A pilot workshop on how to prevent Lao children from being lured into prostitution to feed the tourism industry was held earlier this month under the sponsorship of the Australian government.
Mr. Soukaseum Phothisane, vice-chairman of the Lao National Tourism Authority (LNTA), said that more than 50 officials and representatives from tourism industry, hotel, taxi, tourist police and workers from service and tourism sectors participated in the pilot workshop held in Vientiane. He said the goal was to prevent children from becoming victims of prostitution rings working to feed the tourism industry, a trend that has increasingly been on the rise in Laos and the Southeast Asia region as a whole. Australian data show that more than one million children fall victims of prostitution rings every year. Mr. Soukaseum said the easiest way to prevent children from this fate is for the various government agencies involved to cooperate in the effort, and for this purpose Laos has set up a hot line for people to call in and report any suspicious person or suspicious activities by the tourist themselves.
Lao children have become a victim of prostitution rings not just in Laos but also in neighboring countries especially Thailand. A large number of children who graduate from primary school but do not have an opportunity to pursue higher education, has illegally crossed the border to look for jobs in Thailand, where the economy is better. Although hard statistics on the actual number of Lao children who cross into Thailand are difficult to come by, the Thai Labor Ministry believes there are more than 300,000 Laotians illegally working in Thailand. This number excludes the nearly 100,000 Laotians who are working legally in that country. Thai authorities estimate that more than 60% of illegal Lao workers in Thailand are children and women.
Lao officials acknowledge that it’s difficult to prevent and to totally eradicate this problem, but they say the best way for Lao workers to avoid being victims of labor and human trafficking is to contact Lao authorities and register before leaving to look for jobs in Thailand.
Listen to our Laos Today report fro more details.