News/THAILAND: POVERTY-STRICKEN LAOS GIRLS FALL PREY TO SMUGGLERS OF HUMANS.

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Subject: News/THAILAND: POVERTY-STRICKEN LAOS GIRLS FALL PREY TO SMUGGLERS OF HUMANS.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon May 01 2000 - 13:50:24 EDT


3-22-00 THAILAND: POVERTY-STRICKEN LAOS GIRLS FALL PREY TO SMUGGLERS OF
HUMANS.
By ANAN PAENGNOY.
DUEN, Khamhom and five of their friends left their village in Laos in 1998
on the promise that they would be paid Bt2,000 a month for working in
Thailand. But they ended up working for more than two years without
receiving any pay at all.
The seven Laotian girls, ranging in age from 13 to 15, are among thousands
of girls lured by false promises and smuggled across the border only to
find themselves enslaved in Thailand, mainly in Bangkok.
Several gangs, whose members include both Thais and Laotians, operate along
the Thai-Laos border, preying on poverty-stricken children, mostly teenage
girls in Laos.
One such gang is led by a Thai woman, nicknamed Jeh Daeng, who admitted to
The Nation that she had sent Duen, 13, and Khamhom, 15, (not their real
names) and five friends to work in Bangkok.
The problem has become so serious that the government recently decided to
implement the National Project Committee on Trafficking in Women and
Children in the Mekong Sub-region.
Duen, Khamhom and friends crossed the border to the Khemraj district of
Ubon Ratchathani where they were met by Jeh Daeng's gang. They were
promised work as housemaids for Bt2,000 a month. Duen and Khamhom were sent
to work at a house in the Sukhumvit area.
Duen said she and Khamhom were denied breakfast and were ordered to do all
the house chores for many hours a day without receiving any pay. She and
Khamhom were sometimes beaten by the owners of the house they worked in.
Duen said that all she received during her two-year ordeal was Bt50.
Khamhom said many women and teenage girls, aged from 13 to 30, in her
village had been lured to work as housemaids in Thailand by the promise of
good pay, but had ended up being cheated.
The two girls fled from the house the house they were working in on March
12 and wandered around Bangkok until they were rescued by the Public
Welfare Department. They are now awaiting repatriation under the
UN-supported Mekong sub-region project.
Thailand, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and China have joined the project.
On March 6, Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai set up a national committee,
headed by Deputy Prime Minister Korn Dabaransi, to implement it.
As of March 10, the Public Welfare Department has been taking care of 18
people waiting to be sent home under the UN project. They include a Burmese
woman, two Vietnam boys, two Cambodian boys, 11 Cambodian girls and the two
Laotian girls.
"I miss my family a lot. I want to go home and I will never return here," a
weeping Duen said.
Jeh Daeng said it had become a lucrative business to smuggle Laotian girls
into Thailand.
She said many job-placement offices offered to recruit the girls for a fee
of Bt15,000 to Bt16,000 a head.
But she denied that those who hired the girls did not give them decent pay.
"We simply set rules that the girls' family can take the girls' pay after
their daughters work for six months. They receive the six-month salary as a
lump sum. And they are allowed to contact their girls after a year," she.
"The hirers do not pay the girls directly but pay their families through
us. The hirers can only pay Bt1,500 a month to each girl."
Daeng said she had to pay Laotian middlemen Bt5,000 for each girl provided.
Daeng said she charged Bt10,000 per head to provide a girl, excluding
travelling expenses.
She said the employers did not have to take any responsibility if the
smuggled girls were arrested on their way to Bangkok or other provinces.
Mostly they managed to get through because they were young and were not
required to carry identification cards.
Deputy Labour Minister Anusorn Wongwan said that the trafficking in women
and children had become an international problem.
He said the Public Welfare Department had been assigned to work closely
with the UN and other organisations to fight such trafficking.
Srisak Thai-aree, a worker for a non-governmental organisation providing
help for children, said the government had to care about and ensure that
the children who were smuggled into the country were sent home safe and
sound.
(c) 2000 Nation Multimedia Group Public Co., Ltd.
THE NATION (BANGKOK) 22/03/2000


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