Lao Woman Who Disappeared is Believed to Have Been Trafficked to China

Women continue to be trafficked from Laos into China in spite of warnings against trusting promises of well-paid work across the border.
2021-05-18
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Lao Woman Who Disappeared is Believed to Have Been Trafficked to China The Boten Check Point on the border between Laos and China is shown in a May 14, 2021 photo.
Photo sent by citizen journalist

A young Lao woman missing from her home for more than two months is believed by family members to have been trafficked to China, lured by the promise of work, her mother and other sources say.

Fongsamouth Vilayhong, 20, had traveled first to the Lao capital Vientiane and then later dropped from sight, the young woman’s mother told RFA’s Lao Service.

“I haven’t been able to contact my daughter for more than two months now,” the mother said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Whenever I called, a Chinese man answered the phone, and now her mobile phone has been completely shut down.”

“I believe she has been sold or trafficked to China,” Fongsamouth’s mother added.

Fongsamouth had gone to Vientiane in early January to work as a housekeeper, and a couple of weeks later became acquainted with a Lao woman who said she was married to a man in China, the mother said.

“This Lao lady convinced her to go to work in China, where she said she could make a lot of money, and she called me to transfer 400,000 kip [U.S. $40] to the Lao lady, saying that the money was needed for filing travel documents to go to China,” the mother said.

“Now I can’t contact that Lao lady anymore, because her phone number has been blocked,” she said.

Authorities in the missing woman’s Nakhong village in the Houn district of Oudomxay province issued a notice of her disappearance on May 5, saying that Fongsamouth had left the village on January 12 and had later lost contact with her family for more than two months.

Also speaking to RFA, an Oudomxay province police officer said that Fongsamouth had been detained at the Boten Border Check Point on Feb. 12 while trying to cross into China using false travel documents, and was released on Feb. 24.

“The Oudomxay provincial police department informed the family and the village authorities, who called Fongsamouth’s phone number. At first a Chinese man answered the call, but later the phone was shut off,” the officer said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Taken across the border

In early May, police traced the signal of Fongsamouth’s mobile phone and found that it no longer came from Laos, the officer said, adding, “She must have already been in China and must have been taken across the border illegally, because the Lao border officials wouldn’t allow her to pass through earlier.”

“We’re having trouble contacting Chinese police right now because of COVID-19. Usually, they respond to us quite quickly,” he said.

Young women continue to be trafficked from Laos to China in spite of NGO and government efforts to alert them to the dangers involved in trusting recruiters’ promises of well-paid work across the border, police officials say.

“Since January of this year, a dozen girls and women between the ages of 15 and 30 have been trafficked to China, but we have not been able to rescue them because of the situation with COVID-19,” an officer in the Houn district police department said.

“Last year, two Hmong girls were trafficked to China from our district but were later sent home, and after questioning them, we determined they had been the victims of human trafficking.”

“In the case of Fongsamouth, we don’t know for sure if she was trafficked or not, because she’s still missing,” he said.

Reported and translated by Max Avary for RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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