Lao official: Gov’t can’t afford to address rise in human trafficking

The numerous trafficking cases come as more young people search for job opportunities outside the country.
By RFA Lao
2024.05.24
Lao official: Gov’t can’t afford to address rise in human trafficking A 2012 view shows a model of the future development of the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, run by Chinese company Jin Mu Mian, in Laos on the Mekong River opposite Sop Ruak in the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet.
(Sukree Sukplang/Reuters)

Laos’ government doesn’t have the resources to respond to numerous reports of human trafficking as young Laotians continue to be lured into working for cyberscam operations in neighboring countries, a Ministry of Public Security official told Radio Free Asia.

“We have more crimes to deal with everyday, but we just don’t have enough manpower and money to deal with them,” the official said on Friday while declining to be identified so that he could speak freely. 

“The people we have now don’t have a good understanding of the problem,” the official said. “For example, the [public security] ministry wants to establish an anti-cybercrime unit, but doesn’t have funding to do so.”

The official’s comments come the same day as 14 young Laotians arrived home to Luang Namtha province in northern Laos days after they were freed from a scam operation at a Chinese-run casino in Myanmar’s Kayin state.

The group of 14 were part of a larger group of young Laotians who were trafficked to work as scammers at a place called “Casino Kosai” in an isolated development near the town of Myawaddy, close to the Thai border. 

The gang that held them represent just a drop in the bucket of the vast networks of human trafficking that claim over 150,000 victims a year in Southeast Asia.

Dire economy

Last week, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes set up an Emergency Response Network to help Laos and other countries in the region to combat human trafficking and scamming activities.

In the past, Laos has relied on other forms of foreign aid to address human trafficking and scamming crimes.

But with Laos’ high inflation and other economic problems, more and more young people are searching for job opportunities outside the country.

“The Lao authorities have been very slow and quiet. I don’t know what’s going on with them,” said the father of a 19-year-old man who he said was trafficked in 2022 to the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos’ Bokeo province and then to Myanmar.

He said he’s contacted officials in Luang Namtha province’s Anti-Human Trafficking Department many times – and so have other parents of trafficking victims.

“Unlike other countries, our country is very slow and difficult,” he said. “They just told us to wait and wait. They say they have to do the work step by step, but the work doesn’t go anywhere.”

Since last year, in cooperation with Chinese authorities, Laos has arrested and deported over 1,000 Chinese nationals who were involved in human trafficking and cyber scams in Laos, especially in the Golden Triangle SEZ and in Laos’ northern provinces. 

Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Matt Reed.

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