Police in Laos find 19 girls and women selling secret sex during restaurant raid

Some of the girls were as young as 13. The store owners will be charged with human trafficking.
By RFA Lao
Police in Laos find 19 girls and women selling secret sex during restaurant raid Hinboun, Laos, Oct. 31, 2023.
(Google Earth)

Police discovered that 19 teenage girls and women were selling surreptitious sex at a restaurant during a raid in central Laos that resulted in the arrest of the restaurant’s two owners, a police officer told Radio Free Asia.

Some of the girls were as young as 13, according to a village official in Khammouane province’s Hinboun district, who like many other sources in this report requested anonymity for security reasons.

“The restaurant has been shut down,” the police officer said. “For the girls and women, we just told them to go back home to their parents. We didn’t fine or punish them.”

The restaurant owners will be charged with human trafficking, he said.

Authorities went to the restaurant on June 7 because of its loud noise, the village official said. There are three other restaurants in the village that are also suspected of offering prostitution, he said.

Before they were sent home to their families, the girls and women underwent a re-education session in which they were told that providing sex service is against Lao tradition and law. 

“The purpose of today’s session is to make sure that the participants understand the guidelines and policy of the government and Party,” Soukkhaseum Sitthideth, president of the Lao Women’s Union of Khammouane province said in a video of the session seen by RFA.

“Lao women are traditionally conservative but nowadays in a digital era, our girls and women have changed,” she said. “Our tradition and culture have been affected by the changes. A great number of our girls and women have adopted a new lifestyle.”

Laos faces many challenges when it comes to fighting human trafficking, including not having the resources to properly fund enforcement against those who trick or force young people into illicit work.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have left many Laotians in desperate financial situations amid a faltering economy and rampant unemployment.

In February, police near Vientiane raided nightclubs, restaurants and karaoke bars along a busy highway and found 47 sex workers, including four girls under 18 years old.

In that case, police also determined that most of the girls and women were from poor, rural families, an officer said at the time.

Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


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