BANGKOK—A growing number of girls from Laos are being trafficked into neighboring Thailand and forced into prostitution, a nongovernment group in Thailand says.
The Bangkok-based Mirror Foundation said the numbers of minors, aged from 15 to 19, trafficked into prostitution from Laos to Thailand had risen by 20 percent compared with last year.
"There are voluntary and also unwilling girls, aged 15-19, who were brought from Laos by Lao brokers," group spokesman Niran Keokaseth said.
He said the agents persuade the girls to leave their poverty-stricken villages to come to Thailand with promises of employment.
"[They say] there are good jobs in Thailand, such as working in hair salons and beauty shops," Niran Keokaseth said.
"However, once they arrive, there are no such available jobs. It's just a lie," he said. "Then they are forced to work as prostitutes."
Experts cite the 2008 global financial crisis as a major cause for this trend, as factories close, joblessness worsens, and migrant workers and others become prey for unscrupulous brokers.
Trafficked from around the world
According to the U.S. State Department's latest Trafficking in Persons Report, Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.
"Women and children are trafficked from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, the People's Republic of China, Vietnam, Russia, and Uzbekistan for commercial sexual exploitation in Thailand," the report said, saying the trafficking victims are usually from poorer rural areas who were attracted by the kingdom's relative prosperity.
But it lauded efforts by the Thai government to address the problem, including the expansion of a network of temporary shelters for trafficking victims from 99 to 138, with at least one temporary shelter in each Thai province.
The Thai government refers victims of trafficking to one of eight longer-stay regional shelters run by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS), where they receive psychological counseling, food, board, and medical care, the report said.
In 2008, Thai government shelters provided protection and social services for at least 102 repatriated Thai victims and 520 foreigners trafficked to Thailand.
Original reporting by RFA's Lao service. Director: Viengsay Luangkhot. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.