Posted on: December 21, 2021, 06:45h.
Last updated on: December 21, 2021, 11:10h.
Young women who apply for call-center jobs selling shares for a notorious casino in Laos’ semi-lawless Golden Triangle are being trafficked into prostitution, according to Radio Free Asia.
The US-funded non-profit news service spoke to a Lao woman who escaped her situation. She told of “hundreds” of women who were being duped into selling sex at the Kings Roman Casino.
In 2018, the US Treasury Department described the casino and the company that owns it, the Dok Ngiew Kham Group, as a “transnational criminal organization.”According to the Treasury, the group engages in “horrendous illicit activities, including human trafficking and child prostitution, drug trafficking, and wildlife trafficking,” most of which is run through the casino.
Chinese owner Zhao Wei has been sanctioned by the US government. He is said to run the Golden Triangle SEZ like his own personal fiefdom.
He has turned the zone into “a lawless playground, catering to the desires of visiting Chinese gamblers and tourists,” in the words of the Environmental Investigation Agency, a UK NGO.
Tricked, Trafficked, Traded
The young woman who recently escaped the casino told RFA she preferred to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. She was lured to the Golden Triangle from the Lao capital Vientiane by the promise of a job as a “chat girl,” selling shares in the casino to wealthy patrons.
She said as part of the deal, she agreed to take on debt to finance her application and moving expenses. When she failed to meet impossibly high sales targets, she was told she would have to prostitute herself to pay off the debt.
The call center women were required to find 100 people to buy shares, but most could only manage two sales per month.
However, the woman managed to contact authorities and was rescued before she had to sell herself. But most aren’t so lucky, she said. She estimates “hundreds” like her are being trafficked at the Kings Romans Casino and other Golden Triangle businesses. That’s because Laos has such high unemployment rates.
Another woman who previously worked in the SEZ told RFA that not all women are selected for prostitution.
“If you are traded, a pimp will first look at you,” she said. “If you’re beautiful and have light skin and are tall, they’ll send you to provide sexual services. If you’re not, you’ll be traded to do other jobs like waiting tables and cleaning to pay your debt.”
The SEZ was established in 2007 by the notoriously corrupt, nominally Communist Lao government with the help of Zhao’s investment. The latter is believed to own 80 percent of the SEZ to the government’s 20 percent.
The Golden Triangle refers to the area where Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand meet, at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. The term was coined by the CIA, a nod to its status in the late 20th century as the world’s biggest heroin-producing region.
These days, thanks to the alleged efforts of triad supergroup Sam Gor, it has largely pivoted towards the production of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs.