Past Summer Programs Tailored for American University

PHT was pleased to formalize its role in educating the next generation of anti-trafficking activists by transforming the annual research trip into a specially designed graduate course for American University within the context of human rights and human security. As a result, 20 students and faculty accompanied PHI staff to Thailand to study the anti-trafficking movement through academic coursework, meetings with Thai members of the anti-trafficking movement,site visits to Thai service providers,and internships with Thai NGO's. The course was titled:

Human Rights and Threats to Human Security in Thailand

Human Security is defined as the protection of: [T]he vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment. Human security means protecting fundamental freedoms-freedoms that are the essence of life…. It means creating political, social, environmental, economic, military, and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks of survival, livelihood, and dignity.

Traditional 'security studies' most often explore threats to the state coming from other states and non-state actors (multinational corporations, terrorists, etc). However, just as important, though much less often studied, is the threat of 'human security.' Human trafficking is one of the prime examples of a threat or violation of human security.

This course will examine the theoretical framework for human rights, and threats to human security in Thailand, with particular emphasis on the human trafficking phenomenon. Human trafficking is one of the most egregious affronts to human security and is best studied within a framework of larger human security concerns that often contribute to the "supply and demand" of trafficking. Often referred to as "the underside of globalization," human trafficking is a vastly complex issue affected by the global politics of trade, war, occupation, development, corporate business, and organized crime. Thailand is a regional crossroads for traffickers who prey primarily on the economically disadvantaged: refugees, illegal immigrants, ethnic minorities, and seasonal workers. Its delicate position amidst (largely) economically depressed neighbors makes it a popular destination point for job seekers, and has contributed to the media-generated image as "Asia's brothel."

Thailand is characterized by the US State Department as a sending, receiving, and transition hotspot of traffickers. But the systemic causes of human trafficking are not widely understood, and even less is known about Thailand's leadership role in innovative human security initiatives and anti-trafficking solutions within the region, or its hard won progress led by many civil society leaders on the vanguard of the global anti-trafficking movement. Since the devastating tsunami earlier this year, the issue of human security in Thailand and the role of trafficking has taken on an increased urgency; experts around the world are concerned that traffickers will attempt to exploit the chaos that the tsunami left behind.

Course Description and Objectives

American University's summer program in Thailand is facilitated by Project HOPE International, a non-governmental organization working in Washington DC and Bangkok, Thailand. PHI has many years of regional experience conducting intensive research and fieldwork on issues of human security; particularly human trafficking.

Students will stay in the convenient and centrally located Bangkok Apartments, with sky train access.

This program offers students concerned with human trafficking unique access to some of Southeast Asia's preeminent scholars, activists, organizers and government officials at the forefront of the global anti-trafficking movement. Participants will attend academic seminars in Thailand's preeminent institutions (Chulalongkorn, Thamasat and Changmai University), examine the real implications of US foreign policies in anti-trafficking by undertaking serious field research, traveling extensively to gain local insights and perspectives on effective strategy, while benefiting from direct exposure to the surroundings which often propel trafficking.

Students will gain vital first hand knowledge of anti-trafficking strategy and unwritten "best practices" and a deeper understanding of systemic causes of trafficking along with an appreciation of challenges in the anti-trafficking movement, by interning or volunteering at local shelters and with NGOs, and networking to build solidarity amongst current and future leaders in the movement. Students will also explore connections between HIV AIDS and human trafficking with leading researchers in the field, and hear from the organizers themselves about alternative economic models for trafficked persons in recovery, and those at risk. Students contribute new knowledge to the antitrafficking debate by writing and publishing in depth research findings and synthesizing the reports and books assigned prior to the trip. Special lectures by local academics, government officials, business leaders, NGO activists, and other guest speakers will give students Thai perspectives on the real reasons there are serious threats to human security, and why men, women and children are trafficked internally in Thailand or across borders to other countries.

Lectures will be held from 1:00 - 4:00pm. The mornings will be utilized by taking site visits in Bangkok.

Course Requirements

There will be four assignments: one class presentation, a class journal, one short paper, and participation.

Written assignments should reflect that students' read the assigned materials, that they have thought critically and analytically about the issues presented, and that they have formulated an argument based on the readings and the lectures/discussions. A bibliography is required for the Short Paper but optional for the Journal.

Assignment 1: Class Presentation Grade: 25%

Students are required to give a presentation (30 minutes) on a discussion topic listed in the class schedule or on a different topic after consulting with Professor Mertus or PHI. The presentation will be the precursor for the final short paper due later. In the presentation, the student will lay out an outline of the issues: stating the nature and scope of the topic/problem; who are the actors involved in causing the problem; who are the actors involved in finding solutions; presenting alternative solutions based on models of interdisciplinary teams of actors.

Assignment 2: Class Journal Grade: 25%

The Class Journal provides students with an opportunity to make a record of his/her learning process. The journal should reflect the expectations and preconceptions at the beginning of their time in Thailand, and their opinions and reflections at the conclusion of the course. What the student writes is up to him/her, as long as it satisfies three requirements: (1) a response to daily field trips and interactions with Thais and others during their stay; (2) reference specifically the readings and/or to class discussion; (3) students must write everyday, and the entry should be at least a half page in length.

Assignment 3: Final Short Paper (10-12 pages) Grade: 25%

The Final Short Paper should incorporate both theoretical and empirical knowledge, as well as personal perspectives of the students' Thailand experience. Students may focus on any issue that has most deeply engaged their interest during their time in Thailand, e.g. human security, gender, trafficking, aftercare programs, development, environmental pressures, etc. This paper should incorporate information gleaned during field visits, readings, lectures, class discussions and any research done on the internet. The paper must utilize a proper citation format and bibliography, and demonstrate original thought and good paper-writing skills (i.e., present a thesis in a topic paragraph, explore the thesis in an organized and rigorous manner, and end with a conclusion).

Assignment 4: Attendance and Participation Grade: 25%

Students are expected to be engaged and alert at all times during the organized classes and field trips. Students are expected to ask questions of the people visited during field trips and engage the professor and guest lecturers.

Course Goals

This course seeks to help students to:

  • Develop analytical skills to question and appraise threats to human security practices and realities in Thailand;

  • Enhance understanding of fact-finding methodology and develop interview skills;

  • Gain substantive knowledge of the historical and socioeconomic and political reasons of why trafficking takes place, and how it has developed in Thailand;

  • To dispel myths and stereotypes about Bangkok and Thailand in particular and trafficking and other threats to human security in general;

  • Draw useful conclusions about the roles of various state and nonstate actors in the identification of threats to human security and in their efforts both to ameliorate and exacerbate the problems;

  • Identify potential roles for oneself in the promotion of human rights.

Course Topics

  • Human Trafficking (Sex vs. labor trafficking)

  • Globalization and Human Security (impact on trafficking)

  • The Politics of International Migration

  • Related Issues of Human Security: Minorities at Risk, Food Security, Lack of Citizenship, Impact of Foreign Policy of the 'North' on the global 'South'

  • NGO's as pivotal civil society builders

  • HIV/AIDS and trafficking

  • Changing Norms in addressing human rights and human security

  • Politics of Tourism

  • Sustainable NGO development

  • Globalization and the Environment, sustainable development and the plight of indigenous peoples in the region

Site Visits

Bangkok area

  • The Center for the Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Bangkok

  • Pattaya Home for Street Children

  • Cabbages and Condoms & Population and Community

Development Association of Thailand (PDA)

  • UNESCO offices


  • New Life Center


Cultural Sites for Weekend Visits

Bangkok area

  • Kanchanaburi Province the distinct cultural and wildlife-viewing sites of northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima Province

  • Monk's Bowl Village, Bangkok, Thailand Ko Kret:

  • Chao Phraya Express boats and long tail boats leave from the southern Wat Ratchsingkhorn Pier for the 90-minute journey to Pakkred. Wat Chalaw Chatuchak Market, or Sunday Market (it's open most days!)


Half or full day trips to Hill tribe villages. This usually means travel by elephant for an hour or more, as many of these villages are hard to reach by any other means than helicopter. These trips can include travel by bamboo raft, cooking local fish, buying beautiful handicrafts made by hill tribe women, visiting a waterfall, etc

Wat Saen Fang;Wat Phra That Doi Suthep:Forest Wat - Wat U-Mong

Bo Sang - Lacquerware & umbrellas

Night Market Changmai

Guest Speakers Invited

In addition to class discussions and site visits, guest lectures by numerous policy makers provide students with essential insights. Guest speakers will include, but not limited to:

  • Vitit Muntarbhorn, Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

  • Marc Askew, Senior Lecturer in International Studies Program, School of Social Sciences, Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

  • Heather Peters, Anthropologist, UNESCO, Bangkok

  • David Feingold, Anthropologist, UNESCO, Bangkok

  • Sudarat Sereewat, Secretary-General of the Coalition to Fight Against Child Exploitation (FACE), Bangkok

  • Pasuk Pongpaichit, Faculty of Economics at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

  • Wanchai Rouvanajong, Director General of the Department of Juvenile Observation, Ministry of Justice, Thailand

  • Mechai Viravaidya, Member of the Senate of Thailand's Parliament, the National Assembly of Thailand

  • Lance Bonneau, Senior Program Development Officer at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Bangkok

  • Saisuree Chutikul, former Thai Senator, and member of Commission on the Rights of the Child, Geneva.

  • Simon Baker, Population Council

  • Kraisak Chonhavan Chair of Foreign Relations Committee, Thailand

  • Sanphasit Koompraphant, Director of the Center for the Protection of Children's Rights

Internship Opportunities & Structure

Upon successful completion of the program students who are interested in remaining in the region for the summer will be guaranteed internships within PHI's network. Students will work 20-40 hours a week for a minimum of 4 weeks and a maximum of 8 weeks (depending on the arrangement between the intern and the sponsoring organization). After completing the internship, students are responsible for submitting an internship summary to the faculty member supervising their internship. Prior to departure, Professor Mertus and Christina Arnold will work with each student to develop and agree upon a relevant research summary for each internship.

Students conducting internships will receive ongoing support from Christina Arnold and staff of American University's partner organization in Bangkok, Project HOPE International. Before departure, students will receive confirmation of their internship assignment as well as an internship job description. Students will also participate in a pre-departure orientation that will address the Thai political, economic and social environment, as well as living and working in Thailand.

Housing will be worked out in each individual case based on the internship. Some internships will provide housing on site. Others will require separate arrangements to be made by Project HOPE International.


Participating Organizations


  • FACE (Fight Against Child Exploitation) website:

  • DEPDC website:

  • New Life Center website:

  • TRAFCORD website:

  • Population and Community Development Association of Thailand (PDA) website:

  • Pattaya Home for Street Children

  • Southeast Asian Rivers Network (SEARIN) Education and Research Institutions

  • Research in Cambodia with Tom Steinfatt (Fulbright Scholar, Professor, Miami University).

  • University of Changmai

Required Readings

A list of required readings will be provided to participants during the orientation session.

About Thailand and Safety

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliamentary government.

Thailand is the only country in South or Southeast Asia never to be colonized by a foreign power. The country is divided into 76 provinces. Each province is sub-divided into districts. Thailand's economy, though experiencing steady growth throughout the 1980s and 90s, collapsed in 1997. The economy has been stabilizing since 1998 and continues to do so. The currency is the baht. About 75% of citizens are ethnic Thais. People of Chinese ancestry make up 11% of the population. The second largest minority group living in Thailand is the Malays (3.5%). The remaining 10.5% of the population is divided among smaller non-Thai speaking groups.

Thai is the official language, but English is widely spoken among middle and upper class communities.

The safety of program participants is American University's primary concern. Thailand is a safe country; the crime rate is lower than that found in many western countries. American University continually monitors and analyzes the safety environment for all of its international programs. American University feels that there is no undue risk in the areas of Bangkok that we will visit. The University reserves the right to change or cancel as it deems necessary. The mandatory pre-departure orientation will contain a full travel safety briefing.

Who Should Attend

As a multi-disciplinary survey, American University students from all majors and disciplines are welcome to apply. Advanced undergraduate and graduate students with interests in: comparative political systems, development, history, economics, education, human rights, international business, international communication, international politics, South East Asia, peace and conflict resolution, sociology, and United States foreign policy will all benefit from participation in this program.