Parents of Lao trafficking victims in Myanmar plan trip to Vientiane to urge rescue

A group of about 30 parents of Lao citizens trafficked to work in casinos in Myanmar are fed up with their government’s lack of progress in rescuing their children, so they are planning to travel to Vientiane to meet with high-ranking officials face to face, they told Radio Free Asia.

The victims, some of whom are minors, were trafficked to the Kosai casino, part of the Kokko Special Economic Zone in southeastern Myanmar’s Kayin state. Reports have surfaced that employers at the Kosai and other casinos in the zone beat and tase their victims as punishment for poor work performance.

The parents are tired of waiting for their government to rescue their children and even though the roughly 600-kilometer (373-mile) trip to the capital from their home in the northern Lao province of Luang Namtha will be relatively expensive and difficult to coordinate, they are determined to do whatever they can to rescue their sons and daughters, they told RFA’s Lao Service on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Some of the parents have even made the trip already, but to no avail. They hope that reappearing in greater numbers will help their cause.

“We’ve done everything and nothing has worked. So, all of us, the mothers and fathers, are going to the capital,” a mother among the group said.

Another mother explained that after several hurdles the government is still dragging its feet on the issue.

“We have submitted all documents to the Lao Embassy in Myanmar requesting help. We’ve done everything. The authorities told us to wait. We’ve waited for months. Now, we’re desperate, hopeless and helpless,” she said. “The only way to help my son is to meet with the authorities in person. I cry every day; I’m worried about my only son.”

A third mother expressed her frustration, saying, “I don’t know what to do anymore. We have been waiting for answers from the authorities for months now. We can’t wait any longer. We’re poor. Please, help us.”

A father told RFA that the trip costs about 1.6 million kip (U.S.$95) for airfare and even more for accommodations and food.

Preparations ongoing

An official of the Lao Ministry of Public Security’s Anti-Trafficking Department told RFA that officials are preparing to set up a meeting with their Myanmar counterparts.

“The two sides will be discussing and looking for a way to help those Lao nationals still stuck in Myanmar,” he said. “One of the obstacles is that the area of Myawaddy, where the Lao workers are, is occupied by a non-governmental group.”

The area around the Yatai Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone was funded by Hong Kong-registered developer Yatai International Holding Group in partnership with the Chit Lin Myaing Company, owned by the Kayin State Border Guard Force, an ethnic Karen force aligned with the Myanmar military.

The anti-trafficking official said the Anti-Trafficking Department contacted the Myanmar Embassy in Vientiane, which had no record of the children of the Luang Namtha parents, likely because they entered Myanmar illegally.

“To the plan of the parents coming to the capital, in the past, some parents have come here and informed us of the plight of their children and we’ve forwarded their concerns to the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Lao Embassy in Myanmar,” the official said.

He advised the parents who had already visited the capital that returning at such great expense would not be necessary.

“If the parents want to come down again, I can’t prevent them. If they want to discuss further and if they’re financially able to come, go ahead, come, but if their financial resources are limited, they don’t need to come again.”

The official said he would like to warn Lao citizens not to work in neighboring countries on their own, but instead to go legally with the help of job placement centers.


Scammers and human traffickers operate with near-total immunity from the law in the zone, where they treat their victims like chattel, beating them when they don’t comply and demanding payment in exchange for setting them free.

People trafficked to the zone are promised high salaries but in reality they are held against their will and forced to work as scammers, luring unwitting foreigners into giving them access to their bank accounts, and regularly subjected to harsh punishments if they fail to bring in money.

Last week RFA reported that four Lao trafficking victims were freed from the zone, released into Thailand, deported back to Laos and returned to Luang Namtha.

The report included video evidence of a young trafficking victim being punished with tasers.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.