A group of 16 young Laotians trafficked to work as scammers at a Chinese-run casino on Myanmar’s eastern border with Thailand are being punished more severely, struck with rods and forced to stand in the sun for hours, according to several parents.
“My son keeps telling me that now they can’t find any more customers,” the mother said. “It’s not like before. They can’t make any more money.”
They are forced by their captors to call people up and trick them into buying fake investments. If they don’t reach quota goals, they are tortured, the parents say.
The young people – 13 males and three females between the ages of 14 and 23 – were trafficked almost two years ago to a place they called the “Casino Kosai,” in an isolated development near the city of Myawaddy.
One of the youths told RFA that they feel trapped and are being tortured.
“We’re calling again on the Lao authorities and other relevant parties to rescue us as soon as possible,” he said.
In April, RFA reported that the group of teenagers from Luang Namtha province in northern Laos had been trafficked to Casino Kosai.
Last month, 16 of them were rescued and returned home to Laos. But 16 others remain trapped.
According to a geolocation pin sent to RFA by several parents of the Lao teens, Casino Kosai appears to be a warehouse some 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of Myawaddy, across the border from a Thai town. Other victims from other parts of Asia are still believed to be trapped at the site.
‘It’s taken too long’
The mother of one of the young Laotians who spoke to RFA this week said her son and his friends are begging their parents to keep calling Lao, Myanmar and Chinese authorities for help getting them out.
“Our children are dying in Myanmar. We’ve filed a lot of paperwork and sent it to many different places,” another mother told RFA. “It’s taken too long and gone through too many steps.”
Parents have contacted the Lao Embassy in Myanmar, traveled to the Thai Embassy in Laos and recently wrote to all relevant authorities to urge that the beatings be stopped, she said.
“Our sons and daughters have been tortured more severely lately,” the father of another victim said. “If they stay over there too long, they’ll come home as dead people. They’ll be mentally and physically sick.”
Human Rights Watch is planning to urge the United Nations to put more pressure on the Lao government to address human trafficking cases, Phil Robertson, the deputy director of the group’s Asia division, told RFA last week.
“If the Lao government works with its Myanmar counterpart, the kids might be released because the Lao and Myanmar governments have good relations with each other,” he said.
RFA’s attempts to reach the Lao Embassy in Myanmar and the Anti-Human Trafficking Department at Lao Ministry of Public Security were unsuccessful.
Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.