Lao PDR is a fast growing country in Southeast Asia. It is a landlocked country bordering Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Thailand, and Vietnam. About 6.8 million people live in its 18 provinces, with most people, 63%, still living in rural areas. Poverty is particularly concentrated in these areas. While agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, farming is largely practised at the subsistence level, and productive conditions for farmers are generally poor.
Child trafficking and migration in Lao PDR
Lao PDR is a source, and to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for women, children, and men who are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Victims of trafficking often are migrants seeking work outside the country, sometimes with the assistance of brokers who charge high fees, who encounter conditions of labour or sexual exploitation after arriving in destination countries, most often Thailand. Many victims, particularly women and girls, are exploited in Thailand’s commercial sex trade and in forced labour in domestic service, factories, or agricultural industries. Lao men and boys are victims of forced labour in Thailand in the fishing, construction, and agricultural industries such as duck farms. A small number of women and girls from Laos are sold as brides in China and South Korea and subsequently subjected to sex trafficking.
Lao PDR lacks dedicated structures for dealing with the issue of human trafficking, and does not have comprehensive legislation against trafficking in persons or to deal with children on the move issues. Therefore, Terre des Hommes programme works in close cooperation with the government to improve laws and policies and strengthen the capacity of for example immigration officers and border police. With this programme we are working in Champasak and Sovannket Province, the southern provinces of Lao PDR.
Child Labour in Lao PDR
In 2010, a national survey estimated 178.014 children in Lao PDR were engaged in child labour. Most of them come from rural areas, and 2 out of 3 were engaged in hazardous child labour. This means they are working in dangerous or unhealthy conditions that could result in them being killed, injured or made ill as a consequence of poor safety and health standards and working arrangements. Some injuries or ill health may result in permanent disability.
Terre des Hommes’ one year programme, with possible extension to three years, supports children to claim their rights by awareness raising and networking and to prevent child labour exploitation by improving livelihood opportunities. We do this by providing vocational training to families, capacity development to villages, and at a national level through improved anti-child labour and child protection legislation combined with reintegration of child labour victims. Our actors for change consist of children, families and communities, staff from local authorities and law enforcement agencies. Together, they are working to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and provide a brighter future for the children in one of the country’s most remote and poorest provinces.