05/19/2012, 00.00
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Hundreds of Laotian women "sold" in China, victims of human trafficking

The majority come from the northern provinces, near the border, and belong to the Khmu ethnic minority. Local officials stress that government attempts to counter the phenomenon are "largely useless". US department: Laos a "source" for unscrupulous traffickers.

Vientiane (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Over the past two years, hundreds of Laotian girls have entered illegally into China, innocent and unsuspecting victims of human trafficking. Most of them came from the northern provinces of Laos and efforts to save them have proved to be "largely" useless, reports Radio Free Asia (RFA), quoting anonymous government sources in Vientiane who have confirmed the seriousness of the phenomenon. Even the U.S. State Department, in the 2011 report on Trafficking in Persons, said that the South-East Asian nation is a "source" for unscrupulous traffickers, who supply women and girls for the prostitution rackets and force men, women and children - without distinction - into forced labor in factories, homes, in the fields and in the fishing industry.

The U.S. government report says that the Lao people - regardless of sex or age - are victims of forced labor in Thailand, Malaysia and China in particular, women and girls "are marketed" across the border, where they are "forced to marry Chinese men" . And although the government in Vientiane has made "significant efforts" to combat the phenomenon, the fact remains that even today Laos does not meet the "minimum standards" in the fight to fully eradicate the scourge.

The government official interviewed by RFA confirms that "hundreds of families in the provinces bordering China, have turned to authorities for help in finding their daughters who have disappeared into thin air." In all probability the young women were lured across the border with the prospect of a job or marry a rich Chinese man. Most of these young women are from Louang Namtha, Oudomxay, Bokeo and Phongsaly and belong to the Khmu ethnic minority.

The Laotian unit established to combat human trafficking has achieved some success, by freeing  the girls from a state of slavery. However, their searches in China are "largely unsuccessful" for two basic reasons: Chinese bureaucracy and the vastness of the territory. In addition, many officials working in the prevention complain of "scarce resources" and "lack of enough and properly trained staff".

According to official government in Vientiane, for 2010, 20 investigations into human trafficking were initiated, which involved 47 people of whom 33 were sentenced to a range of prison terms. The previous year, however, there were no convictions.


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