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Human Trafficking Stories
from Boston to Bangkok

Photo | 承燁 韓 

Sex Trafficking from
Bangkok to Boston

Photo |  承燁 韓

WGBH Boston Public Radio
By Phillip Martin

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Special Report: Human Trafficking
"Underground Trade: From Boston to Bangkok" is a WGBH eight-part investigation by Schuster Institute Senior Fellow Phillip Martin into human trafficking, from East Asia to New York to New England. ​ 

Part 8:
Human Trafficking: What Now? 


​WGBH Investigations reports: Individuals can take heroic steps to stop human trafficking, like the cab driver in Saigon who rescued 11- and 12-year-olds enslaved in garment factories. Indeed, there are important counter-trafficking efforts underway. Phillip Martin investigates the options for strengthening these efforts here in the United States.


Listen to the broadcast, "Human Trafficking: What Now?" at WGBH Boston Public Radio. 


Eight Policy Suggestions
the U.S. Can Take to Do More
to Combat Modern-Day Slavery


What now, WGBH investigative reporter Phillip Martin asks in his concluding broadcast of an eight-part series about human trafficking that took him from Boston to Bangkok and beyond. What more can and should be done to help combat modern-day slavery? The statistics point to disappointingly low numbers of convictions and victims identified compared to the 20-27 million people experts believe are enslaved.


Martin’s investigative reporting led him to talk with many individuals whose jobs involve counter-trafficking activities, from law enforcement officials to legislators and District Attorneys, from NGO activists to United Nations experts-- even to taxi drivers.

From these interviews, Martin has prepared eight suggestions for what the United States, as a government and as a people, can do to break the chains of 21st century slavery.


Legislation: Pass Stronger State and Federal Laws



















Corporate Social Responsibility in the Private Sector



Support and Improve Prevention and Prosecution Efforts





U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) is urging passage of the Human Trafficking Reporting Act 2013, legislation that would require annual reports assessing the progress of each state in the fight against human trafficking. The State Department already requires these reports on a global level.


Reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was first passed in 2000 and has been reauthorized three times. Update: It was finally approved by the U.S. Senate as part of the Violence Against Women Act on February 12, 2013 and in the House on February 28, 2013. President Obama signed the reauthorization on March 7, 2013.


Make it more difficult for Americans to go overseas and solicit prostitutes. Ken Franzblau of Equality Now said sex tourism fuels demand for prostitution — and demand fuels human trafficking.


Pass comprehensive immigration reform. “Here in the United States, as part of the president’s proposal on comprehensive immigration reform, is the notion of reforming the guest worker program so [workers are] not only protected and there’s more labor inspection and other types of protection like that,” but also so reform meets the needs of employers, said Luis CdeBaca, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. “As long as we don’t have that, we’re going to have human traffickers who are exploiting the cracks in the system.”





Urge businesses to take a zero-tolerance approach to slavery in their supply chains, as Virgin Airlines executive Richard Branson has sworn to do. 






To address human trafficking on the East Coast of the U.S., connect the dots of the underground trade between New York and other cities, including Providence and Boston. Jimmy Lee, of the New York-based group Restore, says law enforcement should concentrate more on the alleged links between organized traffickers who transport women to New England but who start off in New York.


Activists argue that individual states, including Massachusetts and New York, should make it more difficult to license and operate massage parlors. “These businesses are filled with Asian women who don’t have the language skills and who, when they come [here], they were put in these work places,” said Fran Gau, of the New York Asian Women’s Center.


Increase funding for fighting human trafficking. Even though Massachusetts passed a comprehensive anti-human trafficking law in 2011, police still lack the necessary resources to fully implement the law. Locating, arresting and making a strong case against human traffickers requires “expansive, in depth investigations, and we really are short on resources,” said Kelly Nee, Boston Police Deputy Superintendent and a member of the Anti-Trafficking Task Force. 









​Part 1 : Hiding in Plain Sight

2: The Route Through Queens

3 The Business of Trafficking

4 One Town In Thailand

5Taken Into China

6 Trading in Shame
7  : Modern-Day Slavery in America
8 : Human Trafficking: What Now?​ 

Special Report: Human Trafficking Underground Trade: From Boston to Bangkok is an eight-part investigation into human trafficking from East Asia to the Northeast Corridor of the United States by
Phillip Martin, senior investigative reporter at WGBH Boston Public Radio and a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.

The WGBH investigation was done in collaboration with the International Center for Journalists, the Ford Foundation, and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. 

​Claire Pavlik Purgus, Schuster Institute managing editor, conceptualized, designed and edited this site which provides supporting documentation and context for  WGBH Radio's human trafficking investigation, "Underground Trade: From Boston to Bangkok" and

PBS American Experience's

"The Abolitionists."

Sophie Elsner, Schuster Institute research editor, supervised research by Brandeis students who work as Research Assistants at the Schuster Institute.

Students who contributed research:

Sidra Ahmed

David Altman

Damiana Andonova

Simon Cramer

Lydia Emmanouilidou

Dafna Fine

Ariel Glickman

Shafaq Hasan

Elly Kalfus

Lindi Li
Alisa Partlan

Avi Snyder
Andrew Wingens
Madeline Ziff

More Schuster Institute


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