Thailand Tightens Border Inspections Of Lao Teens

Thai immigration officials will be closely questioning Lao teenagers entering the country at the Vientiane-Nong Khai Friendship Bridge in a bid to combat human trafficking, Thai-based media have reported.

The Thai authorities said the move was aimed at preventing young people from being lured into the Kingdom by human traffickers for the flesh trade, but Lao authorities said they had not been informed of the fact.

More than 100 Lao girls believed to have been lured into or having the potential to become involved in the flesh trade had been prevented from entering the Kingdom, ASTV Manager Online reported on Friday, citing Thai authorities.

Immigration officials are directing their enquiries at Lao females under the age of 18 as this group is seen as being targeted by traffickers.

Lao girls aged less than 18, who are unaccompanied by a guardian, will be subject to extra questioning when entering Thailand, according to the news agency.

During questioning, the authorities will point out the dangers of human trafficking to make young people aware of their vulnerability to criminals.

Since the investigations were initiated on February 4, some 107 Lao girls under the age of 18 have been denied entry into Thailand after it was deemed they could potentially be lured into or were involved in human trafficking.

The Thai authorities told the news agency that the special inspections will continue.

Director of the bridge’s checkpoint on the Lao side, Mr Somboun Souvannachoumkham, said he was unaware of the move by Thai authorities. He noted that the situation at the border crossing remained normal.

The media report of the extra checks at the border crossing came after frequent reports in the Thai media recently that a number of Lao girls – many of them under 18, were involved in the sex industry. Many of them had been lured into the flesh trade by traffickers, while others were reported to have done so voluntarily.

Recently, Thai authorities rescued 72 Lao girls who had been forced into providing sexual services in four karaoke bars in Suphan Buri province. The girls were aged 13 to 20.

Since 2001, some 2,217 Lao victims of human trafficking have been rescued from Thai facilities and repatriated. Between 75 and 80 percent of them were under 18 years old and 95 percent were female, according to recent information from the Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

Source: Vientiane Times