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Help Comes to Laotian Trafficking Victims

August 2006

An international organisation whose goal is to prevent the trafficking of women has granted over US$1 million to the Laotian government to implement a project for the repatriation and rehabilitation of female victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 1 June 2006 between the Office Head of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Mr. Doungchanh Mouksavanh, and the President of the donor organisation AFESIP International, Ms. Somaly Mam. The signing was witnessed by the Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Mr. Le Kakanya, and other high-ranking officials. The project will run from 2006-2008.

The money will be used to build a shelter to house victims returning from Thailand as well as to collect information about victims in various provinces. Funds will also be used to develop activities to restore the mental health of women who have been rescued. Mr. Doungchanh said the project would organise vocational training so that when these women returned to their communities, they would have to work. “I thjnk the majority of people cross the border to work in Thailand because they cannot find work in Laos,” he said. “What we need to do is to create more job opportunities in rural areas so that they don’t feel the need to look for work in other countries”.

He said that if the project produced positive results, the ministry would build more rehabilitation centres in Champassak province to help abused women build a new life. AFESIP International is a non-government organisation first established at the grassroots level in Cambodia in 1996. It was formed to help the thousands of women and girls forced into sex slavery and is devoted to fighting the trafficking of women and children for this purpose. The organisation cares for the victims of the sex trade and aims to secure their rights by providing care after rescuing them, with long-term goals of successful and permanent rehabilitation and reintegration into family and society.

Ms. Somaly comes from Cambodia, but her family has its roots in Savannakhet province. “We really want to help victims of human trafficking from Laos and Cambodia because people in these countries are vulnerable to this form of personal abuse.  We will have doctors at the rehabilitation centre to encourage them to take care of themselves in the future,” she said. The three year project comes under the Memorandum of Understanding on labor cooperation signed in 2002 between the governments of Laos and Thailand, which aims for the legal employment of Lao workers in Thailand to avoid undesirable outcomes such as human trafficking. Laos is one of the world’s least developed countries and shares a long border with Thailand, where people seek jobs and a better income. Many women are lured to work there under false pretences and are not paid the wages promised. Some of them are beaten if they disobey their employers’ orders or refuse to sleep with a customer.Since 2001, more than 640 victims have been sent back to Laos and efforts are underway to provide them with more support from teir families and from society in general.

Adapted from: ‘More Help for Trafficking Victims.’ Vientiane Times. 5 June 2006.

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