U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Laos

Laos (Tier 3)

Laos is a source country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. A significant number of men, women, and children from Laos are economic migrants who are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation or conditions of forced or bonded labor in Thailand. To a much lesser extent, Laos is a transit and destination country for women who are trafficked for sexual exploitation. A small number of victims from the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) and Vietnam are trafficked to Laos to work as street vendors and for sexual exploitation in prostitution.

The Government of Laos does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government has not taken sufficient steps to ensure the protection of returning victims and prosecution of persons complicit in trafficking. The government's September 2004 Law on Women provides for the protection of victims and prohibits the fining of trafficking victims upon their return to Laos; however, the government has yet to fully implement these provisions. Government officials at the local level continued to punish rescued trafficking victims for unlawful acts that were a direct result of their being trafficked. The Lao Government's efforts to prosecute traffickers remained weak and uncoordinated. The government should take measures to better implement the Law on Women effectively at the local level. Government action should concentrate on prosecuting and convicting traffickers and public officials involved in trafficking, establishing an official mechanism to identify trafficking victims among returnees to the country, and taking measures to ensure that victims are not subjected to fines or re-education by local authorities.


There was no discernable increase in Lao Government prosecutions of trafficking-related cases during the reporting period. However, Lao law enforcement is decentralized and the central government does not keep data on efforts of local officials to prosecute traffickers. Data is limited and the Lao Government provided no data on its law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. Laos lacks a specific anti-trafficking law but used various other laws, including kidnapping and prostitution statutes, to arrest and prosecute traffickers. In 2005, the government amended the penal code to address transnational child trafficking, with penalties of 20 years' imprisonment. The Immigration Department's anti-trafficking unit confirmed one conviction in 2005, but had no information on convictions by courts outside of Vientiane, reflecting the country's inadequate record-keeping on court cases. The Law on Women contains provisions recognizing and guaranteeing the rights of trafficking victims and prohibits authorities from punishing trafficking victims for immigration violations, but the law has not been fully disseminated and enforced. Overall, judicial and law enforcement institutions are extremely weak and corruption is widespread in Laos. There are reports that some local government officials profit from trafficking, but there were no reported investigations or prosecutions of officials for complicity in trafficking.


The Lao Government made minimal progress in improving its severely inadequate protection for victims over the last year. While the 2004 Law on Women prohibits authorities from punishing trafficking victims for immigration violations, Lao police and local officials on occasion arrested and fined Lao citizens returning from Thailand in spite of official pronouncements to end this practice. The central government made minimal efforts to distinguish trafficking victims from returning illegal migrants, although it made limited efforts to educate provincial and district-level officials on the need to protect these victims. The Lao Government continued to refer victims to NGOs and international organizations that run programs providing more thorough protection for victims of trafficking. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) also continued its program to repatriate women returning from prostitution or forced labor and operated a processing center for victims. With heavy donor assistance, the Lao Women's Union opened a shelter for victims of trafficking and domestic violence in early 2006.


The Lao Government, in cooperation with NGOs, continued to raise awareness in the state-controlled media on the dangers of trafficking. The government does not fund any anti-trafficking prevention measures, in part because of a lack of resources. The MLSW, with NGO funding, has run television and radio educational campaigns warning of the dangers of trafficking. The MLSW also continued to conduct a radio project designed to raise awareness of trafficking and HIV/AIDS among ethnic minorities in conjunction with an international organization. The Ministry of Education integrated some anti-trafficking information into school curricula, but the effort was not widespread or sustained.


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