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8 Lao women arrested in Thailand for prostitution

Authorities in Thailand have arrested eight Lao women, seven of whom entered the country illegally to work as prostitutes, and one who worked as their madam, Radio Free Asia has learned.

According to the Anti-Trafficking in Person Unit of the Thai Department of Special Investigation, the seven women were aged 21 to 36, and they were arrested at a karaoke bar in Bang Pakong district in the southern province of  Chachoengsao. The eighth woman is the wife of the bar’s owner. 

A police officer in Bang Pakong district confirmed Monday that the seven women, who were arrested on April 4, are still in custody and are awaiting trial and will be deported to Laos later.

The sex trade is technically illegal in Thailand, but laws against it are rarely enforced. Authorities do, however, more strictly enforce immigration laws.

“Usually, people from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar are allowed to work in Thailand in only certain types of work like construction, but not in entertainment venues or karaoke bars,” Col. Pattanapong Sripinproh of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit told RFA Lao. 

“They are not allowed to work as bar girls or drink girls,” he said. “If they do, they’ll be arrested.”

Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau raid a karaoke shop April 4, 2024 in Bang Pakong district, Thailand. (Manager Online)

Sripinproh explained that police were able to catch the eight women by going undercover and posing as johns.

“One of our police officers disguised as a customer at the karaoke bar and agreed to pay 2,000 baht ($54) for sex with one of the women,” he said, explaining that the bar owner and a hotel get their cut of the money and the woman would get about 1,300 baht ($36).

Following this lead, the police officers inspected the bar and found that seven women were working illegally.

“Based on the law on foreign workers …  the violators will be fined up to 10,000 baht (US$272) and/or jailed for two months,” he said, but acknowledged that in most cases there is no fine or jail time. Instead the women are usually deported and blacklisted for two years.

He also said that if the husband and wife were found guilty of human trafficking they could face up to 20 years in prison.

“But in these cases we found out that those seven women are older than 20 and none of them were forced to prostitution,” said Sripinproh. “So, the husband and wife won’t be charged with human trafficking. But they will be charged with doing illegal business by providing sexual services.”

RFA reported in March that four Lao women were arrested in Ban Bueng district in nearby Chonburi province for entering the country illegally and working as prostitutes. They told Thai police that they entered Thailand as tourists, rented rooms in a hotel and then sold sex.

Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Eugene Whong.