U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Laos
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||11 June 2003|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Laos, 11 June 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4680d7cf23.html [accessed 24 April 2014]|
Laos (Tier 2)
Laos is a source of large numbers of economic migrants, some of whom are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor. Most victims are trafficked to Thailand, where they may end up in involuntary servitude or, in the case of girls and young women, into prostitution.
The Government of Laos does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so despite severely limited resources. The government recognizes trafficking as a problem and supports anti-trafficking endeavors, chiefly by cooperating with NGOs operating in its territory and providing some in-kind support such as office space and air time for public service announcements.
The government does not directly fund any anti-trafficking prevention measures, and it does not control its long and porous borders well. However, it does utilize government-controlled party organizations to alert Lao citizens to the dangers of potential trafficking abuses in connection with international travel. Most anti-trafficking projects are carried out by international organizations and NGOs, and include consciousness raising and skills development for at-risk groups. State-controlled television and radio have broadcast anti-trafficking spots funded by NGOs and the government. The government cooperates with UN agencies, particularly the UN Interagency Project, to monitor, document, and suggest remedies for trafficking-related problems and has provided salaried government employees to work on an IOM project to gather data on prevention and protection statistics.
There is no specific anti-trafficking law in Laos, but there are laws against kidnapping and prostitution. The central government keeps no data on efforts of local officials to prosecute traffickers. Almost all government action to address trafficking is concentrated in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MOLSW). As a first step, the ministry has provided some limited training to law enforcement officials, although police sensitivity to victims remains inadequate. Overall, judicial and law enforcement institutions are extremely weak, and the government is far short of developing a program to arrest and prosecute traffickers. Corruption remains a serious problem, as some local officials reportedly profit from activities involving the illegal movement of persons.
The Government of Laos signed a border control and labor memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Thailand that addresses the repatriation of Lao trafficking victims. This agreement is the first of its kind in the Mekong region and commits governments to regularize the return of victims. Depending on how the MOU is implemented, the agreement may be a significant step forward. MOLSW has begun a program for repatriation of girls returning from prostitution or forced labor.