Laos is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world and the poorest in its region. Poverty and low levels of education leave its residents vulnerable to diverse sorts of crime and one of the largest crimes the country faces is human trafficking. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Laos.
10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Laos
- Human Trafficking Numbers: Between 200,000 and 450,000 people in Laos fall victim to human trafficking each year. Labor migration within Laos’s geographical region has a link to trafficking as many natives leave in search of better employment opportunities.
- The Vulnerability of Girls: Girls aged 12 to 18 make up about 90 percent of trafficking victims each year. These young Lao women must drop out of school to make a living to sustain their families. The girls then willingly seek employment opportunities abroad.
- Migration to Thailand: The majority of human trafficking from Laos occurs when its people choose to move to Thailand. One of the reasons that Thailand is a destination is that it is close and shares a similar culture and language. Moreover, people in Laos tend to move to Thailand due to its higher economic standing. Since education levels in Laos are particularly low, its people often seek better lives and are naïve and vulnerable to criminals who trick and cheat them.
- Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor: The commercial sex trade and forced labor situations are the two most common types of human trafficking that Laotians face. Since young females are the main people migrating from Laos, traffickers often take them to countries like China to sell them as brides. Others receive false promises of high paying jobs but end up trapped in slave work.
- A Tier 3 Rank: These conditions have manifested due to the Laos government’s failure to meet the minimum standards to end human trafficking. In 2018, the U.S. downgraded Laos to a Tier 3 in terms of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). Tier 3 is the worst rating a country can have.
- UN-ACT and Ending Human Trafficking in Laos: Human trafficking remains one of Laos’s most significant struggles, but positive headway has been developing over the years. Laos’s government has started to tighten its border security. The police force is now receiving training from organizations like the United Nations Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT). UN-ACT has implemented the three P’s protocol including prevention, protection and prosecution, to deter human trafficking in Laos.
- Raising Awareness: Not only is awareness spreading through law enforcement, but it is reaching civilians too. Officials have launched campaigns to spread information about human trafficking at border crossings. This initiative educates individuals on what to look out for and how to avoid potentially dangerous situations while traveling.
- The Lotus Project: While the government has started to do its part, other private organizations have lent Laos efforts too. The Lotus Project, founded in 2008, has a mission to support and provide young Loa women with education. Since the Lotus Project’s start, it has been able to impact 80 families and keep those girls from falling victim to human trafficking.
- Lao Women’s Union: Lao Women’s Union is the country’s largest support association. Not only does it focus on trafficking victims, but also on domestic violence victims. To serve the women of Laos, the LWU is an active advocator for women’s rights and their ability to prosecute traffickers.
- Village Focus International (VFI): In Laos, there are three shelters for trafficking survivors and two of them are a result of Village Focus International. At the shelters that VFI established, girls receive safe accommodations, food, health care and emotional support to repower themselves. VFI has been able to aid over 500 lives over the years and is helping make Laos a safer country for its residents.
The people of Laos, and especially the young women who live there, face great dangers when seeking employment opportunities abroad. As expressed in these 10 facts about human trafficking in Laos, however, the country is making positive strides. Thanks to recent government efforts and groups like LWU, The Lotus Project and VFI, more Laotians are able to avoid those hardships or receive rescue.
– Ariana Kiessling