An Analysis of Thai Women’s Roles and Involvement in Cross-Border International Drug Trafficking

  • Chontit Chuenurah Thailand Institute of Justice
  • Samantha Jeffries Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University
Keywords: Women prisoners, Drug trafficking, Southeast Asia, Drug mules, Drug couriers


There has already been a large amount of Western research done exploring women’s pathways to prison, but this paper will focus solely on women from Southeast Asia, and more specifically, Thai women. Lives of convicted women are usually characterised by childhood/adulthood victimisation, mental health issues, male influence/control, and economic marginalisation. In the past decade, the number of women prisoners in Southeast Asian countries has significantly increased while the majority of these women are incarcerated for drug-related offences.

The widespread illegal drug trade and harsh criminal punishment handed down for drug offenders in the region are the major cause for this rise in female imprisonment. Although there is an extensive range of Western research exploring women’s pathways to offending, research in a Non-Western context, including studies on women imprisoned for drug trafficking, is sparse. Using life history interviews with Thai women imprisoned in Cambodia for international cross border drug trafficking, this paper uses a narrative life history approach to explore the circumstances propelling them into prison. This paper is based on the study report on “Vulnerabilities, Victimisation, Romance and Indulgence: Thai Women’s Pathways to Prison in Cambodia for International Cross Border Drug Trafficking” conducted by the Thailand Institute of Justice and Griffith University. While the full report of this study outlines four distinct pathways leading women to prison, this paper highlights another set of information describing women’s roles in the international cross border drug trafficking offence including their backgrounds, male influence and patterns of criminal activities.


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How to Cite
Chuenurah, C., & Jeffries, S. (2019). An Analysis of Thai Women’s Roles and Involvement in Cross-Border International Drug Trafficking. Social Science Asia, 5(2), 45-55. Retrieved from
Research Article

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