CHIANG RAI– Government Officials across the Mekong River in Laos have acknowledged Thailand’s Immigration Departments decision to tighten immigration procedures to prevent Lao youth under the age of 18 from entering the Kingdom of Thailand alone. The move is aimed at preventing young teen from falling victim to transnational human trafficking.
The tougher immigration stance by Thailand’s Immigration Department came after frequent reports in the Thai media of Lao girls, some under 18, being forced into the sex industry.
Since 2001, at least 2,217 Lao victims of human trafficking have been rescued from Thai facilities and repatriated. Between 75 and 80 per cent were under 18 years old and 95 per cent were female, according to recent information from the Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
Bounkham Phoutthichak, head of the border checkpoint for Laos at the second Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge – from Savannakhet to Mukdahan – said Lao authorities had received an official letter from Thai immigration authorities in charge of checkpoints at the bridge.
“We have already received a letter informing us about the move to the Administrative Office of Savannakhet province,” he said.
Somboun Souvannachoum-kham, head of the border checkpoint for Laos at the first Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge – from Vientiane to Nong Khai, said Thai authorities at the checkpoint had already acted to carry out stricter migration procedures prohibiting at-risk groups from entering the Kingdom.
He said Thai immigration authorities had not informed the Lao side officially that they would impose a tougher rule but he had received reports that it was already being implemented.
However, Lao authorities at the third and fourth Lao-Thai Friendship Bridges said the stricter rule had not been imposed at their border gates yet.
The third bridge links Laos’ Khammuan province with Nakhon Phanom province in Thailand and the fourth bridge links Laos’ Bokeo province with Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district in Thailand.
Laos and Thailand have a number of shared border checkpoints, but it remains unknown if they will impose the stricter rule.