Police have rescued five Lao teenage girls from a restaurant in central Thailand’s Suphan Buri province where they were forced to work as prostitutes, in the latest human trafficking case involving the two neighboring Southeast Asian nations.
Laos is primarily a source country for women and girls trafficked mostly to Thailand for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor as domestic or factory workers, government and relief officials say.
Thai police said the girls were rescued in a raid on a karaoke bar and restaurant in Dan Chang district on Thursday. Three Thais were also arrested in the crackdown, thanks to a tip-off from a nongovernmental organization.
“We received a tip off from an NGO and when we went there to verify the information, we found it was as the organization had reported,” a police officer from a Thai anti-human trafficking squad told RFA.
“There are many girls working at this restaurant, but the day we went for the rescue operation, we were only able to help five of them.”
“These girls were tricked from Laos … and were forced to sell sex in a karaoke beer bar. Today, it is the duty of the police to act in accordance with the rule of law,” said an official from the NGO which helped uncover the case.
Promised a job
The rescued girls told police that Thai human trafficking syndicates in Laos had paid their parents 5,000 baht (U.S. $160) per person, promising that they would be brought to Bangkok and given jobs at a restaurant.
They said that the Thai traffickers had also spent 10,000 baht (U.S. $320) on each girl in obtaining travel documents for them.
But instead of being taken to Bangkok, the girls were brought to Suphan Buri and sold to a restaurant owner there for 20,000 baht (U.S. $650) each.
The girls were unable to identify the traffickers and had no idea they would be forced into providing sex services for customers while working at the restaurant.
They said that if they refused to comply with the restaurant owner’s demands they would be beaten and given only one meal per day.
‘I was shocked’
One of those who had dined at the Preaw Karaoke Bar was quoted in media reports as confirming that the restaurant had been holding teenage girls against their will and forcing them to work as prostitutes.
He told a representative of a Thai NGO that he had been approached by Lao girls at the restaurant, seeking help.
“It was quite open. A woman came to me and asked, ‘If you are interested in getting girls, you can take one to a room with you.’ I was shocked. What I found were young teenage girls,” the man said.
The U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights report lists Thailand as a source, transit, and destination for victims of human trafficking for a variety of purposes, including work at factories.
“Trafficked women and children (particularly girls) were often victims of sexual exploitation,” the report said.
“Foreign trafficking victims within the country included persons from Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.”
Reported by RFA’s Lao service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.