Many under-aged children migrated to find work outside their home country across Southeast Asia. Geographically, it is common for young boys and girls from Laos cross border illegally to Thailand for short-term work. Little need they know there are potential risks they will encounter. A Lao boy named Chai, 14, was one of the migrant workers who ended up being exploited by the employer and was prevented to come back home. The boy’s life was saved and he soon returned to his family through a collaboration across borders between Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ local partners and local authorities.

Child trafficking

From Lao to Thailand

Chai is a son of a poor family in Saravan province, Laos. His parents own a small plot of rice field and the family depends on farming as the only source of income. Many young boys in Chai’s village are addicted to drugs. Some of them use drugs to help them work longer in the rice field.

To avoid being addicted to drugs and help earning more money for the family, Chai wanted to find a job during his school break. In June 2016, Chai moved to Pakse Champasak Province to find a job. He was approached by a broker who promised to offer him a job at the Ice Factory in Thailand with a salary of 241 euro per month. He got on a van which took him and other Laos migrants into Thailand.

Exploitative work condition

At the Ice Factory, Chai worked seven days a week from 4 a.m. to 6/9 p.m. His salary was regularly deducted to pay to the broker. The employer did not allow him to go out of the workplace. When he made a mistake at work, the employer would beat him with a stick or deduct his salary.

Escaping and getting help

In November 2016, Chai had an opportunity to call his parents in Lao with help from a kind Thai neighbour. His parents contacted Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ local partner Village Focus International (VFI) in Lao for help. VFI then contacted Foundation for Women (FFW), another TdH Netherlands’ partner in Thailand, for support. The case was immediately referred to the Provincial Labour Protection office to request for intervention.

Before the rescue team arrived, the factory owner locked Chai in another building and later deserted him near a local police booth. Chai knew he could have been arrested if he went to the Thai police for help because he came to Thailand illegally. Chai went back to the neighbour who used to help him, and the neighbour reported the whole story to the police and rescue team.

Now Chai is under the protection of Thai government shelter, and he will be soon helped to go back home in Lao. FFW provided legal support to Chai and also help in monitoring the court case, especially to reclaim the unpaid wages and compensation for Chai. The factory owner was arrested and he will go on trial in the near future.

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