CHACHOENGSAO – Social Development and Human Security Ministry officials have vowed action after discovering a rise in the number of immigrant workers in Chachoengsao province, especially Laotians working as prostitutes in karaoke bars.
The ministry’s deputy permanent secretary Supareuk Hongpakdee said yesterday that ministry officials had inspected areas prone to immigrant prostitution as a result of violations of the 2008 Anti-Human-Trafficking Act.
Chachoengsao Governor Reungsak Mahawinitchaimontri said the province – which shares borders with Sa Kaew, Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, Chanthaburi, Bangkok, Chonburi and Samut Prakan – had a large number of immigrants working in the agriculture, fisheries and industrial sectors, and some employers had grabbed the opportunity to take advantage of immigrant workers.
Of the 184,885 employees in the province’s 3,568 businesses, 19,887 are immigrant workers (7,406 Myanmar citizens, 889 Laotians, 4,522 Cambodians and 209 from other countries/ethnicities), he said. Acting on 17 allegations of forced prostitution made since 2011 against karaoke bars, mostly in Chachoengsao’s Muang district, the authorities had found 19 underage prostitutes – 16 Laotians and three Thais – and 12 Laotian immigrants working in the sex trade.
This year, similar complaints were filed against karaoke bars in Ban Pho, Plaeng Yao and Panom Sarakham districts, although fewer instances of forced prostitution had been discovered, as a result of stricter law enforcement, said Reungsak. Nevertheless, the ministry’s inspection of the districts found forced prostitution at four karaoke bars, leading to the arrest of 39 suspected human traffickers and the rescue of five victims.
Reungsak said that the Chachoengsao’s biggest problem with human trafficking was in the form of hidden prostitution at karaoke bars. He said most immigrant workers at the bars were Laotian women attracted by the relatively high wages. He said authorities were on the look out for victims of human trafficking – usually Laotian women and girls who had worked as waitresses before being forced into the sex trade and illegally detained.
The number of people applying to open karaoke bars in Chachoengsao rose to 25 last year. The province currently has 225 registered karaoke bars.