Hundreds of girls have been trafficked into China from the northern provinces of Laos, according to a Lao anti-human trafficking official, but efforts to rescue them have been largely unsuccessful due to limited resources.
The official, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity from the capital Vientiane, said that over the past two years, hundreds of families from provinces bordering China had approached officials requesting help in locating their missing daughters.
They said they believed the girls had been smuggled to China, lured with the prospect of work, or married to Chinese nationals, from their homes in Louang Namtha, Oudomxay, Bokeo, and Phongsaly provinces.
Most of the girls trafficked across the border are from the ethnic Khmu minority.
“The anti-human trafficking unit, with help from Chinese authorities, has been able to bring some of the trafficking victims home, but less than the number reported by families,” the official said.
“If there are cases brought up by families, usually there is a follow-up. In one case, a girl from Bokeo was located in China after a discussion [with Chinese officials] to bring her back home.”
The official said that the search for missing girls in China is largely unsuccessful.
“One reason is because of the bureaucracy, and the second is because China is such a large country,” he said.
While Laos and China cooperate on fighting crime and deterring human trafficking, China maintains no anti-human trafficking office in Laos to assist in finding victims.
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.
Trafficking to China
According 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, adding that “Lao women and girls reportedly are subjected to conditions of trafficking in China, where some are forced to marry Chinese men.”
According 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 completely 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 previous year.
Reported by Apichart Supapong for RFA’s Lao service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.