Prostitute sends a cry for help

AN AGONISED appeal for help from a Thai woman who is being held against her will in a brothel by gangsters somewhere in Japan appeared in a Japanese newspaper this week. But no one, apart from her captors, knows where the woman is being held.

'I am a prisoner of the yakuza (gangsters), and forced into prostitution. This is hell on earth,' she wrote in a letter to her father. 'If you lose contact with me, you will know I have been killed.'

The letter, written in Thai, was apparently smuggled out of the brothel by one of the woman's clients, and had a postmark from Osaka, Japan's second largest city. A facsimile of the letter appeared in the Yomiuri newspaper, with the woman's name deleted - police fear her captors might kill her if they realise police are looking for her.

The case highlights the growing sex trade between South-east Asia and Japan, which is controlled by underworld syndicates able to circumvent the Japanese police and the immigration service. Sources in Bangkok estimate some 70,000 Thai women are working as prostitutes in Japan, many of them lured into the trade against their will with offers of jobs as maids or factory workers. Once in Japan their passports are confiscated, and speaking no Japanese and often no English, they are at the mercy of gangsters who run the sex trade.

The woman, 31, comes from Nan province in Thailand. The last time her family heard from her was August 1992, when she was preparing to go to Singapore, where a job placement agency had supposedly found her a job as a maid. She said she would send money to her relatives, who are subsistence farmers.

Instead she was taken to Japan, where she was brought in on a false visa and then 'sold' to gangsters, who took her passport. After a drive of 'about two hours' in a van with no windows she was pushed into a bar where she has been confined ever since.

According to her letter, she is not allowed out, cannot get to a telephone, and fears that if she tries to escape, 'I will be murdered'. The letter was posted in March and reached her father in April. He gave it to a Japanese businessman in Thailand, along with a photograph of his daughter. This was given to the Japanese police, who are trying to find the woman.

The letter gives the name of the bar, and says it is on an island. There are no other details. The letter ends: 'I want to go back to Thailand and live in freedom.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before