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When a young woman from Laos took on a job as a “chat girl” at the Kings Romans Casino in the Golden Triangle, she saw a chance to earn a good living selling shares for her new employer to casino patrons.
When she couldn’t meet impossibly high sales quotas only months after being recruited and having already taken on debt to pay her application fees and move, she was told she would have to start selling sex.
In order to succeed, we must persuade up to 100 people to buy the company’s shares. “For me, that was an impossible goal,” she told Radio Free Asia.
The majority of us are only able to get one or two investors every month. In the event that we are not able to achieve our goal, they will trade us to other companies, making us do other kinds of work, including sexual services,” she said.
Although she was rescued before it came to sex work, the woman from Vientiane Laos said she was one of the hundreds of women in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in northern Laos who were at risk of being forced into the sex trade.
Zhao Wei, chairman of the Dok Ngiew Kham Group, oversees the zone in Bokeo province, which is 80% owned by Zhao and 20% by the government of Laos. The Golden Triangle is the area between Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand and has long been associated with heroin production and methamphetamine production.
Earlier in 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Zhao Wei’s Kings Romans Casino company as a “transnational criminal organization.” The US Government sanctioned Zhao and three other individuals and companies in Laos, Thailand, and Hong Kong.
The Treasury said that Zhao’s business engages in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, bribery, and wildlife trafficking through the Kings Romans Casino within the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, among other activities.
The United States has been pushing Laos to crack down on human trafficking for years, but this year it remained at tier 2 in the annual State Department report, which means it avoided cuts to certain types of foreign aid that tier 3 countries experience.
In the 2021 report, Laos said it increased its overall efforts to fight human trafficking but missed the mark on victim identification and screening procedures. It also failed to investigate suspected drug traffickers properly.
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