Lao girls are being lured via Thailand by human smuggling rings.
Human trafficking rings are increasingly using Thailand as a
transit country to send Lao girls to Malaysia where they are sold into
prostitution, according to a Lao official who called the route a “new
problem” for authorities.
The anti-human trafficking official,
who spoke on condition of anonymity, said only a few cases were
currently under investigation, but was unclear on how many girls may
have been taken to Malaysia through Thailand.
“Lao girls being
trafficked from Thailand to Malaysia for prostitution is a new problem
for Lao authorities. It is also a new route for human trafficking,” the
official told RFA’s Lao service.
The official said that the Lao
Anti-trafficking Unit—created in 2005 to coordinate national law
enforcement—had received complaints from “many families” asking for help
finding missing daughters believed to have been lured into prostitution
“The Lao anti-human trafficking unit doesn’t know
the exact number of Lao girls who have been lured to Malaysia to work as
prostitutes,” he said.
“There has been cooperation between Lao and Malaysian police [investigations] via the Thai police.”
on statistics provided by the immigration bureau of Thailand’s Songkla
province, which borders Malaysia to the north, 48,000 Laotians crossed
into Malaysia in 2011, but only 46,000 returned.
year saw a number of raids by authorities freeing Lao girls who had
been trafficked as sex workers to brothels in Thailand, but using the
country for transit to Malaysia highlights a new and disturbing trend in
In December, Thai police freed 21 Lao women,
three of them under the age of 18, from two karaoke bars in the town of
Sungai Golok in southern Narathiwat province, where they were forced to
work as prostitutes.
Sungai Golok, which Thai police say is a
major human trafficking destination in the country with over 100
brothels, is located on the border with Malaysia.
Thai authorities freed 59 Lao women from a karaoke bar as part of a
larger bust that rescued another 12 women from a spa. Both raids took
place in Songkhla province near the border with Malaysia.
Thirteen of those freed were girls under the age of 18.
February, police rescued five Lao teenage girls from a karaoke bar in
central Thailand’s Suphan Buri province where they were forced to work
as prostitutes after being told they would be given jobs at a restaurant
And in October last year, police rescued 13 girls
from Laos who were forced into prostitution in Thailand’s Lop Buri
province and arrested four suspects involved in a syndicate smuggling
Some 35 percent of Lao nationals trafficked to Thailand end up in prostitution, U.N. figures have shown.
to the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons report,
“Laos is a source … for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking,
and men, women, and children in conditions of forced labor in factory
work, domestic labor, agriculture, and the fishing industry.”
Lao men, women, and children are found in conditions of forced labor in Thailand, Malaysia, and China, the report said.
to the report, Laos does not fully comply with the minimum standards
for the elimination of trafficking, though it said the government has
been making “significant efforts” to do so.
It said the Lao
government continued to rely almost entirely on nongovernmental
organizations and international organizations to provide victim
assistance in 2010.
Lao authorities reported investigating 20
trafficking cases involving 47 alleged offenders, and convicting 33
trafficking offenders in 2010, compared with zero convictions during the
Observers of trafficking in Laos believe that
some public officials—particularly at local levels—are involved in
facilitating human trafficking, sometimes in collusion with counterparts
in neighboring Thailand, the report said.
government has never reported any officials investigated, prosecuted, or
punished for involvement in trafficking in persons."
National Assembly approved a National Plan of Action on human
trafficking in 2007 but it has not been endorsed by the prime minister’s
Every province in Laos operates an anti-human
trafficking unit, but many officials complain that a lack of budget and
personnel prevents them from effectively carrying out their jobs.
Reported by Apichart Sopapong for RFA’s Lao service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.