Laos is unlikely to meet its self-imposed deadline to frame and implement anti-human trafficking legislation by next year, an official with a nongovernmental organization in the country said Tuesday.
The NGO official, who spoke to RFA’s Lao Service on condition of anonymity, said that while the anti-human trafficking law was drafted with the intention of a 2014 rol-lout, the National Assembly, or Lao Parliament, has not yet received it for approval.
“I am not sure it will be ratified by the National Assembly next year as it is still in the drafting stage,” the official said, pressing the need for the law to be adopted swiftly to tackle the trafficking problem, which is also faced by neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
“The last I heard, it is still being reviewed and improved,” the official said, citing information he had gathered from certain groups.
The official added that “even if the draft were ratified [by the National Assembly], it would still have to go through several hearings from relevant government departments,” which would make it “almost impossible” to be implemented in 2014.
In late 2012, the government of Laos adopted a national anti-human trafficking strategy—an unprecedented move in the fight against human trafficking in the country.
The NGO official said that the strategy was intended to be used in tandem with the proposed law in order to improve the effectiveness of anti-trafficking measures.
Laos currently has no comprehensive human trafficking law and instead uses its criminal code to deal with the problem.
Lao officials remain optimistic that the law will significantly deter the issue of human trafficking in Laos.
Laos has stepped up its efforts to investigate human smuggling offenses and to prosecute and punish traffickers in recent years, according to an annual report by the U.S. State Department that monitors human trafficking worldwide.
In 2011, authorities reported investigating 49 cases of suspected trafficking, involving 69 alleged offenders and resulting in 37 convictions, a step up from the 20 cases investigated and 33 convictions the year before, the report said.
Figures for 2012 are not available, but cases of smuggling have been exposed, especially involving the trafficking of women to neighboring nations.
Lao officials had said that foreign sex rings were smuggling Lao women to China, Thailand, and Malaysia.
In June 2012, Lao and Thai officials met to launch a joint campaign to prevent human trafficking across their shared border.
Laos is a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking, as well as for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, according to the State Department report.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.