Laos is a source country from which men, women and children are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor as domestic servants or factory workers in Thailand.
Some Lao men, women and children move to neighboring countries in search of better economic opportunities, but are instead subjected to slavery or forced prostitution after arrival.
Men from Laos who voluntarily migrate to Thailand are often subjected to involuntary servitude in the Thai fishing and construction industry.
To a lesser extent , Laos is a transit country for Vietnamese , Chinese , Burmese and North Korean women destined for Thailand.
Laos potential as a transit country is on the rise because of the need of work force in the construction of new roads linking China, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
Internal trafficking is also a problem, with young women and girls being traded for commercial sexual exploitation in urban areas.
The government of Laos is working to achieve the minimum requirements for the elimination of trafficking, and will increase its spending on law enforcement, but are yet to meet their goals.
They have also expanded their cooperation with international organizations and civil society in order to educate its officials, to provide rehabilitation for the victims and to launch information campaigns to combat trafficking.
Lack of financial resources is the main obstacle for Laos, and the country is still dependent on the international donor community to finance actions against trafficking.
Lao government has shown progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement and willingness to cooperate with other countries, NGO:s and international organizations.
Laos prohibits all forms of trafficking through criminal code article 134 , which prescribes penalties that are sufficiently stringent and are similar to those prescribed for rape. In 2007, the Ministry of Public Security used article 134 to investigate 38 cases of human trafficking , which resulted in 23 arrests and eight charges.
Another 30 cases are under investigation.
Corrupt police, a weak judiciary and the general population’s lack of understanding of the court system prevents law enforcement efforts against trafficking.
Clinics has helped by providing legal assistance to victims who have suffered human rights violations, including human trafficking, and by educating the public at large regarding the legal system.
Corruption is a problem among government officials, some of which are involved in the trade of humans, narcotics, wild life or illegally logged timber. At the time of writing, no government official have been convicted of involvement in human trafficking.
The Lao government works with international organizations and civil society to improve law enforcement through training of police officers, investigators, prosecutors and customs and border officials. The government has made progress in improving the protection of victims of trafficking.
Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) and the immigration authorities cooperates with IOM, UNIAP and a local NGO to provide support to victims. MLSW continues to operate a small transit center in Vientiane.
Victims who do not want to return home are referred to longer-term protection run by the Women’s Federation in Laos or a local NGO.
Over the past year, 310 victims of transnational trafficking has been returned from Thailand to Laos. Approximately 130 victims are currently living in rehabilitation centers in Thailand.
The government of Laos provides for victims in the transit centers in terms of medical care, counseling , job training and job placement. The government also encourages victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers.
As of January 2007 , the Government required exit permits for citizens of Laos traveling abroad. It eliminates the risk of punishment and fines for illegal immigration and trafficking when they return to Laos. The government grants land leases to new NGOs and transit centers for victims of human trafficking.
Lao government has increased its efforts to prevent trafficking through international organizations and civil society. Warning signs set up by UNICEF and MLSW are visible near border checkpoints and in major cities. The government completed its national action plan to combat trafficking in July 2007, and continues to follow it up.
In an effort to reduce demand, the government of Laos periodically make raids of nightclubs and discotheques involved in the sex industry. Since October 2007, the police have closed down a number of bars and entertainment venues in Luang Prabang.
The general increase in tourism in Laos and a likely increase in child sex tourism has been recognized by the Lao authorities , who are trying to prevent it getting rooted. Since December 2007, in the province of Vientiane, a task force on child sex tourism has been established in order to coordinate efforts between the authorities and the tourism sector.
The government along with NGOs organizes several seminars to educate employees in the tourism industry, including taxi drivers and hotel staff, in matters such as reporting suspicious behavior. Tourist Police received guidance, education and information in mid-2007 to help combat sex tourism and to identify potential victims.
Clearly visible posters, created by international NGOs, is put up on many major international hotel in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, in order to warn against child sex tourism.