SOUTH AFRICA -- Among the throng of people who arrived at the new Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok from OR Tambo this week was a 29-year-old sex slave.
Napa's touchdown was a bittersweet moment for Thai diplomats in Pretoria and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security which is struggling to cut the human trafficking link between Thailand and South Africa.
Of the estimated 1 000 Thai women and children lured to South Africa this year to work in the sex industry, Napa (not her real name) was one of the lucky 52 to be repatriated.
Although she was whisked away for a debriefing, social workers gave the assurance she would not be treated as a criminal, but rather as a victim of human rights' abuse.
Her experiences in South Africa are vital when it comes to closing in on the extensive network which has, in recent times, increased human trafficking to and from Thailand, and will also serve to protect other potential victims.
In an interview with a South African media group in Bangkok, Thailand's Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Wallop Polytaptim, said South Africa was the third most popular destination for sex slaves from Thailand, the top two being Malaysia and Japan.
Yet, he said - referring to the fact that a South African delegation had been barred from attending a meeting with Thai officials in November - it had not been possible to reach a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on dealing with the problem.
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