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From the outside, the Pink Lady in Chiang Mai, Thailand, had all the markings of a brothel: the bodyguard stationed at the front door, the blackened windows, the motorcycles parked out front late at night.
Inside, it looked like a cheap diner, with frayed vinyl booths and tables. Flashing Christmas lights hung from the bar. The stereo played Thai pop music. Several times in , investigators with an American organization called International Justice Mission IJM — a religious group staffed by Christian lawyers — paid undercover visits to the Pink Lady. The group — usually two to three men — would order rounds of Heinekens and talk with as many girls as possible, recording the conversations with a hidden camera.
A week later, police descended on two brothels and two nearby houses and rounded up 43 women and girls. And an NGO worker complained last year in the Kathmandu Post that a group of Nepalese women had to bribe rescuers to let them stay in their brothels. In the days following the Pink Lady raid, the rescued women and girls were locked into two rooms of an orphanage by Public Welfare authorities, and many of them hardly seemed relieved.
While some told of having been promised waitressing jobs and then being forced into the brothel, others had chosen to work there, and several complained that they had not yet been ready to leave. During the one hour each day when they were allowed outside the building, four girls soon slipped out the front gate and disappeared. A few nights later, 11 of them strung together sheets, shimmied down the second-floor window of the orphanage, and climbed over a concrete and wire fence.
Nine more ran away weeks later. During one of the escape attempts, a woman fell from a second-story window and was hospitalized with back injuries.