Laos and Thailand have vowed to work together to tackle the ongoing cross-border human trafficking as officials of both sides held talks last week in Laos.
Neighbouring Thailand has been a popular destination for Lao job seekers with more than 100,000 Lao nationals working there both legally and illegally, according to information from the Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
But a number of the Lao workers have become victims of human trafficking with women and girls the most vulnerable group especially those working there illegally.
A report from last week’s meeting in Vangvieng district, Vientiane province showed that 144 Lao nationals were made victims of human trafficking over the past year. They were rescued and sent back to Laos.
Of the victims, almost all (143) were female, of which 31 were under 18 years old.
These workers were mainly forced into the sex trade, or forced to work in factories, restaurants, farms, and fisheries or as housekeepers, among other activities, according to the report.
In addition to the 144 victims who have already been sent back to Laos, another 110 are being held at a detention centre in Thailand for investigation and processing.
During last week’s meeting – the 15th such meeting of Lao and Thai authorities in charge of human trafficking – both sides discussed ways to strengthen their cooperation including the exchange of information.
Head of Office of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Khamkhane Phinsavanh led the Lao delegation at the talks.
The Thai delegation pledged to speed up their investigations and send back those still in the detention centre.
For its part, the Lao team vowed to follow up with those victims who were sent back to Laos in order to help them normalise their return to society and living with their families.
Recently, the Thai authorities announced they would take concrete step to regulate foreign workers, especially the illegal ones, amid reports which suggest that a number of foreigners are still working illegally in the kingdom.
The Thai authorities have confirmed their plan to legalise alien workers so they would not continue to be victimised by human traffickers and would be entitled to the same legal protection and welfare that Thai workers receive, according to Thailand’s Bangkok Post newspaper.
The Lao authorities said up to 90,000 Lao citizens working in Thailand will need to work out the required documents to legalise their status as workers in the country.