonged because detainees cannot afford to pay for the trip back to their country of origin.(235) The Japanese government does provide some money to cover foreigners' deportation costs, but this funding is used at the discretion of immigration officers; there is no mechanism for detainees to apply for or request these resources.(236)

    Detention becomes arbitrary when immigration detainees are held indefinitely and do not know when they will be released.(237) To protect against the arbitrary or capricious detention of undocumented migrants, all efforts should be made to minimize the period of detention. Human Rights Watch believes that when initial attempts to secure the funding and documentation for a person's deportation from Japan fail, a review system should be in place to assess the need for continued detention on the basis of specified conditions; if detention is continued, it should be subject to periodic review.

    Violations of due process in deportation procedures

    Our research also indicated that deportation procedures fail to uphold the rights of those detained and make it virtually impossible for them to understand, let alone challenge, the proceedings. International human rights standards guarantee detainees the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the right not to testify against themselves, the right to an attorney, adequate opportunities to communicate with and receive visits by legal counsel and family members, and the right to be informed of their rights and of the charges against them promptly and in a language they understand. Foreign detainees should also be given the opportunity to communicate with representatives from their country's embassy or consulate.(238) Japanese immigration procedures fall far short of these guarantees. They are characterized by a presumption of guilt, highly restricted access to legal counsel, and a failure to adequately explain or translate charges and procedures.

    The Immigration Control Act provides that a person accused of entering Japan without a valid passport--an offense which carries penalties of up to three years of imprisonment--"shall prove for himself" that s/he is not guilty.(239) It is unacceptable to place the burden of proving innocence on the defendant. Moreover, immigration procedures make it nearly impossible for the accused to mount an effective defense. Critical decisions are made behind closed doors with little opportunity for suspects to present a defense. Both the initial determination of guilt by the Immigration Inspector and the review of suspects' objections by the Minister of Justice are made without the benefit of any type of hearing or trial. The only opportunity for the accused or her representative to produce evidence and cross-examine witnesses is during the hearing (if the accused requests one), and even these procedures are heavily restricted and controlled by the Special Inquiry Officer (SIO). Only one of the suspect's relatives or friends may be admitted to the hearing, and even then only with the SIO's permission; although the suspect may request that certain witnesses be ordered to come forward and testify, it is up to the SIO's discretion whether to call the witnesses.(240)

    Immigration officers routinely interrogate suspects to establish grounds for deportation without making any effort to inform them of their right not to incriminate themselves or their right to an attorney.(241) Access to attorneys is strictly limited and monitored throughout the period in which detainees are held and determinations regarding their deportation and/or punishment for immigration violations are made.(242) There is no provision for appointing legal counsel for those who cannot afford to retain a lawyer themselves.(243) Virtually all proceedings are conducted entirely in Japanese without the presence of an interpreter, including the written summary record of interrogations, which the suspect is asked to sign to establish its truthfulness.(244) In 1995, Immigration Review Task Force members went to the Philippines and interviewed ten persons who had recently been arrested, detained, and deported from Japan. In every case, they found that "no interpreter nor adequate translation of procedural information or legal rights was given by immigration authorities. All interviewees felt they could not fully understand the charges against them, what they were being interrogated about nor what their legal status or rights were."(245) Finally, while Human Rights Watch did not document any cases in which detainees specifically requested diplomatic assistance and were refused, the First Secretary at the Thai Embassy explained that Japanese immigration officials only contact the embassy regarding Thai detainees after deportation orders have been issued.(246)

    Abusive conditions in immigration detention facilities

    In addition to procedural violations, immigration detainees regularly face conditions that could amount to ill-treatment in custody, ranging from physical and verbal abuse to substandard sanitary conditions and insufficient opportunity for exercise.(247) Nuch recounted conditions of overcrowding and poor sanitation as she described her experience in immigration detention in 1993: "We all slept on the floor with thin mattresses that we rolled out each night. There were about thirty Thai women in each room. Each room was about the size of a three car garage. There were thousands of illegal immigrants in this place. There was one toilet in each cell. Each cell was taken to shower once a week and we all had to fight over time allotments for showers as everyone wanted to take longer showers than allotted and the others were afraid the time would be up before they got their shower in."(248) Nuch also told us that the food was so bad that the women usually bought instant noodles to eat, despite their limited funds.(249) Gap said that when she was detained at the Osaka immigration facility in 1997, she was only allowed to shower once or twice a week,(250) and Kaew confirmed that at the Tokyo immigration detention facility, only one shower was permitted each week: "I didn't get to shower while I was there because showers were on Monday, and I was arrested on a Wednesday and then left on Monday before shower time."(251)

    When the Immigration Review Task Force (IRTF) interviewed women from the Philippines about their experiences in Japanese immigration detention, they received similar accounts of substandard conditions. Not only were women limited to one or two showers per week, each shower was limited to five to ten minutes, and the shower room was unsanitary with body hair and mold on the floor and walls. Women also complained about the lack of outdoor exercise; in the Tokyo IDC, detainees were not allowed outdoors at all, and, in Ushiku, detainees were allowed outside only once a week.(252) Continuing investigation by IRTF has revealed that this problem persists. In 1996, a Chinese woman, her seventy-three year old mother, and her infant child were held in detention pending deportation in the Nagoya Immigration Detention Center for thirty-six days.(253) During this time, the family was allowed outside exercise only once.(254)

    Human Rights Watch also heard allegations that the Immigration Bureau tolerates degrading and abusive treatment by immigration officials in detention facilities, including violence and sexual assault, as well as excessive application of severe disciplinary measures such as solitary confinement with physical restraints. While the women we interviewed did not report such abuse, credible accounts documented by foreigners' rights advocates point to a serious problem. In October 1994, a group of lawyers established a telephone hotline to investigate rights abuses of foreigners. In the first two months, they received calls from thirty-five detainees, identifying themselves as Thais, Iranians, Peruvians, Americans, Argentinians, Myanmarese, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, and others, who claimed to be victims of violence at the hands of immigration and police officials.(255) IRTF member Toru Takahashi explained to Human Rights Watch that some efforts had been made to improve the human rights situation in immigration facilities in response to the widespread accounts of abuse that were publicized during the early nineties. "But," he concluded "these efforts did not last long," and abuses have continued.(256)

    Lack of access to immigration detention facilities makes it difficult to obtain information about abuses. Unable to interview detainees in Japan, members of the Immigration Review Task Force have traveled to detainees' countries of origin to obtain their testimonies after their deportation. When the Immigration Review Task Force went to the Philippines in 1995 to interview Filipinas who had been held in the immigration detention house in Kanagawa prefecture, they received numerous accounts of verbal and physical sexual abuse. Young women described being taken to private rooms by immigration officers who proceeded to verbally assault them with sexual innuendoes, stories, jokes, and questions and to fondle them with their hands. One interviewee said that male immigration officers would often spy on the women taking showers, and another complained of a male officer who walked around her cell and watched her at night, keeping her from being able to sleep.(257) In 1994, a female detainee in TRIB, the Tokyo immigration facility, described the harrowing incidents of sexual harassment and rape that she endured there:

    During my stay there, I was raped by several officers. First, a female officer brought me to another room where one male officer waited for me. The female officer bowed to him and left the room. The male officer compelled me to take off all my clothes, and when I became naked, four to five officers entered the room and raped me for many hours. When I tried to resist, they hit me. The rape incidents occurred regularly towards female inmates inside the facility. My female roommates, Persian, Korean, Filipina, Thai, were subjected to this violence as well.(258)

    In December 1994, allegations of routine physical abuse of detainees were confirmed by a former immigration official, Takeshi Akiyama, who explained that he had resigned from his position as a guard in a Tokyo immigration detention house because he could not stand the treatment of the detainees. He estimated that about ten percent of the immigration officers in the Kita Ward where he worked used violence under the guise of "taming" or "punishing" detainees, and he explained, "Violence against detainees who didn't listen to what they were told was a daily occurrence."(259) Some guards, he said, would threaten detainees who failed to follow instructions saying "I will kill you" or "Do you want to go home in ashes?" and they would continue to kick and punch them even after they had collapsed on the ground.(260) Akiyama further asserted that his superiors ordered guards not to beat prisoners in the face, where injuries would be more obvious, and he quoted one of his colleagues as saying, "Even if they die we can just handle it by saying it was an accident."(261) During the week following the press conference, more than twenty people called The Japan Times supporting Akiyama's claims.(262)

    Perhaps even more disturbing than these allegations was the muted response of the Japanese government. Officials downplayed the seriousness of the accusations, denied any wrongdoing, and continued to deny advocates access to detention facilities. On December 20, 1994, Masaki Kazawa, chief of the immigration bureau's enforcement division, announced that officials had investigated Akiyama's claims over the weekend, interviewing several officials who had been assigned to detention centers in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka at the time of the alleged incidents, and found no evidence or reports of such actions. One ministry official told reporters, "It is a groundless report." Kazawa admitted that officers reprimanded detainees who would not follow instructions, but he denied that they used threatening or violent words. He also said his ministry did not plan to conduct hearings with detainees currently in custody because the newspaper reports did not mention complaints from them.(263) Reports of abuse in immigration detention have slowed since the mid-1990s, but incidents of violence continue to occur and immigration authorities continue to evade accountability. In August 1997, for example, when an Iranian man died in custody at the Tokyo Kita-ku Immigration Detention Center, immigration officials insisted that he had fallen down and banged his head. After a forensic report concluded that the man's death was the result of a severe beating, the police investigated and eight immigration officers were charged with assault, but the prosecutor dropped the case and the officers were never indicted.(264)

    In one highly unusual case, a Chinese woman, Tao Ya Pin, successfully sued for compensation after being beaten to the point of unconsciousness by immigration officials in the Second Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau (TRIB) detention house. Her success was possible only as a result of exceptionally strong evidence coupled with immediate and concerted action on the part of lawyers, who persisted in pursuing Tao's case after she was deported. Tao was arrested along with eight of her coworkers in a joint immigration and police raid on October 31, 1994. During her interrogation, she was brutally beaten in the presence of several immigration officers, none of whom sought to intervene.(265) In Tao's words:

    I was punched an incredible number of times while my hands were handcuffed behind me ... They disregarded my answers, and they grabbed my hair, pushed down my face, then hit me over and over again in succession. I lost my strength and became nauseous. Suddenly, I vomited blood. When the man saw this, he started hitting me again ... Did I commit a crime to deserve this treatment? If I committed a crime, I should be punished by the law. I simply overstayed my visa.(266)

    Tao complained of shortness of breath and head pain and asked to be taken to a hospital, but her request was denied until the late afternoon of the following day, November 2, in order that the questioning could continue. As a result of this interrogation, the immigration officer determined that Tao should be officially detained.

    While Tao's interrogation at TRIB was underway, immigration officials released a few of her former coworkers who had witnessed Tao's abuse. When they reported what they had seen, an attorney visited Tao in detention and verified her injuries, and Tao later filed a law suit for damages against the state as well as a criminal case against the immigration enforcement officer who assaulted her.(267) Photographs of Tao's badly swollen face while she was in detention prompted an unprecedented admission from immigration officials that force had been used, and Tokyo Immigration Control Authorities reprimanded one of the officers for using violence during the interrogation.(268) However, charges that unnecessary force had been used were denied; immigration authorities explained that "only one immigration enforcement officer in charge assaulted Tao . . . she was hit only twice in the interrogation room and twice in another room . . . and this was done so as to stop her from acting violently or trying to kill herself."(269) Immigration officials furthermore worked to obstruct Tao's access to justice by deporting her to China on December 3, 1994, a month after her allegations were made. Departing from usual practice, the Japanese Immigration Department covered all of her travel expenses, in an apparent effort to remove Tao from the country quickly and thereby induce her to abandon her charges against TRIB.(270)

    The attitude and actions of Japanese immigration authorities--even in the face of substantial evidence of abuse--reconfirms the general situation of impunity with which immigration officers can violate the rights of detainees. According to IRTF, investigations of cases of injury and even death in Japanese immigration detention facilities are regularly handled by immigration authorities behind closed doors.(271) There are no established procedures for filing complaints about mistreatment during detention in immigration facilities or prisons in Japan, and, while some complaints have been brought to court, these cases have generally proven unsuccessful.(272)

    Excessive restrictions on communication

    One of the factors facilitating abuse of those held in immigration detention facilities is that heavy restrictions are placed on detainees' ability to communicate either with outsiders or with each other, restrictions that Human Rights Watch understands to exceed the "reasonable conditions and restrictions" on communication allowed by the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.(273) Furthermore, these restrictions are coupled with very limited access to detention facilities and detainees by monitors and other advocates.(274) When three members of the Japanese Diet were permitted to inspect immigration detention centers in 1994, even they were only granted permission to observe the facilities and not to interview detainees independently.(275)

    Regulations governing immigration detainees' communication allow wide latitude to individual directors. The Immigration Control Act provides that a Director of the Immigration Center or Regional Immigration Bureau may, when "he considers it necessary for security or sanitation purposes," "inspect communications the detainee dispatches and receives" and "prohibit or restrict the dispatch and receipt of communications."(276) The more-detailed "Regulations for the Treatment of Detainees" states:

    When a detention center/prison warden deems that the contents of correspondence written by a detainee serves to obstruct the security of the penal institution, the warden may make the detainee correct and/or delete the sentence(s) in question. Further, if the detainee refuses to oblige the warden in making such corrections/deletions, the written correspondence then becomes the property of the penal institution. The above is applied to written correspondence received by the detainee as well.(277)

    Citing the need to protect institutional security, the Immigration Bureau has refused to further clarify the rules and guidelines governing the censorship of correspondence, so the actual standards being employed remain obscure.(278)

    While the high degree of discretionary power granted to individual directors and wardens leads to variations between institutions, Human Rights Watch and others, including the Immigration Review Task Force, have found that detainees consistently report that tight controls are exercised over all written and verbal communication. Visits are highly restricted and all conversations must be conducted in a language understood by the guards. Kaew S. explained to Human Rights Watch that her boyfriend was allowed to visit her while she was in the immigration detention center in Tokyo, but "[w]e could only speak in Japanese, so others who didn't know Japanese couldn't talk at all."(279) Telephone calls and written communication are also strictly limited. At TRIB, detainees are forbidden from making or receiving any telephone calls; if a detainee needs to make a phone call, an immigration officer has to make the call on the person's behalf. And officials there have essentially forbidden all written correspondence with family members, friends, and even legal counsel. The only correspondence they allow is letters aimed at securing funds for deportation. At Ushiku Detention Center, regulations regarding telephone use are less strict, but detainees are prohibited from discussing complaints about mistreatment.(280) And a detainee at Ushiku who tried to describe his mistreatment in letters written to Japanese Diet members in November 1998 was ordered to cross out statements, such as "after that I was immediately locked up together with the existing criminals and overstayers in their detention rooms," before the letters could be mailed.(281)

    Mistreatment in the criminal justice system

    Human Rights Watch found that Thai women who come into contact with the Japanese criminal justice system outside of the deportation context also face serious violations of due process, as the inadequacy of general due process protections in Japan is exacerbated by the women's lack of Japanese language skills and unfamiliarity with the Japanese legal system. As in the immigration system, these procedural problems prevent women from effectively challenging, or even understanding, the charges against them. Some practices in the Japanese criminal justice system violate the minimum guarantees provided for criminal suspects under international human rights law, which requires that all persons facing criminal charges have the right to legal assistance (free of charge, if the accused does not have sufficient means to pay for it), the right to be informed of the right to legal assistance, and the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt. The ICCPR also explicitly provides that anyone charged with a criminal offense has the right "to be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him" and "to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court."(282) Concerns about persistent rights violations against both foreigners and Japanese nationals have been voiced by the Japan Civil Liberties Union, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, and other Japanese advocates.(283) Such concerns were also noted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its review of Japan's compliance with the ICCPR in 1998.(284)

    Nuch told Human Rights Watch that she spent months in prison without ever understanding why she was being held. When she and the other women from the snack bar were brought to the police station, "we were asked all the details about what had happened to us. The Japanese women who could speak Thai translated. The Japanese translators told me and the others that we didn't have to talk unless we wanted to. I told everything. The police and translators told me they would help me go home." But instead, Nuch was kept at the station for the next ten days, then transferred to another police station for two more days, and then moved to a jail where she spent the next two or three months. During this time, Nuch was repeatedly questioned about her experiences, but she did not have a lawyer, and she was never provided with a statement of any charges against her, nor of any judgements on her case.(285)

    The Japanese NGO Hand-in-Hand Chiba reported that foreign detainees are hardly ever informed of their rights to request a lawyer, and, even when they are informed of this right, police discourage them from exercising it by stressing the costs of lawyers' fees. Lawyers are also barred from attending police interrogation sessions during suspects' initial period of detention.(286) One Thai woman whom we interviewed was arrested by police as an overstayer in early 1997 and held in police detention for twenty days before being transferred to an immigration detention facility. She was interrogated every day during her detention, without ever seeing a lawyer.(287) According to NNSMW-Japan, foreign detainees have reported the following statements made by police after their arrest: "There are no lawyers in Japan"; "If you sign the investigation report, a lawyer will come"; "A lawyer can do nothing. You are just throwing money away, and then what will you do? If you admit to the crime we will let you go"; and "Even if you get a lawyer, you will still never be released because lawyers are powerless."(288)

    In the criminal trials of several Thai women arrested on murder charges in the early amd mid-1990s, these problems were compounded by inadequate translation and interpretation services. Without such assistance, women were unable to clearly understand the charges against them, accurately communicate their testimonies, or follow the proceedings as their cases progressed. Staff members of Hand-in-Hand Chiba, who closely monitored these trials, concluded that inadequate interpretation during the investigation at the Public Prosecutor's Office led to repeated incidents of misunderstanding during the trials and that insufficient interpretation during trial proceedings led defendants to accept the court ruling before they were able to fully understand it.(289) Hand-in-Hand Chiba tried to assist the defendants by voluntarily translating all of the statements of the prosecutors and the court decisions into Thai using their own time and resources.(290)

    One of these cases, which became known as the "Shimodate Incident," involved the arrest of three Thai women for murdering and robbing their mama at a snack bar in September 1991. A team of volunteer lawyers was assembled to present their defense, and according to one of these lawyers:

    The three accused women were arrested and held for three days before they got a lawyer. They were held in police lockups for twenty days, during which time they were questioned everyday by the police without the presence of their lawyers. The police took a statement, including a confession, from each of the women. A police interpreter assisted with the statement. The women claim that they never received a Thai translation of their statement in writing, only a verbal translation which did not mention anything about conspiracy to commit murder or robbery. Although the women claim that they never admitted to any premeditation nor an intent to commit robbery,(291) either the translation was messed up or the police put in a different version of what happened because the final statement said both. The women claim that they did not plan to murder the boss, that they only wanted to take back their passports, not any money or jewelry, and to escape.(292)

    At the trial, the defense attorneys argued that the police statements were flawed and the interpreters had been incompetent, noting that "even the judge had to ask an interpreter to speak more clearly because her Japanese was so bad."(293) But the judge dismissed these claims and sentenced the women to ten years of imprisonment each.(294) Upon appeal, the women's sentences were reduced to eight years, but the judge refused to acknowledge any problems in interpretation or translation and maintained the conviction for murder for robbery.(295) While there have not been any arrests of Thai women on such serious charges in the last several years, the advocates who followed those cases remain concerned as the criminal justice system has not acknowledged or addressed these issues.

    As in immigration detention facilities, detainees in the criminal justice system also face strict restrictions on all forms of communication.(296) These controls make it difficult for detainees to communicate with their lawyers while investigations and trials are proceeding, and impede detainees' ability to discuss abuses they may have suffered at the hands of prison officials. The rules have a particularly heavy impact on foreign detainees without Japanese language skills, as conversations with visitors must be conducted in a language that guards understand, and all foreign language correspondence must be translated, at the detainee's expense, before it can be sent or received.

    A Thai NGO worker interviewed by Human Rights Watch recounted her experience of trying to visit a female Thai prisoner in Japan in 1997:

    I went to Japan two years ago for six weeks, and while I was there I tried to visit a Thai woman in jail. But I was not allowed to speak in any language except Japanese, so I was not able to say anything - because I don't speak any Japanese. I went with a Japanese NGO that visits prisoners every week and brings them Thai language books and other things. They are allowed to leave these books as long as they explain what they are and the guards approve them. I just wanted to say "sawadee-ka" [hello] but I couldn't. So the Thai woman and I sat looking at each other with a window separating us and couldn't even say hello. A guard was there the whole time too, and recorded everything that was said [by the Japanese NGO staff] with a tape recorder.(297)

    Sister Ando, a Japanese woman who is also fluent in Thai, confirmed that when she visited a Thai woman in prison, in principle they could only speak in Japanese, "though sometimes the guard would allow us to speak in Thai if I translated right away into Japanese for the guard."(298)

    During the trial of the three Thai women arrested in the "Shimodate Incident" described above, even conversations with simultaneous interpretation were prohibited. Members of the support group that had organized on the women's behalf tried to visit the defendants in detention to discuss their cases, but were told that all conversation in Thai was prohibited in order to allow "the trial to progress smoothly." The group offered to bring a court-approved legal interpreter to the meeting, but their request was still denied.(299) Questioned about this policy, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said that meetings could be held in a language not understood by detention center officials if the meeting is regarded as "important" by the detention center and a "reliable" person is available to translate the conversation, such as a diplomat from the detainee's country.(300) Denied the ability to discuss their cases orally, the defendants described their recollections of the snack bar, the day of the murder, and the manner of their arrest and interrogation in letters addressed to their lawyers. But these letters could only be sent after being translated and censored by the detention house. Not only did this constitute a breach of lawyer-client confidentiality, it also delayed correspondence, as a Thai translator only came to the detention center once or twice a month. In a letter to a support group member, one of the defendants wrote, "A letter arrived from Thailand the other day, but the translator is busy so I cannot read it."(301)

    The common use of solitary confinement in Japanese prisons further isolates detainees. Human Rights Watch interviewed a Thai woman who was arrested during a police raid on a snack bar where she was working in debt bondage. The woman, Nuch, was kept in solitary confinement during the entire two to three month period that she was detained in prison before being transferred to an immigration facility in 1993. She described the extreme isolation and otherwise abusive treatment that she was subjected to:

    I was allowed out to exercise every few days for one hour. I was taken out alone and was never allowed to meet or talk with others. I was not allowed to write. I was only allowed to look at Japanese books. I was not allowed to sleep or lie down during the day. I had to sit up and read Japanese books or find something else to do in the little room. I had my meals alone in my room. . . . Once during my stay, I was taken to a big court with four other women from my snack bar. We were handcuffed with a rope around our waists tied to a guard at the end of the rope, like criminals. . . . When I saw the others I tried to speak to them. The guards kept forbidding us, but we kept sneaking in conversation with each other.

    Nuch was never told why she was separated from other detainees, but she believes it was because she was HIV positive.(302)


    Up

    1. Note that though the terms agent and broker are often used interchangeably, in this report we will refer to the person in the sending country as the agent and to the person in the receiving country as the broker.

    2. Note that though we spoke to girls under the age of 18, we use the term "woman/women" throughout this report.

    3. In one of these cases, the researchers spoke to the woman's parents, not the woman herself.

    4. This is a nongovernmental organization that was founded as a shelter for foreign women in 1992. The results of its interviews with shelter residents were published in 1995: Nobuyo Tomita, "From Thailand to Japan: The Reality of Trafficking in Women, Voices from a Shelter," in Women's Research and Action Committee [ed.], NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement, 1995, pp. 23-28.

    5. Human Rights Watch interview, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, April 27, 1999.

    6. Only one woman, Gap, arranged her travel documents and plane tickets herself, though she was still in debt to her aunt, who ran a snack bar in Japan, when she arrived. Furthermore, when Gap went to Japan a second time, after being deported for immigration violations, she did go through an agent who prepared false documentation for her and then placed her into indebted sex work at a snack bar. (Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 12 and 17, 1997.)

    7. There are many different types of snack bars in Japan, many of which do not offer sexual services. See the next chapter for a brief discussion of these establishments.

    8. There may be some repetition of women's testimonies as different abuses associated with trafficking and forced labor are discussed. In particular, elements of the cases described in the "Profiles" chapter are referenced in this chapter to illustrate specific human rights violations.

    9. Tomita, "From Thailand to Japan . . .," p. 25.

    10. Saalaa's findings support this. See Tomita, "From Thailand to Japan . . .," p. 27.

    11. See the "Deportation as 'Illegal Aliens'" and "Thai Government Response" chapters for a more detailed discussion of these populations and the problem of "statelessness."

    12. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    13. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 5, 1995.

    14. Here and below, we use an exchange rate of 25 baht to the U.S. dollar for all dates before July 1997. For converting amounts to and from Japanese yen, we use the average exchange rate for the relevant years and then round off. Where the year cannot be easily determined from the context, a footnote will specify which year's average rate was used.

    15. Human Rights Watch interview, Japan, March 1994.

    16. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, October 15, 1997.

    17. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, conducted during a number of meetings, Tokyo, Japan, early 1995.

    18. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Mai province, Thailand, October 3-4, 1995.

    19. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 5, 1995.

    20. Tomita, "From Thailand to Japan . . .," p.28.

    21. Siriporn Skrobanek is also the Coordinator of the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW), which was formed at the International Workshop on Migration and Traffic in Women organized by the Foundation for Women in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in October 1994 and has over 150 individual and organizational members.

    22. Human Rights Watch interview, Bangkok, Thailand, April 23, 1999.

    23. The same pattern was confirmed in the findings published by Saalaa.

    24. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, September 1997.

    25. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, September 28, 1997.

    26. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, October 8, 1997.

    27. Human Rights Watch interview with Chitraporn Vanaspong, Information Officer at ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes), Bangkok, Thailand, April 22, 1999.

    28. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, October 1997 and December 1997.

    29. Human Rights Watch interview, Naiyana Supapong, Bangkok, Thailand, April 28, 1999.

    30. Human Rights Watch interview with Chitraporn Vanaspong, Information Officer at ECPAT International, Bangkok, Thailand, April 22, 1999.

    31. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    32. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    33. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Mai province, Thailand, October 3-4, 1995.

    34. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 4, 1997.

    35. This dollar amount was calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate for 1993.

    36. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 2, 1995.

    37. Tomita, "From Thailand to Japan . . .," p. 27.

    38. "Three men arrested for supplying sex workers," Bangkok Post, February 9, 1994.

    39. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    40. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.


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    41. The same breakdown was found among women from Thailand at the Saalaa shelter for foreign women. Out of 158 women, seventy-seven had entered Japan using false passports, and seventy-four had entered using authentic ones with their own names (the remaining seven cases are unknown). Tomita,"From Thailand to Japan . . .," p.28.

    42. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    43. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA telephone interviews, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, May 1995.

    44. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    45. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    46. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiba prefecture, Japan, May 20, 1995.

    47. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Tokyo, Japan, May 19, 1995.

    48. In 1994, newspaper reports revealed that officials from Thailand's Commerce Ministry and Foreign Ministry had been investigated for providing false documents to Thailand's Passport Division and the Japanese Embassy. The scam was discovered by a Japanese Embassy official who became suspicious when he received visa applications from about ten young Thai women under a document issued by the Commerce Ministry's Export Promotion Department stating that the women would be going on an "educational tour" in Japan. The official called the Commerce Ministry to verify the authenticity of the document, speaking first to a junior officer who verified the document, and then to a senior official who said that he had never approved such a trip. A police investigation was subsequently launched by the Police Department's Crime Suppression Division (CSD), and after a three-month investigation warrants were issued for the arrest of seven junior officials from the Commerce Ministry as well as three Foreign Ministry officials. Investigators found that each of the ten officials was paid at least 5,000 baht (US$200) for his assistance in delivering a woman to Japan, for a total of 50,000 baht (US$2,000) paid per women. The investigation also uncovered a second scam used by traffickers to obtain Japanese visas: a Thai police captain responsible for overseeing the security of the Japanese Embassy was accused of using his ties with embassy staff to get visas for Thai women. He married the women one at a time, applied for their visas, and then filed for divorce, and he was paid about 50,000 baht (US$2,000) for each women who successfully obtained a visa. And investigators further alleged that agents paid immigration police at Don Muang airport to stamp women's passports without checking the validity of the passport or visa, and they concluded that agents trafficking women from Thailand to Japan pay a total of at least 70,000 baht (US$2800) per woman: 10,000 baht (US$400) to the initial recruiter, 50,000 baht (US$2000) for the visa, and 10,000 baht (US$400) to the airport immigration police. (Preecha Sa-ardsorn, "Flesh Trade export gang falls victim to its own greed," The Nation (Bangkok, Thailand), September 7, 1994.)

    49. This dollar amount was calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate over the nine year period from 1990-1998: 119 yen to the U.S. dollar.

    50. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    51. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 5, 1997. Since it is unclear what year Wanna went to Japan from her testimony, this dollar amount was calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate over the nine year period from 1990-1998: 119 yen to the U.S. dollar.

    52. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 6, 1997.

    53. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, September 28, 1997.

    54. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, conducted during a number of meetings, Tokyo, Japan, early 1995.

    55. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 24, 1999.

    56. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 5, 1995.

    57. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    58. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, March 14, 1994.

    59. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, September 3, 1997.

    60. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    61. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    62. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    63. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, June 1, 1995.

    64. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 1995.

    65. See interviews with Nat, Nid, Sean, Phan, Faa, and Sri.

    66. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Tokyo, Japan, May 20, 1995.

    67. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Nagano prefecture, Japan, May 24, 1995.

    68. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, September 3, 1997.

    69. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Tokyo, Japan, May 19, 1995.

    70. Chaiyakorn Bai-ngern, "Yakuza links may have led to flesh trade gang leader's killing," The Nation (Bangkok, Thailand), March 8, 1995, p. A5.


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    In another case, The Nation reported that in an interview with a Special Branch policeman in the Thai border city of Hat Yai, "The policeman said flesh trade gangs cannot work alone. Some legal travel couriers, tourist police and immigration police are also involved in the business, providing cooperation to the gangs. An immigration policeman at Hat Yai Airport who is involved in the flesh trade would receive Bt3,000-5,000 [US$140-200] from the gangs for each woman sent out of Thailand, the policeman said. If the woman was sent to Singapore, the immigration official would get Bt3,000. But, if she was sent to Taiwan or Japan, he would get Bt5,000. The policeman said tourism police involved in the business would receive monthly financial support from the gangs, as would some local policemen. According to the police officer, some of the gangs have connections with senior government officials, especially officials in the Foreign Ministry." ("Thai border a haven for illegal immigrant trade," The Nation (Bangkok, Thailand), September 7, 1994.)

    71. Pasuk Phongpaichit, Sungsidh Piriyarangsan, and Nualnoi Treerat, Guns, Girls, Gambling, Ganja: Thailand's Illegal Economy and Public Policy (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 1998), p. 157.

    72. We also interviewed a woman who was forced to work in a low-end "brothel." These establishments are at the bottom rung of the sex industry. Customers at these establishments pay for very brief periods of time--as little as eight minutes -- and women must serve numerous men each night.

    73. Tomita, "From Thailand to Japan . . .," p. 23.

    74. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 5, 1995.

    75. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 24, 1999.

    76. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    77. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, June 1, 1995.

    78. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, conducted during a number of meetings, Tokyo, Japan, early 1995.

    79. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview with Sri, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    80. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, September 1997.

    81. Note that given fluctuations the exchange rate during the 1990's, U.S. dollar equivalents for amounts calculated in terms of Japanese yen may vary substantially. Throughout this report, when converting Japanese yen into U.S. dollars, we use the average exchange rate for the relevant year(s) and then round off. Where the year cannot be easily determined from the context, a footnote will specify which year's average rate was used.

    82. Whether or not someone has entered into debt "voluntarily," when the amount of debt, the conditions of work, and/or the terms of debt repayment are defined--or can be changed--at the employers' discretion, it is debt bondage labor, a practice strictly proscribed by international law. See the chapter on "International Legal Standards" for more details.

    83. The only exception is Bun who said she had to dance on a table at the snack bar and play strip games with the customers, but does not mention going out of the bar with clients. (Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, conducted during a number of meetings, Tokyo, Japan, early 1995).

    84. "Hostess" is the term commonly used to refer to the women who work as prostitutes in the snack bars.

    85. These dollar amounts were calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate over the nine year period from 1990-1998.

    86. "Yakuza" refers to organized crime groups that are now officially known as the "Boryokudan."

    87. In particular, see Human Rights Watch interviews with Rutsuko Shoji, Director, HELP Asian Women's Shelter, at shelter office, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999, and with Kinhide Mushakoji, Director, IMADR, at restaurant, Tokyo, Japan, April 9, 1999.

    88. This dollar amount was calculated using the average exchange rate from 1992.

    89. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    90. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, June 1, 1995.

    91. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 2, 1995.

    92. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, March 14, 1994.

    93. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 6, 1997.

    94. Of the fifty-eight women who described their initial job placement in Japan, fifty-four reported having to repay a debt after they arrived in Japan, including the two women who were placed in brothels, one who worked in a massage parlor, one who did exotic dancing, and one woman who worked in a factory (the other factory worker paid 200,000 baht in advance and was not in debt when she arrived in Japan).

    95. These dollar amounts were calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate over the nine year period from 1990-1998.

    96. See, for example, Human Rights Watch interview with Rutsuko Shoji, Director of HELP Asian Women's Shelter, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999; Human Rights Watch interview with Rieko Aoki, Secretary of Kyoto YWCA, Kyoto, Japan, April 11-13, 1999; Human Rights Watch interview with Nopporn Ratchawej, First Secretary of the Royal Thai Embassy, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999. See also Human Rights Watch interview with Suriya Samutkupt, Professor of Anthropology at Suranaree University of Technology, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, April 27, 1999.

    97. This dollar amount was calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate over the five year period from 1990-1994.

    98. Nobuyo Tomita, "From Thailand to Japan: The Reality of Trafficking in Women, Voices from a Shelter," in Women's Research and Action Committee [ed.], NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement, 1995, pp. 23, 25, 28.

    99. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA telephone interviews, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, May 1995.


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    100. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 2, 1995.

    101. This dollar amount was calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate from 1993.

    102. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Nagano prefecture, Japan, May 24, 1995.

    103. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 5, 1995.

    104. These dollar amounts were calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate during the first four months of 1999: 117 yen to the U.S. dollar. Due to rounding, the numbers do not add up precisely.

    105. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    106. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    107. It was not clear from Faa's testimony whether she arrived in Japan in 1991 or 1992, so this dollar amount is calculated using the average exchange rate for those two years, 131 yen to the U.S. dollar.

    108. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Mai province, Thailand, October 3-4, 1995.

    109. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, June 1, 1995.

    110. Human Rights Watch interview with Teruko Enomoto, Kyoto, Japan, April 11, 1999.

    111. Letter written from Tsuchiura Prison, Ibaraki prefecture, October 14, 1993 (original translated from Thai to Japanese by Yuriko Fukushima).

    112. Human Rights Watch interview, Suranaree University of Technology, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, April 27, 1999.

    113. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.

    114. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 2, 1995.

    115. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiba prefecture, Japan, May 20, 1995.

    116. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, September 8, 1997.

    117. This dollar amount was calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate from the first four months of 1999.

    118. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    119. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 2, 1995.

    120. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.

    121. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    122. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, March 14, 1994.

    123. Human Rights Watch interview, Suranaree University of Technology, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, April 27, 1999.

    124. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    125. "Chapter 2: Questions to Japan," Today's Japan, April 26, 1994, p. 21.

    In reality, women can return home with Certificates of Identity issued by the Thai Embassy, but obtaining such documentation can be a prolonged and difficult task.

    126. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan, June 1, 1995.

    127. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, September 3, 1997.

    128. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    129. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    130. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 24, 1999.

    131. The father who received this letter went to Japan to look for his daughter and could not find her. An international NGO assisted him and translated this letter from Thai into English. On file with Human Rights Watch.

    132. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    133. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, September 1997.

    134. Interview transcript provided by a staff member at a women's shelter in Japan, who worked with Phon in April 1993.

    135. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    136. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    137. Human Rights Watch interview, Suranaree University of Technology, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, April 27, 1999.

    138. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA telephone interviews, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, May 1995.

    139. Human Rights Watch interview with Rutsuko Shoji, Director, HELP Asia Women's Shelter, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999; Human Rights Watch interview with Rieko Aoki, Kyoto YWCA, Kyoto, Japan, April 11-13, 1999; Human Rights Watch interview with Sumalee Tokthong, Foundation for Women, Bangkok, Thailand, April 23, 1999.

    140. An exception is Nung, who was given two days off each month and was not forced to work when she was sick (Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 6, 1997).

    141. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    142. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 1995.

    143. Interview transcript provided by a staff member at a women's shelter in Japan, who worked with Lai D. during 1993.

    144. This dollar amount was calculated using the average yen-dollar exchange rate from 1992.

    145. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995. The Senior Medical Consultant to Physicians for Human Rights, Vincent Iacopino, M.D., PhD., explained that if contraceptive pills are taken without days off for menstruation, a woman's uterus lining builds up beyond what is normal, so excessive menstrual bleeding would be expected when she stopped taking the pills. (Human Rights Watch telephone interview, Nevada, United States, September 8, 1999).

    146. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.

    147. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    148. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    149. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    150. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, October 8, 1997.


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    151. Human Rights Watch interview with shelter staff, Tokyo, Japan, June 11, 1999.

    152. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.

    153. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 4, 1997.

    154. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    155. Human Rights Watch interview, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, March 17, 1994.

    A survey of (non-indebted) Thai female sex workers in Japan conducted in 1994 found similar results. The Thai women interviewed for this study explained that when they worked as sex workers in Japan, many of their clients preferred not to use condoms. The study indicated that the majority of Thai female sex workers were aware of the risk involved in unprotected sex and made some attempt to protect themselves, but that due to clients' reluctance to use condoms, unprotected sex was common. Sex workers reported being afraid to even suggest condom use to some of their clients, for fear of disappointing them, and they explained that if they insisted on condom use, they risked being punished by their managers for failing to satisfy their clients. (Nigoon Jitthai, "HIV in Japan: in Relation to Foreign Female CSWs," presented at the 12th World Congress of Sexology, Symposia on "HIV, AIDS, STD" in Yokohama, Japan, August 15, 1995.)

    156. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 2, 1997.

    157. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    158. Human Rights Watch interview, Japan, March 1994.

    159. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    160. Human Rights Watch interview, Japan, March 18, 1994.

    161. Human Rights Watch interview, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, March 17, 1994.

    162. Electronic mail communication, October 11, 1999. See also Human Rights Watch interview, physician at the Minatomachi Medical Clinic, Yokohama, Japan, June 2, 1995.

    163. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    164. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, September 12, 1997.

    165. Human Rights Watch interviews with Faa and with hospital staff, Chiang Mai province, Thailand, October 3-4, 1995.

    166. Takashi Sawada, e-mails to Human Rights Watch, October 9, 11, and 16, 1999.

    167. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, September 1997.

    168. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 5, 1997.

    169. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interviews, Bangkok, Thailand, March 10 and 26, 1995.

    170. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, January 17, 1995.

    171. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Tokyo, Japan, May 20, 1995.

    172. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA telephone interviews, Tokyo, Japan, 1995.

    173. Jiraporn Jarerndej, "What Price Freedom?" Bangkok Post, January 29, 1994.

    174. Human Rights Watch interview with Nopporn Ratchawej, First Secretary, Royal Thai Embassy, Japan, April 15, 1999; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maliwan, Japan Desk Officer, Division for the Protection of Thai Nationals Abroad, Consular Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangkok, Thailand, April 30, 1999.

    175. "Tact" is an abbreviated term for the English word "contract" and "dat" means "cut," so "dat tact" refers to breaking the contract.

    176. This name has been changed to protect the identity of the man and Soi H.

    177. Human Rights Watch interview, Japan, March 1994.

    178. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.

    179. Human Rights Watch interview, Suranaree University of Technology, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, April 27, 1999.

    180. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    181. In some cases, the likelihood of eventual release from debt, coupled with the unpredictable length of the debt repayment period, provided another incentive for women to endure the terrible conditions and hope for a relatively early release, rather than take the dangerous risk of trying to escape.

    182. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, September 1997.

    183. Interview by M. N., Phayao province, Thailand, October 1997.

    184. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiba prefecture, Japan, May 20, 1995.

    185. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 5, 1995.

    186. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    187. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    188. Human Rights Watch interview with Sugiura, International Network of Engaged Buddhists, Aichi prefecture, Japan, March 22, 1994. See also "Mie Police Admit Their Secret Trade: Disposition of Suzuka Police Chief and a Lieutenant," Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 1991 (translated from Japanese).

    189. Human Rights Watch interview with Yukiko Oshima, Tokyo, Japan, March 17, 1994.

    190. Human Rights Watch also interviewed one woman, and received an interview transcript of another, who had escaped from debt bondage in Japanese brothels (Thip, and Hom, respectively). Both had escaped with assistance from Thai or Japanese authorities and were interviewed in women's shelters in Japan.

    191. It is likely that a disproportionately high percentage of the women interviewed for this report escaped (as opposed to completing their "contract"). Women who escape with the help of Thai Embassy officials or Japanese authorities are generally placed into privately run women's shelters, and in three of the eight escape cases described here, the interviews were conducted at such shelters (Lai, Phon, and Miew) Furthermore, two of the other five women who escaped (Korn and Gaew) were contacted through staff at a women's shelter where the women had stayed after their escape from debt bondage.

    192. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 2, 1995.

    193. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    194. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA telephone interviews, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, May 1995.

    195. Ibid.

    196. Human Rights Watch interview with Thip, Tokyo, Japan, April 16, 1999.

    197. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, September 12, 1997.

    198. Pong explained that she could call the snack bar because the owner there was not directly connected to her mama. Many mamas brought "their women" to this bar to work.

    199. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 24, 1999.

    200. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.


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    201. "Changes in deportation process planned," Kalabaw newsletter, no. 29, December 1995, p. 3.

    202. Human Rights Watch interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 2, 1995.

    203. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 14, 1999.

    204. According to Japan's Immigration Control Act, "when an alien who has been issued a written deportation order determines to return to his/her country of origin via personal burden of expenses, an IDC warden or a chief Inspection officer may permit the alien to do so based on a petition for return submitted by the alien." (Article 52(4)). The law does not say who will cover travel expenses if the alien cannot.

    205. Human Rights Watch interview, Kyoto, Japan, April 13, 1999.

    206. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maliwan, Japan Desk Officer, Division of Protection of Thai Nationals Abroad, Consular Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangkok, Thailand, April 30, 1999; Human Rights Watch interview, Royal Thai Embassy, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999.

    The Thai Embassy's policy of issuing CI papers has greatly facilitated the repatriation of thousands of Thai migrants, including victims of trafficking and debt bondage. Embassy statistics for the period from January 1996 through March 1999 indicate that CI papers are issued to more than 2500 Thai nationals each year; of these, about sixty percent were issued to women.

    207. Human Rights Watch interview, Royal Thai Embassy, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maliwan, Japan Desk Officer, Division of Protection of Thai Nationals Abroad, Consular Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangkok, Thailand, April 30, 1999.

    208. Human Rights Watch interview, Kyoto, Japan, April 11, 1999.

    209. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 27, 1995.

    210. Ibid.

    211. Thailand's treatment of hilltribe people and refugees will be discussed in greater detail in the "Thai Government Response" chapter.

    212. See the "Japanese Government Response" chapter for a further discussion of these policies.

    213. Human Rights Watch interview with Rutsuko Shoji, Director, HELP Asian Women's Shelter, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999. Information supplemented by e-mail, facsimile, and telephone communication to Human Rights Watch by Rutsuko Shoji and her staff over a several month period from August 1999 to March 2000.

    214. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 5, 1995.

    215. Immigration Control Act, Article 5(9).

    216. It is unclear from her testimony what year she returned to Thailand, so this dollar amount has been calculated using the average exchange rate over the nine year period from 1990 through 1998.

    217. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, August 6, 1997.

    218. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 24, 1999.

    219. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 1995.

    220. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Osaka prefecture, Japan, May 26, 1995.

    221. In a recent example, seventy people were arrested in early 1999 in a major crackdown on the trafficking of Colombian women into the Japanese sex industry. The Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo also obtained arrest warrants for several brokers in Colombia, and they classified the illegal brokers into three sectors: those who recruit women in Colombia; those who accompany the Colombian women to help them enter Japan; and those who coerce the women to work in prostitution clubs and striptease theaters. Despite officials' seeming understanding of the coercive practices involved in the operations, however, they also arrested fourteen Colombian women who were working as prostitutes or strippers. Moreover, reports indicated that the three brokers who were arrested in the crackdown were charged on suspicion of violating the prostitution prevention law and the immigration control law; there was no mention of charges related to the abuse they inflicted on the women. ("70 held in move to stem prostitution," Asahi Shimbun (English edition), June 17, 1999.)

    For other examples of arrests, see: "Nagoya Immigration Control Bureau accosted 6 foreign women," Asahi Shimbun (Japanese edition), July 10, 1999; "Date club owner arrested in Yokohama," Kanagawa Shimbun (Japanese edition)June 15, 1994; "Prosecution in Yokohama," Kanagawa Shimbun (Japanese edition), November 13, 1993; "Police Arrest Two Japanese Accused of Trading Women," Yomiuri Shimbun, October 9, 1992. Note that these articles do not always provide enough information to determine whether or not the women were working in coercive conditions.

    222. Interview transcript provided by a staff member at a women's shelter in Japan, who worked with Orn during 1993.

    223. See interviews with Nuch, Kaew, Jo, Ane, and Gap.

    224. According to the ICCPR, Article 9(1,4): "No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. . . . Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful." Prolonged detention without judicial review is also contrary to the standards enunciated in the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, which demands that all detainees be afforded prompt judicial review of their cases, as well as judicial review for the continuance of detention (Principles 11, 37).

    225. The period of detention for accused is generally limited to thirty days under Article 41 of the Immigration Control Act, but it may be extended for another thirty days if "a Supervising Immigration Inspector finds that there are unavoidable circumstances." There is no discussion of what does and does not qualify as "unavoidable," and there are no checks on the SII's power to make this determination.

    226. According to Article 52, a deportee shall be deported without delay, but if this is not possible, then an Immigration Control Officer may detain him in an Immigration Center, detention house, or other places designated by the Minister of Justice or by a Supervising Immigration Inspector commissioned by the Minister of Justice until such time as deportation becomes possible." There is no elaboration of the valid or invalid reasons why "a deportee cannot be deported immediately," and there are no limits put on the time that can pass before "deportation becomes possible."

    227. Quoted in Immigration Review Task Force (IRTF), "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," Japan, 1998, p. 3. Note that as explained above, foreigners who voluntarily surrender to immigration authorities are exempted from this policy.

    228. Article 52 allows ICOs to detain deportees until deportation becomes possible, but it also allows IDC Directors and SIIs to release such persons "under conditions deems necessary such as restrictions on place of residence and area of movement and duty of appearing at a summons."

    229. IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," pp. 14-15.

    230. Human Rights Watch interview, Kyoto, Japan, April 13, 1999.

    231. Human Rights Watch interview, Kyoto, Japan, April 13, 1999.

    232. Human Rights Watch interview with Rutsuko Shoji, Director, HELP Asian Women's Shelter, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999. See also Attorney Tadanori Onitsuka, The situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan (1995), p. 5. See also Human Rights Committee, "Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee : Japan," November 19, 1998 (CCPR/C/79/Add.102).

    233. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.

    234. Human Rights Watch interview with Rutsuko Shoji, Director, HELP Asian Women's Shelter, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999. See also Onitsuka, The situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan, p. 5.

    235. IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," p. 15.

    236. Onitsuka, The situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan, p. 5. As will be discussed below, this money has been used in at least two incidences to expedite the deportation of detainees who had filed civil suits against the government for compensation for abuses suffered in detention.

    237. Arbitrary detention has been defined not only as contrary to law but as including elements of inappropriateness, injustice and lack of predictability (Van Alphen v. Netherlands (U.N. Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 305) 1988. See also discussion in Human Rights Watch, "Locked Away: Immigration Detainees in Jails in the United States," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 10, no. 1, September 1998, pp. 24-26).

    238. These non-binding, but authoritative standards are established by the Body of Principles for the Protection of all Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment and the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. They apply to all individuals in detention for any reason.

    239. Article 46.

    240. Article 48, which refers to Article 10(3-5).

    241. Japanese law does not guarantee immigration detainees the right to not to testify against themselves or the right to counsel, despite the protections established under the Japanese Constitution. Article 38-1 of the Constitution states: "No person shall be compelled to testify against himself;" and Article 34 provides: "No person shall be arrested or detained without being at once informed of the charges against him or without the immediate privilege of counsel." The Constitution makes no distinction between different types of detention, indicating that these protections should apply to detainees in both immigration and criminal cases, but immigration laws and regulations do not make any reference to such rights. A Japanese court ruled on May 26, 1960 that, while the right to counsel applies to criminal procedures, it is not guaranteed during immigration procedures. In reference to this ruling, a Japanese immigration attorney noted that: "Constitutional law scholars have concluded that this provision is applicable to administrative procedures where by such procedures entail the prolonged physical confinement of an individual. In this sense, such administrative confinement differs only very slightly from arrests and moreover poses little conflict to the need for administrative expediency." (Onitsuka, The Situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan, p. 4.)

    242. According to IRTF, "Even if a lawyer is appointed, he or she is not considered a formal representative under the immigration procedures. Communication with the appointed lawyer by telephone or mail is restricted; documents from the lawyer are censored; and guards often monitor meetings between detainees and their lawyers." (IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," p. 5.) One member of IRTF explained to Human Rights Watch that while the criminal procedure code states that lawyers "can meet" with clients without the attendance of guards, even this weak "guarantee" does not apply under immigration law and guards typically attend all lawyer-client meetings. ( Human Rights Watch interview with Toru Takahashi, member of IRTF, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999.)

    243. Human Rights Watch interview with Toru Takahashi, member of IRTF, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999.

    244. Exceptions may be made for persons with absolutely no knowledge of Japanese. See IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," p. 19; Onitsuka, The situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan, pp. 2-3.

    245. Immigration Review Task Force (IRTF), "Fact-finding Mission on Human Rights Violations against Foreign Nationals by Japanese Immigration Officers, 26-31 Manila, Philippines," July 31, 1995.

    246. Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 15, 1999.

    247. International standards provide that prisoners be allowed under necessary supervision to communicate with their family and reputable friends at regular intervals, both by correspondence and by receiving visits; that prisoners have at least one hour of suitable exercise in the open air daily if the weather permits; and that medical care be provided, including psychiatric services, pre-natal and post-natal care and treatment, and other medical services.

    248. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 10, 1995 and March 26, 1995.

    249. Ibid.

    250. Interview by M. N., Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 1997.


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    251. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.

    252. IRTF, "Fact-Finding Mission on Human Rights Violations against Foreign Nationals by Japanese Immigration Officers, 26-31, Manila, Philippines."

    253. The prolonged detention of a small child is particularly intolerable. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, "The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time" (Article 37(b)).

    254. IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," p. 12.

    255. "More detainees claim abuse by officials," The Japan Times, December 30, 1994, p. 3. See also Kalabaw, "Record of Human Rights Abuses Against Aliens by Immigration Control, Police and Courts of Justice," in Women's Research and Action Committee [ed.], NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement (1995); Onitsuka, The situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan, p. 7; Toru Takahashi [translated by Masumi Azu and Elson Boles], "Violence at Japan's immigration detention centers," Women in Action, DATE?, p.58; Toru Takahashi, "Violence Against Female Detainees by the Immigration Control Bureau Officers," in Women's Research and Action Committee [ed.], NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement (1995), p. 47.

    256. As evidence, he cited the death of an Iranian national in the Tokyo Regional Immigration Control Bureau Detention Center (TRIB) in August 1997. Mousavi Abarbekouh Mir Hossein died from a dislocation of the cervical vertebra after receiving a hard blow to the head. The circumstances surrounding his death have never been explained. (Human Rights Watch interview, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 1999; IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," pp. 2 - 3.)

    257. IRTF, "Fact-finding Mission on Human Rights Violations against Foreign Nationals by Japanese Immigration Officers, 26-31 Manila, Philippines."

    258. Takahashi, "Violence Against Female Detainees by the Immigration Control Bureau Officers," NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement, p. 46.

    259. "Ex-Japanese guard: Immigration officials beat alien detainees," Bangkok Post, December 25, 1994, p. 4.

    260. Naomi Hirakawa, "Assaults on detained foreigners denied by officials," Mainichi Daily News, December 23, 1994.

    261. "Ex-Japanese guard . . .," Bangkok Post, p. 4.

    262. "More detainees claim abuse by officials," The Japan Times, December 30, 1994, p. 3.

    263. Hirakawa, "Assaults on detained foreigners denied by officials," Mainichi Daily News.

    264. See Amnesty International, "Japan's human rights record must be challenged," October 27, 1998 (Available: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news/press/releases/27_october_1998-1.shtml. June 2000); and Stephanie Coop, "Detention Abuses," The New Observer, February 1999.

    265. Attorney Tadanori Onitsuka and Attorney Ayako Mizuno, "Summary Report on the Physical Abuses and Assaults by Immigration Control Enforcement Officers against Foreign Nationals in Japan at Various Stages of Compulsory Deportation Procedures, with Legal Commentary," Tokyo, March 1995, p.3; Takahashi, "Violence Against Female Detainees by the Immigration Control Bureau Officers," NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement, pp. 44-45.

    266. Takahashi, "Violence Against Female Detainees by the Immigration Control Bureau Officers," NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement, p. 45.

    267. Onitsuka and Mizuno, "Summary Report on the Physical Abuses and Assaults by Immigration Control Enforcement Officers against Foreign Nationals in Japan at Various Stages of Compulsory Deportation Procedures with Legal Commentary," pp. 3-4.

    268. "Assaults on detained foreigners denied by officials," Mainichi Daily News, December 23, 1994.

    269. 269 Onitsuka and Mizuno, "Summary Report on the Physical Abuses and Assaults by Immigration Control Enforcement Officers against Foreign Nationals in Japan at Various Stages of Compulsory Deportation Procedures with Legal Commentary," p.4.

    270. 270 Takahashi, "Violence at Japan's immigration detention centers," Women in Action, pp. 58-59; IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," p. 15.

    Tao's lawyers pursued her case in absentia, seeking six million yen in compensation for the abuse she suffered at the hands of the immigration officers, and in July 1996 a settlement was finally reached for damages of one million yen (US$9200). (National Network in Solidarity with Migrant Workers-Japan, "The Rights of the Migrants and their Families in Japan and the ICCPR: A Report Concerning the Rights of the Migrants and their Families in Japan for the Consideration of the Fourth Periodic Report Submitted by Japan in Accordance with Article 40 of the ICCPR," 1998, p. 24.)

    271. 271 IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," pp. 2, 4.

    272. 272 See IRTF, "The Actual Status of the Deportation Procedures and Immigration Detention Facilities in Japan," pp. 10, 15; Takahashi, "Violence Against Female Detainees by the Immigration Control Bureau Officers," NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement, p. 47; Luke Thomas, "Immigration vs. Foreigners: Abuses in Need of Solutions," Tokyo Underground, no. 2, February 1995, p. 2.

    273. 273 Principle 19. See also Principles 16 and 18.

    274. When Human Rights Watch conducted an investigation of Japanese prison conditions in 1994, we were unable to visit any immigration detention facilities and only permitted extremely limited access to select prisons. (Human Rights Watch/Asia and Human Rights Watch Prison Project, Prison Conditions in Japan (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995), p. viii.)

    275. 275 "MP Inspect IDC," Mainichi Shimbun, December 8, 1994.

    276. Article 61-7(4, 5).

    277. Article 37; quoted in Onitsuka, The situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan, p. 8.

    278. 278 Onitsuka, The situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan.

    279. Human Rights Watch interview, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, April 25, 1999.

    280. Onitsuka, The situation of Alien Deportation Procedures in Japan, p. 8.

    281. Lawyers Group for Burmese Asylum Seekers - Japan, "Censorship in Immigration Detention Center: Violation of the right of freedom of expression," Migrant Network News, no. 11, January 1999, p. 1.

    282. Article 14(3).

    283. See Japan Civil Liberties Union, 1998 Report Concerning the Present Status of Human Rights in Japan (Third Counter Report), October 1998; Japan Federation of Bar Associations, "A Report on the Application and Practice in Japan of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," April 1993.

    284. Human Rights Committee, "Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Japan," November 19, 1998 (CCPR/C/79/Add.102).

    285. Human Rights Watch and FOWIA interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 1995.

    286. Toako Matsushiro (Hand-in-Hand Chiba), "Problems in Legal Procedures: The Murder Trial of Trafficked Thai Women," in Women's Research and Action Committee [ed.], NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement (1995), p. 42.

    The initial period of police detention, before to a suspect's indictment, is called daiyo kangoku. It can last up to twenty-three days, and questioning is always conducted without the presence of a lawyer, even though the primary purpose of the interrogation is to obtain a confession. Both the Japan Civil Liberties Union and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations have identified the daiyo kangoku period as "a hotbed" of violence and coerced confessions. ( Japan Civil Liberties Union, "1998 Report Concerning the Present Status of Human Rights in Japan (Third Counter Report)"; Japan Federation of Bar Associations, "Prisons in Japan," October 1992.)

    287. Interview by M. N. with Gap, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, October 1997.

    288. National Network in Solidarity with Migrant Workers - Japan, "The Rights of the Migrants and their Families in Japan and the ICCPR: A Report Concerning the Rights of the Migrants and their Families in Japan for the Consideration of the Fourth Periodic Report Submitted by Japan in Accordance with Article 40 of the ICCPR," 1998, p. 16.

    289. Toako Matsushiro (Hand-in-Hand Chiba), "Problems in Legal Procedures: The Murder Trial of Trafficked Thai Women," in Women's Research and Action Committee [ed.], NGOs' Report on the Situation of Foreign Migrant Women in Japan and Strategies for Improvement (1995), p. 41.

    290. Ibid., pp. 41-42.

    291. Murder with the intent to commit robbery is a more serious crime than simply murder.

    292. Human Rights Watch interview with Attorney Kazuko Kawaguchi, Japan, March 9, 1994.

    293. Abigail Haworth and Kyoko Matsuda, "Flesh and Blood: part two," Tokyo Journal, August 1994, p. 37. See also "The Shimodate Incident: From an interview with Takahashi Hiromichi," AMPO Japan-Asia Quarterly Review, vol. 25, no. 2, 1994, p. 4.

    294. See Haworth and Matsuda, "Flesh and Blood: part two," Tokyo Journal; and "Thai women get 10-year jail for murder in Japan," The Nation (Bangkok, Thailand), May 23, 1994.

    295. Yuriko Saito, "Shimodate Case: Judgement of Appeal Hearing," 1996; Yuriko Saito, "Trafficking in women: the Shimodate case and human rights abuses," Tokyo Kaleidoscope (weekly online journal), July 22, 1996. Available: http://202.239.42.30/topics/0094p01e.html. June 2000.

    296. As in immigration facilities, regulations governing conditions in prisons and detention houses are vague, giving individual prison directors wide discretion to formulate and implement internal rules regulating the day-to-day operations of the prison, and these internal rules are kept secret, ostensibly in the interest of protecting the institution's security. The abusive conditions in these facilities have been widely publicized and criticized, both by domestic and international human rights organizations. See Japan Civil Liberties Union, "1998 Report Concerning the Present Status of Human Rights in Japan (Third Counter Report)"; Japan Federation of Bar Associations, "Prisons in Japan"; Human Rights Watch/Asia and Human Rights Watch Prison Project, Prison Conditions in Japan; and Amnesty International, Japan: Abusive Punishments in Japanese Prisons, June 1998.

    297. Human Rights Watch interview, Catholic Commission on Migration: Women's Desk, Bangkok, Thailand, April 30, 1999.

    298. Human Rights Watch interview, Kyoto, Japan, April 12, 1999.

    299. "Chapter 2: Questions to Japan," Today's Japan, April 26, 1994, p. 29.

    300. Forum on Asian Immigrant Workers, "Citizen's Report on the Human Rights of Foreign Workers in Japan (with a special emphasis on male workers)," April 17, 1993, p. 29.

    301. "Chapter 2: Questions to Japan," Today's Japan, pp. 30-32.

    302. Human Rights Watch interview, Bangkok, Thailand, March 1995.

    Subjecting a detainee to solitary confinement without cause--and/or without informing the detainee of the cause--contravenes the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Articles 27, 29, 30).


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