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Lao PDR Human Trafficking Situation
Lao PDR is a source, and to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for women and girls for forced sexual exploitation, as well as for men, women and children for forced labour in factory work, domestic labour, agriculture and the fishing industry. Trafficking of Laotians to Myanmar and China for the purposes of marriage trafficking has also been identified. Recently, significant flows of Lao trafficking victims have been identified as being trafficked for labour to Malaysia, particularly in electronics factories. Internal trafficking patterns have also been identified, predominantly from rural to urban areas.
Lao PDR and Thailand share a long history of strong cross-border migration due to factors such as close cultural and linguistic ties, and an extensive and porous shared border. Disparities in socio-economic development between the two countries have also attracted large numbers of Lao migrants to Thailand in search of employment due to the high demand for labour.
In 2012, there were an estimated 200,000 Lao PDR citizens working in Thailand, however there may be significantly more undocumented migrants. Moreover, the number of Lao people opting for regular migration channels for employment in Thailand has increased in recent years. It is assumed that implementing such formal recruitment procedures is beneficial to migrant workers in various ways, including the reduction of vulnerability to exploitation and potentially human trafficking.
More women than men tend to migrate (55%: 45%), and the vast majority of Lao migrants are from the lowlands (Champasack, Savannakhet, Saravan, etc…) of the country. The majority of migrants are quite young, averaging between 17 and 25 years of age, but 21% of migrants interviewed in a major survey were found to be minors between 10 and 17. Most cases of human trafficking start as voluntary movement or migration.
What is the scale of Human Trafficking in Lao PDR?
While no universally accepted estimate of the number of trafficked persons exists for Lao PDR as the majority of victims tend to go unidentified, recent governmental statistics demonstrated that between 2008 and 2012, 925 Laotians have been officially identified as trafficking victims.
Who are the perpetrators of Trafficking in Lao PDR?
There is generally limited information about the perpetrators of human trafficking due to the clandestine nature of the crime. The focus has largely been on the recruiters or the brokers, but less on owners of factories, brothels, fishing-boats, etc. where most of the exploitation takes place. In other words, in the counter-trafficking sector there has been more focus on the trafficking aspects related to movement compared to exploitation taking place at the destination sites.
The recruiters for either internal or cross-border trafficking are often familiar to the persons and there is little difference in the methods used for either internal or cross-border trafficking. It is important to note that there are various types of recruiters ranging from those who knowingly send persons in to exploitative situations, to others who feel responsible for the wellbeing of the persons who use their services. Trafficking networks are often well-structured and work across the borders through the use of brokers.
Non-government Anti-trafficking Actors in Lao PDR
UN and Inter-governmental Agencies and Projects
UN agencies and projects: ILO, IOM, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, UNODC, UNV, UNICRI and UNIAP
INGOs and other
Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire (AFESIP), Alliance Anti-human Trafficking, Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project (ARTIP), AusAid, CARE, Concern, Friends International, MTV Exit, Norwegian Church Aid, Plan International, Save the Children, Village Focus International and World Vision
COMMIT Structure in Lao PDR
COMMIT and other anti-trafficking efforts are increasingly becoming institutionalised and thus more effective and sustainable in Lao PDR. Thus, we have observed some very positive income to the Anti-Human Trafficking combat:
- Lao PDR has its own Trafficking in Persons Secretariat
- Anti-Human Trafficking Department (2010)
- 28 government members
- Active non-government actors undertaking anti-trafficking programs within the country
Lao PDR COMMIT Milestones
- COMMIT MoU on Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons in the GMS signed
- Law on the Development and Protection of Women ratified
- Promulgation of the Amended Law on Criminal Procedure
- ASEAN Declaration against Trafficking in Persons, Particularly Women and Children
- ASEAN Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters
- Penal Law (Article 134)
- MoU between the Governments of Lao PDR and Thailand on Cooperation to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children
- Promulgation of the Amended Labour Law
- ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers
- Agreement between the Governments of Lao PDR and Viet Nam on Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Persons and Protection of Victims of Trafficking
- Second COMMIT Joint Declaration of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Human Trafficking
COMMIT Ministerial Representatives for Lao PDR
- Ministry of Public Security
- Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare
- Ministry of Justice
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Lao Women Union
- Lao Youth Union
- National Steering Committee
- Lao Federation Trade Union