Officials have warned those who plan to marry foreigners to follow legal marriage procedures, especially women who choose to leave Laos and reside in their fiancé’s country.
The warning came after reports emerged that many Lao women who got engaged to foreigners have left Laos and gone to live in their intended’s country without undergoing the correct procedure – several of whom have been reported as suffering from unexpected ill treatment from unfaithful partners.
Some of the women from this group are believed to have fallen victim to human trafficking as they were reported as having lost contact with their families at home since their departure, an official of the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Without undergoing the correct procedure, people are not properly protected by the legal system. This means they are at a greater risk of ill treatment, the official said, citing some cases where the victims fled to Lao embassies abroad seeking help to get them sent back.
Many Lao women, notably those less educated, are of the view it is better to marry a foreigner from an economically sound country as he will be financially secure.
“Parents are also easily persuaded to allow their children to leave after the engagement without first undergoing a marriage procedure,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
The authorities cannot prevent them from departing as they simply claim they are going to visit their fiancé’s country, even though they have no intention of returning.
Many women decide not to bother with the right marriage procedure because they consider it to be time-consuming and complicated, according to the official.
But he stated that following the procedure would mean that in the event of a problem the parties will be better protected by the legal system.
According to the procedure, a Lao national wishing to marry a foreigner needs to process paperwork first from their village authority then through all levels (district and provincial) until their documents are endorsed by the ministry in Vientiane, while the foreign partner-to-be needs to register the intention to marry with their embassy. The process includes certifying that the applicant is legally entitled to marry and meets the criteria for marriage in line with laws of their country.
Although it is possible for the couple to undertake a legal marriage procedure in a foreign country upon their arrival, helped by the local authorities and the Lao embassy there, this process means the backgrounds of the couple have not been checked prior to departure which could be risky, the official said.
Although many women have married good husbands, many others are believed to have fallen victim to human trafficking.
According to the official, some women have been lured into leaving the country to marry and live with foreign men. The women were usually introduced to foreign men who claimed they wanted to get married. However, once the victims arrived in their ‘fiancé’s’ country, they were passed on to other people. The ‘fiancé’ carrying out the travel service gets paid by unidentified parties for his efforts.
Those who have little knowledge of the language of the country they are in or how to communicate with their families back home are the most vulnerable, the officials said.
Souce: Vientiane Times