Meet Peerasin Chatchawarat, A21
Peerasin Chatchawarat is the A21 Aftercare Manager in Thailand, and supported the launch of the Bali Process RSO and Nexus Practitioner Guide series on Access to Remedies, providing feedback and guidance based on the experiences of survivors when accessing services and support.
Peerasin leads a multi-talented team of caseworkers who provide holistic aftercare support to survivors of human trafficking. In this interview, he shares reflections for other practitioners working with survivors, discussed changing trends and needs, and advocates for a ‘restorative alliance’ approach based on each individual’s needs.
What led you to this line of work, and can you tell us a bit more about A21?
A21 is a non-profit organisation dedicated to combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery. The organisation's name, A21, stands for "Abolishing Slavery in the 21st Century". It was founded by Christine and Nick Cain in 2008 with our first operational location in Thessaloniki, Greece. Our services started with an A21 home with aftercare program. Since then, A21's work expanded to 19 locations across 14 countries, with Prevention, Intervention, and Aftercare programs that address the cycle of vulnerability, exploitation, and re-victimisation. In the Asia Pacific region, our operations are in Cambodia and Thailand, with a prevention and fundraising office in Australia. I encourage you to visit our website at A21.org!
As for me and this line of work, I have always been passionate about helping those who are marginalised and vulnerable. Growing up, I was involved with my family's work with those with developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorder, and that experience provided me with a foundation in working with those who require access to additional resources in order to thrive. Then, in my early adult years, I became involved with a different anti-trafficking organisation, working directly with victims of trafficking which enlightened me to the reality of human-trafficking. It left me with a conviction to anti-human trafficking work – a conviction to a cause. Over time, I developed a focus in clinical and counseling psychology. It is fulfilling to be using all my experiences, education, and expertise to provide aftercare services for victims of human trafficking.
Can you describe the typical journey of a trafficking survivor, and where positive state interventions can make the most difference in identifying and supporting victims?
No two individuals' journeys are the same. However, it is common for survivors to come from vulnerable backgrounds, experiencing economic disadvantages, limited access to resources, absence of social support, and/or lack of awareness of exploitation indicators. Traffickers exploit these vulnerabilities, typically starting with false promises of a better life that soon turn into manipulation, coercion, and, far too often, actual harm.
A brief example of this is an individual seeking employment to support their family and/or pay off existing debt. They come across a job posting that promises good income across the border, all expenses paid, and decide to take the offer. Upon arrival on day one of the job, all identification documents are taken away, and the victim is forced to perform acts they did not initially agree upon, while the trafficker uses various methods to control them.
In such a scenario, a collaborative intervention that is victim-centric and trauma-informed is crucial to a successful outcome. It is important that the identification process includes trauma-informed interviewing techniques that do not subject the victim to repetitive recalling of traumatic experiences. Moreover, the support that makes the most difference should be tailored to each victim's individual needs and circumstances while also being trauma-informed. A collaborative approach to identifying and supporting victims that involve the state, non-governmental agencies, and especially the victims themselves all together makes the most significant difference.
What do you consider a successful case for A21?
Successful cases for A21 share a theme of individuals achieving independence, being connected to their communities, and having gained access to justice. In achieving independence, the survivor would typically have gained several skills and resources that help support themselves, whether it be life skills, access to healthcare resources/services in their communities, having safe/sustainable employment, education, and/ or independent accommodation. Being connected to their communities through a strong network of support from peers and family is a prominent indicator of a successful transition. Successful access to justice would include securing restitution for victims of trafficking, their opportunity to testify in court leading to conviction of traffickers, and gaining protection of rights from the justice system.
What services do survivors of trafficking in persons require most?
This is a great question! We would like to highlight the value of tailoring services to each survivor's specific needs. It is very important to empower the survivors to inform practitioners on what services they require. Each case is not the same. In our experience, we find that one survivor might need intensive mental health services, while others are more focused on repatriation and reintegration support. This requires practitioners to work closely with the survivors to understand their needs through their lived experiences. On a somewhat separate, but also related note, this is another reason why collaboration is so important in providing services to survivors. Because services to survivors often vary, we often find ourselves collaborating with our counterparts who may be well equipped in areas outside our scope of expertise.
What is one piece of knowledge you would share with fellow practitioners about working with survivors of trafficking in persons?
In a way, the answer to this question builds upon the answer to the previous question. We find that having a strong rapport with survivors, similar to ‘therapeutic alliance’ in counseling, is tremendous. It helps the survivor fully open up to us to articulate their needs and vulnerabilities. It fosters trust, which in turn helps survivors maintain engagement in the restoration process. If I could share one thing to other practitioners, I would share this concept... perhaps within the anti-trafficking community, we could call it a ‘restorative alliance’.
What are some misconceptions about survivors of trafficking in persons/ working with survivors of trafficking in persons / trafficking in persons in general?
Although demographic characteristics such as economic disadvantage, limited education, and female gender bias have been characteristics of many survivors of trafficking, we are finding an emergence of a new demographic of victims. We are interacting with more individuals with higher education levels, middle income socio-economic status, and males who were affected by human trafficking. We are observing this demographic shift along with new forms of human trafficking, particularly in labor trafficking and forced criminality that involves the use of technology.
Since working in this field, have trends changed/ the cases you manage changed and if so, how?
With the demographic shift (higher education levels, middle income socio-economic status, and males), we are recognising the need to adapt our services in order to serve well. For example, as we are providing services to survivors with a university-level education, especially when that education equips the survivor with a specific set of technical skills, we are seeing a stronger need for a more comprehensive focus on career support. These individuals could potentially benefit from services such as career counseling where strengths and skill sets are explored and built upon. Some of these individuals could benefit from support and guidance in starting small to medium enterprises that are marketable to modern day demands. In other words, there is somewhat of a paradigm shift when it comes to vocation-related services.
What can we, as practitioners/ survivor advocates do more of / less of to support survivors of trafficking in persons?
We believe that collaboration among practitioners, advocates, and survivors, is one of the major keys in supporting survivors of trafficking. This would allow for sharing of the best and most up-to-date practices, resources, and experienced-based expertise from the survivors themselves. We are honored to be part of the growing anti-trafficking community with excellent practitioners from all over the globe. We are excited to gain more insight from survivors’ lived experiences. And we would like to see more of that collaborative growth.