Many young Laotian women are drawn to the China-run Golden Triangle Economic Zone in north Laos to find work and a decent living. However, what they find once they arrive is not what they bargained for. According to a Radio Free Asia report, they are forced into prostitution and, in some instances, sold to other businesses.
Laos Casino Sells Bodies
Many of the jobs advertised at the Kings Roman Casino would have been for “chat girls,” who would sell shares in a new company to casino patrons. However, many fail to meet the sales targets and end up exchanging their sex to cover their moving expenses and application costs.
According to one, Vientiane, she worked in Lao’s Golden Triangle near Thailand at Kings Romans Casino. She told Radio Free Asia that she had just been hired and was told to sell her body:
“We have to get enough customers, meaning we have to be able to persuade up to 100 people to buy the company’s shares. For me, that was an unreachable goal. Most of us can only get one or two investors a month. If we are unable to reach our goal, they will trade us to other companies, making us do other kinds of jobs, including sexual services.”Vientiane, a human trafficking victim
After contacting authorities, she was rescued and was able to avoid a life of prostitution. But, she claimed that she was only one of many Lao women who were in danger of being forced into it.
Zhao Wei, who is head of Dok Ngiew Kham Group, manages the casino. His company owns 80%, while the Lao government has 20%. In 2018, the US Treasury Department declared this transnational company a criminal organization. It was also sanctioned throughout Laos, Thailand, and Hong Kong. However, the casino is still allowed to operate.
The company, according to the Treasury Department, “exploits this region by engaging in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, bribery, and wildlife trafficking, much of which is facilitated through the Kings Romans Casino located within the [Golden Triangle Economic Zone].”
Laos Remains Blacklisted
Laos has remained at Tier 2, according to the State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, this year. As such, the country was not subject to restrictions on certain forms of foreign assistance that are placed on Tier 3 countries.
According to the 2021 Report, Laos has increased its overall efforts to stop human trafficking but was unable to identify and screen victims properly. It also failed to fully investigate suspected sex traffickers, despite, in some cases, having clear evidence and locations on some of them.