ລິ້ງ ສຳຫລັບເຂົ້າຫາ

ວັນພະຫັດ, ໑໘ ເມສາ ໒໐໒໔

ລາວຖືກຈັດຢູ່ໃນກຸ່ມ ທີ່ຖືກສິ້ງຊອມ ຕິດຕາມເປັນປີທີ 5 ແລ້ວ ໃນດ້ານການຄ້າມະນຸດ, ຕາມບົດລາຍງານ ປີ 2023 ຂອງກະຊວງການຕ່າງປະເທດ ສຫລ


ພາບ​ທີ່​ໂຄ​ສະ​ນາປຸກ​ລະ​ດົມ​ໃຫ້​ຄົນ​ລະ​ວັງ​ເພື່ອບໍ່​ໃຫ້​ຕົກ​ເປັນ​ເຫຍື່ອ​ຂອງ​ການ​ຄ້າ​ມະ​ນຸດ ຕັ້ງ​ໄວ້​ທີ່​ດ່ານກວດ​ຄົນ​ເຂົ້າ​ເມືອງ​ແຫ່ງ​ນຶ່ງ​
ພາບ​ທີ່​ໂຄ​ສະ​ນາປຸກ​ລະ​ດົມ​ໃຫ້​ຄົນ​ລະ​ວັງ​ເພື່ອບໍ່​ໃຫ້​ຕົກ​ເປັນ​ເຫຍື່ອ​ຂອງ​ການ​ຄ້າ​ມະ​ນຸດ ຕັ້ງ​ໄວ້​ທີ່​ດ່ານກວດ​ຄົນ​ເຂົ້າ​ເມືອງ​ແຫ່ງ​ນຶ່ງ​

ລາຍງານປະຈໍາປີ 2023 ກ່ຽວກັບການຄ້າມະນຸດຂອງກະຊວງການຕ່າງ ປະເທດສະຫະລັດທີ່ພິມເຜີຍແຜ່ອອກໃນເດືອນແລ້ວນີ້ ລວມມີ ພາກສ່ວນທີ່ກ່ຽວ ຂ້ອງກັບ ສ​ປ​ປ ລາວ ຊຶ່ງໃນນັ້ນ ລາວຍັງຖືກຈັດເຂົ້າໃນກຸ່ມທີ 2 ຫຼື Tiers 2 ​ຊຶ່ງ​ເປັນ​ກຸ່ມ​ທີ່​ຖືກ​ສິ້ງ​ຊອມຕິດ​ຕາມຢູ່​. ​ບົວສະຫວັນມີລາຍລະອຽດເລື້ອງນີ້ ມາສະ ເໜີທ່ານໃນອັນດັບຕໍ່ໄປ.

ລາຍງານປະຈໍາປີ 2023 ກ່ຽວກັບການຄ້າມະນຸດ​ໃນ​ທົ່ວ​ໂລກຂອງກະຊວງການຕ່າງປະເທດສະຫະລັດ ທີ່ພິມເຜີຍແຜ່ອອກມາ​ໃນເດືອນແລ້ວນີ້ ໄດ້​ເວົ້າ​ກ່ຽວ​ກັບ​ລາວ​ວ່າ ຄ້າຍກັບ 4 ປີ​ຜ່ານ​ມາ ປະ​ເທດນີ້​ຍັງສືບ​ຕໍ່ຖືກຈັດເຂົ້າໃນ ກຸ່ມທີ 2 ຫຼື Tiers 2 ຂອງ​ທັງ​ໝົດທີ່​ມີ 3 ກຸ່ມ. ​ກຸ່ມ​ທີ 2 ນີ້ໝາຍເຖິງ​ພວກ​ປະ​ເທດທີ່​ຍັງຈະ​ຕ້ອງ​ຖືກຕິດຕາມ​ສິ້ງ​ຊອມ​ເບິ່ງ​ຢູ່.

ທັງນີ້ກໍເພາະວ່າ ສປປ ລາວ ບໍ່​ໄດ້​ປະ​ຕິ​ບັດຢ່າງ​ຄົບ​ຖ້ວນ​ຕາມ​ມາດ​ຕະ​ຖານ​ຕ່ຳ​ສຸດໃນ​ການຕ້ານການຄ້າ​ມະ​ນຸດ ແຕ່ວ່າ ໂດຍລວມແລ້ວ ກໍໄດ້ດໍາເນີນຄວາມ ພະຍາມຫລາຍຂຶ້ນເພື່ອປັບປຸງດ້ານຕ່າງໆ ຊຶ່ງ​ລວມມີ ການເພີ້ມການສືບສວນກໍ​ລະ​ນີ​ຄ້າ​ມະ​ນຸດ​ທີ່ກຳ​ເນີດ​ຂຶ້ນ​ຢູ່​ໃນ​ເຂດ​ເສດ​ຖະ​ກິດ​ພິ​ເສດ ຫລື SEZ, ເປີດຫ້ອງ ການຂອງກົມຕ້ານການຄ້າມະນຸດ (ATD) ຢູ່ພາຍໃນເຂດເສດຖະກິດພິເສດ ສາມຫຼ່ຽມຄຳ ຊຶ່ງໃນນັ້ນໄດ້ດໍາເນີນການກວດກາ 306 ບໍລິສັດໃນ SEZ ແຫ່ງນັ້ນໂດຍບໍ່ໄດ້ແຈ້ງໃຫ້ຊາບລ່ວງ​ໜ້າ ແລະເປີດການ​ດຳ​ເນີນຄະ​ດີການ ຄ້າມະນຸດ 6 ຄະ​ດີ ແລະ ເຈລະຈາເງື່ອນໄຂຕ່າງໆ ສຳ​ລັບບົດ​ບັນ​ທຶກ​ຄວາມ​ເຂົ້າ​ໃຈ ຫລື MOU ເພື່ອຮັບປະກັນໃຫ້ຕົວແທນສະຫະພັນກຳມະບານລາວ ເຂົ້າໄປເຂດເສດຖະກິດພິເສດໄດ້.

ແຕ່ຢ່າງໃດກໍ່ຕາມ, ລັດຖະບານລາວບໍ່ໄດ້ບັນລຸມາດຕະຖານຂັ້ນຕໍ່າໃນຫຼາຍ ຂົງ ເຂດສໍາຄັນ ເຊັ່ນວ່າ ສານກໍ​ບໍ່​ໄດ້​ຕັດສິນ​ໂທດ​ພວກ​ຄ້າ​ມະນຸດຄົນ​ໃດ​ເລີຍ​ໃນ​ປີ 2022 ເຖິງ​ແມ່ນ​ວ່າເຈົ້າໜ້າທີ່ທີ່ສືບຕໍ່ດຳເນີນຄະດີ​ຕໍ່ພວກຄ້າມະນຸດ 9 ຄົນ ໃນສອງຄະດີທີ່ໄດ້ເລີ້ມຂຶ້ນໃນຊຸມປີຜ່ານມາ ຊຶ່ງ​ຖືກວ່າ​ຕ່ຳ​ກວ່າເມື່ອ​ທຽບ​ໃສ່​ກັບ​ປີ 2021 ທີ່ໄດ້ມີການ​ຕັດສິນ​ໂທດ​ພວກ​ຄ້າ​ມະນຸດ 10 ຄົນ​ ແລະຍັງບໍ່ມີ​ການໃຫ້ບໍ​ລິ​ການ​ປົກ​ປ້ອງຢ່າງ​ສົມ​ເຫດ​ສົມ​ຜົນໄວ້​ໃຫ້​ແກ່​ຜູ້​ຖືກ​ເຄາະ​ຮ້າຍ​ຈາກ​ການ​ຄ້າ​ມະ​ນຸດທີ່​ເປັນ​ເພດ​ຊາຍ ແລະ​ພວກ​ຮັກ​ຮ່ວມ​ເພດ ຫລື LGBTQI+.

ອີກ​ດ້ານ​ນຶ່ງ ດັ່ງ​ທີ່​ໄດ້ລາຍງານໄປແລ້ວໃນໄລຍະ 5 ປີຜ່ານມາ ພວກຄ້າມະ ນຸດໄດ້ຂູດຮີດຜູ້ເຄາະຮ້າຍຢູ່ໃນລາວ ທີ່ເປັນທັງຄົນຢູ່ພາຍໃນ ແລະເປັນຄົນມາ​ ຈາກຕ່າງປະເທດ, ແລະຂູດຮີດຜູ້ເຄາະຮ້າຍທີ່​ເປັນຄົນລາວທີ່ຢູ່ຕ່າງປະເທດ; ພວກເຂົາຍັງສາ​ມາດໃຊ້ດິນແດນລາວເປັນ​ທາງ​ຜ່ານ ເພື່ອຂົນສົ່ງຜູ້ຕົກເປັນ ເຫຍື່ອຂອງການຄ້າມະນຸດທີ່​ເປັນຄົນຕ່າງປະເທດໄປປະເທດອື່ນໆ ຢູ່ໃນຂົງ​ເຂດນັ້ນ​ອີກ​ດ້ວຍ. ພ້ອມ​ກັນ​ນັ້ນ ເຄືອ​ຂ່າຍອາດ​ຊະ​ຍາ​ກຳ​ທີ່ຕັ້ງ​ຢູ່​ໃນ​ຈີນທີ່​ທຳ​ການ​ຫລອກ​ລວງ​ທີ່ເຮັດ​ໃຫ້​ເບິ່ງ​ຄື​ວ່າ​ເປັນ​ນາຍໜ້າ​ຊອກ​ຫາວຽກ​ເຮັດ​ງານ​ທຳ​ທີ່​ມີ​ລາຍ​ໄດ້​ ແລ້ວ​ຖືກ​ເອົາ​ໄປ​ກັກ​ຂັງ​ໄວ້ໃນ​ຄຸ້ມທີ່​ເອີ້ນ​ກັນ​ວ່າ "ໂຮງ​ງານ​ແຫ່ງ​ການ​ຫລອກ​ລວງ"​ ສູງ​ຢູ່​ໃນ​ລາວ ແລະ​ແຫ່ງ​ອື່ນໆ​ໃນ​ຂົງ​ເຂດ ແລະ​ບັງ​ຄັບ​ໃຫ້​ທຳ​ການ​ເຄື່ອນ​ໄຫວ​ຫລອກ​ລວງ​ຄົນ​ທາງ​ອອນ​ລາຍ​ນ໌ເພື່ອ​ເອົາ​ເງິນ​ຄ​ຣິບ​ໂຕ ແລະສຶ່ງ​ອື່ນໆ.

ໃນ​ດ້ານການປົກປ້ອງຄຸ້ມຄອງນັ້ນ ລາຍງານກະຊວງການຕ່າງປະເທດ ສະຫະ ລັດກ່າວວ່າ ລັດຖະບານລາວຍັງສືບຕໍ່ດໍານີນຄວາມ​ພະຍາຍາມໃນການໃຫ້ ການປົກປ້ອງແກ່ຜູ້ໄດ້ຮັບເຄາະຮ້າຍຢູ່ແຕ່ເຈົ້າ​ໜ້າ​ທີ່​ໄດ້​ລະ​ບຸຕົວ​ຜູ້​ເຄາະ​ຮ້າຍ​ໜ້ອຍ​ລົງ. ມີ 75 ຄົນທີ່ ຖືກລະບຸວ່າເປັນຜູ້ເຄາະຮ້າຍຈາກການຄ້າມະນຸດ ໃນປີ 2022 ຢູ່ລາວ, ໃນນັ້ນ 67 ຄົນ ເປັນຜູ້ຕົກເປັນເຫຍື່ອການຄ້າປະເວນີ (ຜູ້ຊາຍ 5 ຄົນ, ແມ່ຍິງ 7 ຄົນ, ເດັກຊາຍ 4 ຄົນ ແລະ ເດັກນ້ອຍຍິງ 51 ຄົນ), ແລະ 8 ຄົນຖືກບັງຄັບໃຫ້ໃຊ້ແຮງງານຊຶ່ງທັງໝົດນີ້ ແມ່ນຫນ້ອຍກວ່າ ຈໍານວນຂອງ ປີ 2021 ທີ່ມີ 110 ຄົນຖືກລະບຸຕົວ.

ແຕກຕ່າງຈາກປີກ່ອນ ພວກຄ້າມະນຸດໄດ້ຂູດຮີດຜູ້ເຄາະຮ້າຍຕ່າງ​ປະ​ເທດ ໃນ ລາວໜ້ອຍກວ່າ, ໃນນັ້ນ 74 ຄົນ ທີ່ຖືກພົບວ່າເປັນ​ຜູ້ເຄາະຮ້າຍຈາກການຄ້າ ມະນຸດໄດ້ຖືກເອົາອອກມາຈາກເຂດເສດຖະກິດພິເສດສາມຫຼ່ຽມຄຳຊຶ່ງ 6 ຄົນໃນ​ນັ້ນ​ແມ່ນເປັນຄົນ​ຕ່າງ​ປະ​ເທດ ຊຶ່ງ​ເປັນ​ຈຳ​ນວນ​ໜ້ອຍກວ່າ ເມື່ອປຽບທຽບກັບ 18 ຄົນຕ່າງປະເທດທີ່ຖືກລະບຸໃນປີ 2021.

ຕາມ​ລະ​ບຽບ​ການ ມີ​ແຕ່ກົມ ATD ສູນກາງເທົ່າ​ນັ້ນທີ່ສາມາດລະ​ບຸ​ຕົວຜູ້ຖືກ ເຄາະຮ້າຍຈາກການຄ້າມະນຸດຢ່າງເປັນທາງການໄດ້ ແຕ່ໃນທາງປະຕິບັດແລ້ວ, ຕໍາຫຼວດແຂວງ, ຕໍາຫຼວດກວດຄົນເຂົ້າເມືອງ, ອໍານາດການປົກຄອງບ້ານ, ສະ​ຫະ​ພັນ​ແມ່​ຍິງ​ລາວ, ແລະອົງການບໍ່​ຂຶ້ນ​ກັບ​ລັດ​ຖະ​ບານ ຫລື NGO ກໍສາມາດ ກວດສອບ, ລະ​ບຸ​ຕົວຜູ້ຖືກເຄາະຮ້າຍ, ແລະສົ່ງພວກເຂົາໄປຫາ ATD ໄດ້ ເພື່ອລະ​ບຸ​ຕົວ​ຢ່າງ​ຢ່າງເປັນທາງການ. ແຕ່ຢ່າງໃດກໍ່ຕາມ, ການຂາດການລະ​ບຸ​ຕົວ ແລະການນຳສົ່ງທີ່​ເປັນ​ລະ​ບົບແບບ​ດຽວ​ກັນໃນທົ່ວປະເທດເຮັດ​ໃຫ້ບໍ່​ສາ​ມາດສະຫນອງການບໍລິການປົກປ້ອງແກ່ຜູ້ຖືກເຄາະຮ້າຍໄດ້​ຢ່າງ​ທົ່ວ​ເຖິງ.

ເຈົ້າຫນ້າທີ່ ແລະຜູ້ຊ່ຽວຊານຂອງອົງການ NGO ສັງເກດເຫັນວ່າ ພວກເຈົ້າ ຫນ້າລາວມີແນວໂນ້ມ ທີ່ບໍ່​ຢາ​ກລະ​ບຸຜູ້ຊາຍ ແລະບຸກຄົນ LGBTQI+ ວ່າເປັນ ຜູ້ຖືກເຄາະຮ້າຍຈາກການຄ້າມະນຸດ, ແຕ່ວ່າ ການເພີ່ມຂຶ້ນຂອງການຄ້າມະນຸດ ໃນການເຄື່ອນ​ໄຫວຫລອກລວງທາງອິນເຕີແນັດເຮັດໃຫ້ຈໍານວນຜູ້ ຖືກເຄາະ ຮ້າຍທີ່ເປັນຜູ້ຊາຍນັ້ນເພີ່ມຂຶ້ນ.

ນອກນັ້ນ ຍັງມີລາຍງານວ່າ ເຈົ້າໜ້າທີ່ຮັກສາຄວາມປອດໄພບາງຄົນ​ມີ​ການ​ຈຳ​ແນກຕໍ່ຜູ້ເຄາະຮ້າຍ LGBTQI+, ແລະຜູ້ເຄາະຮ້າຍ LGBTQI+ ກໍມີຄວາມ ສ່ຽງສູງທີ່ຈະຖືກຈັບຍ້ອນຂໍ້​ຫາ​ກະ​ທຳ​ຜິດທາງການຄ້າປະ​ເວ​ນີໂດຍບໍ່ມີ​ການກວດ ຫາຕົວຊີ້ວັດທາງ​ດ້ານການຄ້າມະນຸດເລີຍ.

ພ້ອມ​ກັນ​ນັນ ຄວາມຮັບຮູ້ກ່ຽວກັບການຕ້ານການຄ້າມະນຸດ ແລະຄວາມອາດ ສາມາດຂອງເຈົ້າໜ້າທີ່ປະຈໍາຊາຍແດນທີ່​ເປັນ​ຈຸດທາງຜ່ານນັ້ນຍັງຕໍ່າຢູ່ ເຖິງ ແມ່ນວ່າ ຈະມີການລິເລີ່ມການຝຶກອົບຮົມຂອງລັດຖະບານ​ຢູ່​ກໍ​ຕາມ.

ສະ​ຫລຸບ​ແລ້ວ ລັດ​ຖະ​ບານ​ລາວ​ສືບຕໍ່​ໃຫ້​ການ​ຮ່ວມ​ມື​ກັບ​ອົງ​ການ​ສາ​ກົນ​ໃນ​ການ ດຶງ​ເອົາ​ຜູ້​ເຄາະ​ຮ້າຍ​ຈາກ​ການ​ຄ້າ​ມະ​ນຸດ​ອອກ​ມາ​ຈາກ​ສ​ະ​ຖານ​ທີ່​ກັກ​ຂັງ ແລະ​ບັງ​ຄັບ​ໃຫ້​ອອກ​ແຮງ​ງານ ຫລື​ເຄື່ອ​ນ​ໄຫວທຳ​ການ​ຫລ​ອກ​ລວງ​ທາງ​ອິນ​ເຕ​ແນັດ​ຢ່າງ​ຜິດ​ກົດ​ໝາຍຢູ່​ໃນ​ເຂດ​ເສດ​ຖະ​ກິດ​ພິ​ເສດ ເຊັ່ນ​ຢູ່​ສາມ​ຫລ່ຽມ​ຄຳ ເຖິງ​ແມ່ນ​ວ່າ​ຈະ​ມີ​ຄວາມ​ຫຍຸ້ງ​ຍາກ​ໃນ​ການ​ເຂົ້າ​ເຖິງ ແລະ​ກີດ​ກັນ​ຈາກ​ພວກ​ເຈົ້າ​ໜ້າ​ທີ່​ທີ່​ສໍ້​ລາດ​ບັງ​ຫລວງ​ກໍ​ຕາມ. ແຕ່​ລັດ​ຖະ​ບານ​ລາວ​ກໍ​ຍັງບໍ່​ໄດ້​ໃຊ້​ຄວາມ​ພະ​ຍາ​ຍາມ​ຢ່າງ​ພຽງ​ພໍ ໃນ​ການ​ປ້ອງ​ກັນ ແລ​ະ​ຊ່ວຍ​ເຫລືອ​ພວກ​ຖືກ​ເຄາະ​ຮ້າຍ​ຈາກ​ການ​ຄ້າ​ມະ​ນຸດ, ອີງ​ຕາມ​ກະ​ຊວງ​ການ​ຕ່າງ​ປະ​ເທດ​ສະ​ຫະ​ລັດ.

ອ່ານ​ລາຍ​ງານ​ລະ​ອຽດ​ເປັນ​ພາ​ສາ​ອັງ​ກິດ​ຢູ່​ລຸ່ມນີ້:

The Government of Laos does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Laos remained on Tier 2. These efforts included increasing investigations into trafficking cases originating in special economic zones (SEZs), opening an office of the Anti-Trafficking Department (ATD) inside one SEZ, initiating inspections of companies within SEZs, and negotiating an MOU to ensure Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) representatives had access to SEZs. The government also significantly increased the number of potential victims it removed from SEZs, identified more male victims, and significantly increased the number of victims it referred to services. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Courts did not convict any traffickers. Authorities identified fewer victims, and victim protection services were disproportionately unavailable to male victims of trafficking and members of LGBTQI+ communities. Anti-trafficking awareness and capacity among border officials in key transit areas remained low despite ongoing government training initiatives.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:
  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute traffickers and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Increase efforts to proactively identify and provide protection services to men, boys, and LGBTQI+ victims of forced labor and sex trafficking.
  • Increase transnational collaboration on trafficking investigations.
  • Improve training for officials on indicators of labor trafficking, particularly among men, boys, and underserved communities.
  • Continue to disseminate, implement, and train police and border officials on the national victim protection and referral guidelines.
  • Proactively screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable groups, including Lao and foreign workers working on large infrastructure, mining, and agricultural projects, and projects affiliated with the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as Lao communities displaced by these projects; Laos and foreign nationals employed in SEZs; Laos and foreign nationals exploited in forced labor in cyber scam operations; Lao labor migrants returning from work abroad through border crossings; and Lao and foreign women and girls discovered during law enforcement actions of nightclubs, karaoke bars, and other establishments that facilitate commercial sex.
  • Train law enforcement officials at the national and local level on the Lao Penal Code to improve their ability to investigate and prosecute traffickers, including complicit officials, those operating within SEZs, and child sex tourists.
  • Publicize and adequately staff all available government anti-trafficking hotlines, and train staff on victim identification and referral.
  • Further reduce barriers to formal labor migration to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers, including eliminating worker-paid recruitment fees.
  • Continue to strengthen efforts at diplomatic missions overseas to identify and assist Lao victims of sex and labor trafficking.
  • Screen any North Korean workers for signs of trafficking and refer them to appropriate services in a manner consistent with obligations under UNSCR 2397.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. Article 215 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 100 million Lao kip ($580 to $5,810); if the crime involved a child victim, the fine range increased to 100 million to 500 million Lao kip ($5,810 to $29,040). These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The ATD, in the Ministry of Public Security (MOPS), investigated 39 potential cases of trafficking, involving 98 suspected perpetrators from January to December 2022 (compared with 39 cases involving 77 perpetrators in 2021). Of these 39 cases, police completed the investigation of and referred to the Office of the Supreme People’s Prosecutor (OSPP) 26 cases (compared with 25 in 2021). For the second year, authorities did not provide further disaggregated case information on types of trafficking. The OSPP submitted 14 cases for prosecution, returned three cases to provincial security officials for further investigation, and revised one case with new charges; four cases remained under examination by the OSPP. This compared with the OSPP submitting 21 cases for prosecution, returning one case for further investigation, and rejecting one case in 2021. Authorities initiated court proceedings in 12 cases against 27 suspects, compared with initiating court proceedings in 13 cases against an unknown number of suspects in 2021. Authorities also continued the prosecution of nine traffickers in two cases initiated in previous years. However, courts did not convict any traffickers in 2022, compared with convicting 10 traffickers in 2021. For the second year, the government did not disaggregate convictions by type of trafficking or provide sentencing data.

The MOPS maintained police units dedicated to investigating human trafficking cases, and the government also maintained anti-trafficking units in provincial and district police departments to coordinate with the ATD. The ATD disseminated NAP implementation guidelines tailored for provincial- and district-level anti-trafficking law enforcement activities. The government did not have prosecutors or courts specifically dedicated to trafficking cases, and whether courts tried a case at the district or provincial level depended on the potential severity of the sentence. The law required cases involving charges associated with prison sentences lasting three years or more be tried at the provincial or central level.

The government increased oversight of some SEZs and cooperated with foreign governments on removing potential trafficking victims from exploitative conditions therein. In September 2022, the government established a new ATD office inside the Golden Triangle SEZ; this ATD office conducted unannounced inspections of 306 companies in the Golden Triangle SEZ and opened six trafficking cases. At least 17 cases investigated by the ATD originated in SEZs.

Officials reported they lacked the technical equipment and training to pursue the ringleaders of trafficking syndicates, and security officials often only arrested low-level members of the syndicates, including victims of forced criminality. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials for complicity in trafficking or trafficking-adjacent crimes during the year.

The government lifted COVID-19 restrictions on May 9, 2022, and anti-trafficking officials rapidly returned to pre-pandemic operations, in some cases improving response and coordination timeliness, particularly for cases originating in SEZs.

Authorities provided training on anti-trafficking laws to police officers and border officials. The Lao Women’s Union (LWU); the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA); the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism; and the OSPP; in collaboration with NGOs, trained officials in provincial capitals and remote districts on trafficking prosecutions; coordination of prevention, protection, and investigation efforts; and implementation of international conventions and domestic trafficking laws. The government continued to cooperate with Cambodia, the PRC, Thailand, Vietnam, and international organizations pursuant to existing bilateral agreements and MOUs on sharing information, case investigation and prosecution, and victim repatriation. Several provinces and districts maintained and, at times, updated formal anti-trafficking cooperation agreements with Thai counterparts.

PROTECTION

The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 75 trafficking victims in 2022; 67 sex trafficking victims (five men, seven women, four boys, and 51 girls) and eight victims of forced labor (two men, two women, and four girls). This compared with identifying 110 trafficking victims in 2021. The government included forced and fraudulent marriage cases with victim identification data in past years, and these figures may have included forced and/or fraudulent marriage cases that featured corollary sex or labor trafficking indicators. Unlike in previous years, traffickers exploited the majority of these victims in Laos, with 74 of the identified trafficking victims having been removed from the Golden Triangle SEZ. Six of the identified victims were foreign nationals (one sex trafficking victim and five labor trafficking victims); compared with 18 foreign nationals identified in 2021. The central ATD was the sole authority able to formally identify trafficking victims. In practice, provincial police, immigration police, village-level authorities, the government-funded LWU, and NGOs could also screen for, identify victims, and refer them to the ATD for formal identification. ATD and other police and border officials, including those stationed near or in at-risk communities, the LWU, and the MOFA, continued to use a victim identification manual created in a prior year in conjunction with an international organization; however, the lack of consistent identification and referral practices throughout the country hindered the provision of sufficient protection services to all victims. The ATD did not report if it counted or tracked victims who declined official assistance, and some victims declined assistance during the reporting period. Officials and NGO experts noted authorities were less likely to identify men and LGBTQI+ individuals as trafficking victims, but the increased prevalence of human trafficking in cyber scam operations led to an increase in the number of male victims identified. Most central and provincial ATD officials had received victim-sensitivity training. Observers reported some security authorities discriminated against LGBTQI+ victims, and LGBTQI+ victims were at a higher risk of being arrested for commercial sex crimes without being screened for trafficking indicators. The government continued to demonstrate inconsistent victim identification measures in certain parts of the country and within specific sectors, citing jurisdictional and public health-related challenges. Authorities did not proactively screen for or identify trafficking victims at foreign-owned rubber and banana plantations, in garment factories, or working on foreign-funded infrastructure projects, all of which presented some indicators of trafficking. Authorities did not report conducting law enforcement actions of establishments facilitating commercial sex. Border officials continued to demonstrate a low capacity to detect trafficking because of insufficient staffing at international checkpoints and border crossings and a lack of training on victim identification. However, the LWU reported it, in coordination with NGOs and the ATD, screened some Lao nationals when returning through formal checkpoints.

The government, in collaboration with NGOs, provided services to 95 victims, compared with providing direct government services to 15 victims in 2021. The government, in collaboration with NGOs, provided shelter, medical care, education, vocational training, mental health counseling, financial assistance, and community reintegration support. The LWU’s Counseling and Protection Center for Women and Children provided some of these services directly; it sheltered at least 17 foreign victims, at least one of whom was an adult man. The LWU also provided counseling to trafficking victims and other vulnerable people through its hotline and via WhatsApp. In prior years, officials acknowledged male and LGBTQI+ victims of trafficking faced difficulties accessing protection services; the significant increase in male victims seeking services in 2022 overwhelmed the government’s capacity to respond, requiring IOs to assist with providing shelter for foreign male victims awaiting repatriation. The law entitled all identified victims to the full range of victim support services, regardless of gender, nationality, or where their exploitation occurred. The government provided all identified victims with temporary shelter, but temporary shelters did not have the capacity to assist all victims. In March 2023, LWU officials reported finalizing construction of a new shelter in Luang Namtha, a border area known for high incidences of trafficking via forced and fraudulent marriage, that included designated space for men, women, and transgender victims; it was not yet fully operational by the end of the reporting period. The provision of shelter or other protective services was not contingent upon victims’ cooperation with law enforcement or testimony in court.

The OSPP reported victims could testify behind a curtain to protect their privacy and ensure their safety, and it had expanded availability of this service nationwide, but it did not report how many victims benefitted from the option while testifying against traffickers in 2022. The OSPP continued to collaborate with an international organization to provide judges and prosecutors with new victim-centered trial guidelines, which were not finalized by the end of the reporting period. The government reported victims could request civil compensation, including in conjunction with a criminal trial. The government did not report if courts ordered restitution paid to victims, compared with nine defendants ordered to pay 65.5 million Lao kip ($3,800) to 11 victims in 2021.

Authorities reported working with numerous foreign governments to repatriate potential trafficking victims from the Golden Triangle SEZ. Authorities did not report repatriating or providing reintegration services to Lao women and girls whom PRC nationals had subjected to forced or fraudulent marriage, which often included corollary sex trafficking and/or forced labor indicators, in the PRC (220 in 2021). They also worked with the Governments of the PRC and Thailand to repatriate 27 male and female Lao trafficking victims. The LWU and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) were responsible for providing reintegration services for trafficking victims but relied heavily on NGOs to offer such assistance. The government did not report providing legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may have faced hardships or retribution.

Many domestic victims in the Golden Triangle SEZ reached out directly to LFTU, LWU, and MOPS officials via messaging applications (apps) and foreign victims reached out to diplomatic mission representatives via social media, messaging apps, and publicly listed contact numbers. Between September and December 2022, the MOPS removed 1,802 vulnerable workers from the Golden Triangle SEZ (1,140 male workers, 662 female workers; 986 were foreign nationals from Belarus, Burma, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, the PRC, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Uganda, and Vietnam). Traffickers likely exploited the vast majority of these potential victims in forced labor in cyber scam operations, but the government did not report how many of these workers it formally identified as trafficking victims. The government classified most of these cases as “labor disputes,” which precluded them from accessing trafficking-related support services, although it opened 17 trafficking investigations involving an unknown number of potential victims. Labor inspections in the Golden Triangle SEZ also led the Anti-Trafficking Department Task Force to remove 797 potential victims from workplaces there in 2022.

Authorities trained Lao diplomatic officials on victim identification, trafficking indicators, and victim referral. The MLSW trained provincial- and district-level authorities on victim identification, referral, and child protection.

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