Former Thai sex slave wins Australia compensation

  • World
  • Wednesday, 30 May 2007

By Rob Taylor

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Former Thai sex slave Jetsadophorn Chaladone is learning to dream again, although slowly and with the pain of her past still close behind. 

Jetsadophorn, or "Ning", this week became the first person in Australia to win compensation as a victim of sex trafficking, with a tribunal awarding her an undisclosed payment. 

Ning landed in Australia as a 13-year-old with her father's blessing in 1995, expecting to work as a nanny. Instead she was put to work in a Sydney brothel and told she would have to have sex with more than 650 men to pay off a A$35,000 ($28,000) debt. 

After 10 days in the brothel, a routine raid by immigration officials led to her freedom, but Ning had already been forced to have sex with around 100 men with the threat of a beating held over her head. 

Now 25, a mother and living with her husband back in Thailand rather than the country she once thought promised a better life, Ning said the landmark ruling under new Australian sex slavery laws was helping turn her life around. 

"It's not really healing the wound in my heart, but it will help my life get better," she told Australian radio through an interpreter after the compensation award. 

"Most of the money will go for the education of my son and myself, and part will be for the renovation of my house, and to set up a business, and to buy a car." 

Australia introduced laws against sex trafficking and slavery in 1999, although authorities say the country's problem is relatively small in world terms, with less than 100 women trafficked to the country each year. 

Since the laws were introduced only two successful prosecutions have been lodged, and the owners of the Sydney brothel in which Ning was found were never investigated. 

An Australian Institute of Criminology report says unlike Ning, most women trafficked to Australia know they are to work in prostitution, but are unaware of conditions such as confiscation of passports and restricted freedom. 

The Government in 2003 signed anti-trafficking agreements with Cambodia, Burma, Laos, and Thailand to improve international cooperation and police investigations of trafficking syndicates. 

The Victims Compensation Tribunal in New South Wales state said Ning, who now lives in northeastern Thailand, suffered a "moderate to severe depressive disorder" after the horror of her time in Sydney. 

Ning featured in a film about sex trafficking and is now cooperating on a film to educate other Thai women so they do not repeat her mistakes. 

"I believe it will help protect other women from trafficking. They are going to know what working overseas would mean," she said. 

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