Women in Luang Namtha province in Laos continued to fall prey to human traffickers last year, with many being tricked into fraudulent marriages.
Deputy Head of the province’s Department of Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking, Major Sivieng Somsipha, said the Counselling and Protection Centre for Women and Children had taken in 106 women who suffered from human trafficking or were at risk.
Of the victims, six were female, mostly under the age of 18, and seven were foreigners.
A total of 82 cases involved foreigners marrying women and then using them for illicit purposes. Three other women were forced into the sex trade, 11 cases involved illegal immigration, six cases concerned sexual exploitation, and another six women were tricked into forced labour.
Some 33 Lao nationals and seven foreigners returned home, while 66 women are still living at the Counselling and Protection Centre in Luang Namtha.
Major Sivieng called on everyone to be alert to the problem and not to be deceived by unlikely promises of jobs or marriage.
Human trafficking is one of the most harmful crimes and is transnational. It involves the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. The victims of trafficking are mostly young women and girls and boys under the age of 18.
Human trafficking exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sex.
Most human trafficking victims illegally enter neighbouring countries to seek work because they come from poor areas and need money to support their families.
Laos and the other Mekong countries have reaffirmed their commitment to work with neighbouring countries to combat human trafficking more effectively.
In a bid to curb the illegal trade, in 2004 the six lower Mekong countries - Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam - signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking.
The Lao government is working to protect women and children from criminal gangs involved in this insidious trade.
To combat human trafficking, Laos has formulated policies and laws as well as an action plan from 2017-2020 and is a party to international conventions related to this issue.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK