Lao and Chinese border guards have conducted a joint patrol of the Lao-Chinese border in northern Phongsaly province this month, residents and the state-owned Laophattana Daily News said.
The border crossing, which runs between Yot Ou district in Laos and Mengkang port in China, is a common route for human trafficking and illicit trade.
While local police in Yot Ou district did not respond to a request for comment, villagers told RFA that the joint patrols will help block illegal trade and travel across the border.
“Yes, I’ve noticed the border guards conducting patrols,” one villager told RFA on Dec. 15.
“I watch people enter and exit [Laos] illegally, and I’m afraid it could be human trafficking. I’ve heard that there are Chinese guys who smuggle Lao women into China under the guise of marriage and then sell them.”
Another villager explained that the border patrols will help prevent illegal cross-border trading.
“The police at the border check to see if people are trading without proper documents,” she said. “These days, there are many Chinese investors who come to Laos via [this] border to illegally invest in the seasonal agricultural sector in Phongsaly province.”
When the conditions are right, she explained, investors set up soybean and pumpkin farms without the required legal documentation and then send their untaxed profits back to China.
Lao and Chinese officials have also worked with authorities in Thailand and Myanmar to monitor illegal activities along the Mekong.
On Nov. 21, military leaders from the four countries directed joint patrols to “solve problems caused by water accidents and ensure safe navigation along the Mekong River,” the Laophattana Daily News reported.
The Lao-Chinese joint forces will continue to regularly conduct border patrols at least once a week, according to a joint forces memo released to state media outlets.
“The joint patrol of border guards is a warning to any lawbreaker that he or she will face harsh punishment,” the memo read.
Translated by Phouvong. Edited by Claire McCrea and Malcolm Foster.