Numerous young people illegally working in neighbouring countries are prone to become human trafficking victims, which is a big concern in Savannakhet province.
“Over 775 illegal migrants from Xonbouly and Atsaphangthong districts of Savannakhet province are illegally working in Thailand,” said the programme Manager of the Mekong Delta Regional Trafficking Strategy (MDRTS) under the World Vision, Mr. Detdaovone Ketavong. He added that in reality, the number might be higher because people are afraid to report what they know to local authorities. Nevertheless, the report indicates from the 775 illegal migrants, 430 are from 26 target villages of Xonbouly and 345 are from 15 villages of Atsaphangthong district. According to a survey, Savannakhet has the highest number of illegal workers in Thailand, and these people are at high risk of becoming trafficking victims, said Mr. Detdaovone.
The manager said that almost all the victims are young people, and more particularly children and women. “There are very few students attending schools in our target villages and the majority of people who stay there are old people,” observed Mr. Detdaovone. This is backed up by the facts: in 2003 the ILO found that 7.6 percent of the total female population of the provinces of Savannakhet, Khammuan, and Champassak have migrated to Thailand, and 6.2 percent of the male population. The majority of the migrants are younger than 25, with 16 percent being just 17 years old or younger.
He said that many of the victims are lured into the sex industry. Some of the typical reasons for these young people to leave their villages for Thailand include dysfunctional families, poverty, and misinformation about the labour market.
Some youngsters are lured into making the decision to illegally work in Thailand because they wish to have “attractive” clothes and other modern gadgets like those of friends who have returned back to the village. “Even if these young people are forced to work and are being taken advantage of by their employers there, when they come home they do not tell the truth; they just boast about ‘the good life’ they experienced abroad,” said the manager.
“There was a case in point of three victims that the AFESIP in Thailand sent us recently. The girls were tricked into going to Thailand. They were told that they would get a lot of money working there, but they were not told what job they would do,” said the manager. These three victims only realised once they were there that they had to work in a karaoke club where guests could take the girls out. They worked there for about ten days before the police raided the place and all the people were arrested.
A 2003 study by the ILO found that 62 percent of the migrant workers from Savannakhet to Thailand were female, and, perhaps more troubling, the study found that a disproportionate 31 percent of these female migrants were under the age of 18. Almost half of the female migrants from southern Laos will end up as domestic servants in Thailand, the ILO found, but more than 40 percent of the women described their employment vaguely as “special activities”. An unknown number of these young women will be forced into prostitution every year.
“The young people go to neighbouring countries seeking employment, and most of them go illegally.” Mr. Detdaovone said that not only the people who go illegally become victims, but also some of those going legally. “Some legal migrants just went once, so they do not know much information, and as a result, they are easily tricked by brokers to give away their passport,” explained the manager.
The victims often do not have any legitimate information on working overseas. The majority of them were told that working in neighbouring countries was more lucrative. “We cannot prevent all young people from going abroad, but the best thing we can do to help them is to raise awareness on the negative impacts and the dangers of this trafficking. Furthermore, we should mobilise ourselves so those youngsters can travel legally. Eventuallty, we should inform them so they know to protect themselves, such as advising them to keep their passport safe,” said Mr. Detdaovone.
Almost all the migrants go illegally because they are poor; they do not have enough money to get their documents processed legally. “I have heard that a state unit lent money for conducting document process, but those people might not access this information and they might not understand it clearly. Moreover, those people might not prefer to go through complex processes to obtain documentation,” said the manager.
The project’s activities cover raising awareness on negative impacts and dangers of human trafficking, gender equality, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol, drugs and laws on women’s development and protection, according to the manager.
The project works closely with various state sectors concerned to solve this issue, who organise activities to raise people’s awareness so that they would know where to go when they need help. The project is also coordinated with its counterpart network in Thailand to exchange information on migrants.
In order to implement these activities effectively, the project has organised training courses so that the trainees would later transfer the knowledge to communities in villages. “We choose literate people in the villages, but it is difficult to find them because about half of the residents are illiterates,” said Mr Detdaovone.
The project has worked closely with the AFESIP in Thailand to make the victims go back home. Manager said that these victims would face difficulties in their lives, particularly the entertainment women when they go back home because they are often cast out by society. He also said that to solve this problem, society must give them a chance.
In the near future, the province aims to establish shelter providing rehabilitation and assistance to victims. The project also aims to provide vocational training to the victims so that they are able to help themselves. Further projects plan to establish more networks with various sectors in Thailand including private and state sectors, foundations as well as state-enterprises whose responsibility involves to find missing people, according to the manager.
Adapted from: Souksakhone Vaenkeo. "Human Trafficking Mars a Generation in Savannakhet." Vientiane Times. 14 August 2006.
Search the entirety of the site for resources or updates.