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Rethinking Independent Child Migration in Thailand: Victims of Exploitation or Competent Agents?

Author : Mark P. Capaldi | 2016
Published By: Journal of Population and Social Studies

There are differing views on whether independent child migration increases children’s vulnerability to exploitation or is an expression of their proactive agency. As little attention has yet been given to the motivations, comparative benefits, outcomes and rights of voluntary child migrants, this paper gives voice to independent child migrants in Thailand. Using child-focused research methodology, it draws from the experiences of 76 youth who all independently migrated when they were children. The research reassesses the common assumptions and adult constructs around children’s agency and migration. Labeling all child migrants who experience some degree of exploitation as victims of trafficking is found to be counterproductive. A better understanding of the notion of childhood and children’s capacities within the Southeast Asian context illustrates the conflicting concepts of child agency and vulnerability. As such, by listening more seriously to the positive views of independent child migrants we can become more focused on legal and regulatory policies and practices around labor migration and less blind to the realities of children’s full rights and true agency.

URL : http://www.jpss.mahidol.ac.th/PDF/JPSS-Vol23(1)_Capaldi_Rethinking_child_migration.pdf

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