onsdag 9. mars 2022

Hundreds of Lao women trapped in Chinese-run SEZ, unable to pay off debt

On International Women’s Day, members of the official Lao Women’s Union say that women in the Southeast Asian country still lack equality and suffer significant exploitation, violence and human trafficking — especially those who are recruited to work in a Chinese-run special economic zone. Poverty has driven many to seek purportedly well-paying jobs in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in northern Laos’ Bokeo Province. Dominated by the Chinese-owned Kings Romans Casino, the SEZ is notorious for illegal drug activity and human and wildlife trafficking.

Businesses operating in the SEZ recruit Lao women to work as barmaids or “chat girls” who text casino customers over web applications like Line, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, promising them healthy rates of return if they invest in the company. They often have ambitious sales quotas that are difficult if not impossible to meet while they pile up “debts” for food and housing.

“Many of our women and girls are exploited, abused and victimized by human trafficking,” said a member of the Lao Women’s Union of Nomo district in neighboring Oudomxay province. “They’re from poor families, uneducated, unaware of the risk, and sold.”