Authorities in Laos have sentenced a woman to 15 years in prison for trafficking four Lao girls to China in 2018, RFA has learned.
Identified as Mrs. Duangchanh, the woman met the girls in Luang Namtha city, Luang Namtha province in January 2018. She told them they would find better paying jobs in China, but then sold each of the girls once they traveled with her to China.
"Mrs. Duangchanh is guilty of human trafficking, and was sentenced in July of this year to 15 years in jail, fined $11,000 and ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution to the families," a clerk at the Luang Namtha Provincial People's Court told RFA's Lao Service Tuesday.
The clerk also said that $4,000 that Duangchanh made from trafficking was confiscated.
An official from Luang Namtha province's anti-human trafficking unit told RFA the unit received help from Chinese counterparts.
"We cooperated with Chinese authorities to arrest her," said the official.
"She has a Chinese husband and she speaks both Lao and Chinese. She lied to the girls, took them to China, and sold them to Chinese men."
According to the official, the girls are members of an ethnic minority from Luang Namtha and Oudomxay provinces.
The official said that in January of last year, the four girls went to Luang Namtha city to look for work. One of the four was working as a dishwasher in a restaurant. The four were barely getting by and were unable to send money to their families.
It was then that they met Duangchanh, who promised them better jobs in China, luring them to travel there with her. But once they arrived in China, they were sold off to be wives to Chinese men.
Chinese police rescued the four girls in September of last year, sending them to Lao authorities in Luang Namtha.
A police officer from Oudomxay province's Beng district, where two of the girls live, told RFA how the Chinese police were able to rescue the four victims.
"One of the girls, who was kept most of the time in one room in her husband's home, took pictures of the house, the street, the name of the city, and the province. She sent them to a relative in Thailand who informed the Chinese police," the officer said.
The officials declined to provide details about where in China the girls were taken and sold.
The U.S. State Department placed Laos on the Tier 2 Watch List in its 2019 "Trafficking in Persons Report" for not fully meeting minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, though the report noted the country was making significant efforts to do so.
Laos was upgraded from its Tier 3 ranking last year for providing restitution to some trafficking victims through the criminal justice process, directly providing services to trafficking victims, issuing a decree to form anti-trafficking steering committees at the provincial and local levels, and conducting increased training and awareness-raising at the local level to help implement the decree, the report said.
The annual report ranks countries around the world as Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, or Tier 3, in descending order based on whether they meet the minimum standards to combat trafficking set by U.S. law.
Reported and translated by RFA's Lao Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.
Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036