It is not uncommon to see reports on human trafficking in the news. We read stories about it happening even in the most powerful nations across the globe. And though there are whispers about it happening in the sleepy little country of Laos, most don’t realize how common it has become in the land-locked country.
Northern villagers in various areas have reported Chinese men entering their villages under the guise of being wealthy, eligible suitors looking for a bride to take home and care for. Girls as young as 16 and 17 are being enticed to drop out of school and willingly take a husband based on the promise of a better life in China.
However, when they arrive in China, the unfortunate girls are sold into brothels and forced into prostitution.They come from all over the country, the South, the center and Vientiane
The victims are not just restricted to northern Laos, where the land-locked nation borders China, but also the southern and central provinces, and occasionally the capital itself.
These men prey on poor villages and are seeking naive school girls who believe that all Chinese men are rich. The school girls are convinced they will be going to China or another part of Laos where they will get married, but are typically forced into the sex trade.
A small, possibly increasing, number of women and girls from Laos are sold as brides in China and subjected to sex trafficking,, according to a US government report on trafficking in persons.
One resident of Pak Lai District Xayaboury Province spoke of a girl who had finished high school and met a Chinese man who had visited her village. The man told her he loved her, and then made arrangements with a middle-man. Soon after they were engaged, and the man took her to China where she only contacted her family with an occasional message, and her whereabouts were unknown and untraceable.
It was later learned that she was sold to a brothel.
An NGO official has addressed this issue and has stated that it’s unknown how many cases are like this, since there has never been a survey taken.
In her village at least eight girls have gone to China. One girl who left three months ago has never contacted her worried parents.
“Many, many Chinese men come to our village looking for brides,” the villager said. “Some of the girls come back to the village, and a few of them come with one or two babies, but without their Chinese husbands.”
Laos and China signed an anti-human trafficking memorandum of understanding in 2014, and the two countries have devised an action plan to take a stand against human trafficking.
Although the girls who left behind their friends and families were just looking for love, or at least a husband, those who have returned to their villages have understandingly had enough of China.
“These girls say they don’t want to go back to China,” said the villager.