The women, who had re- turned to Laos after a rescue operation conducted by AAT and its partners in 2008, had since participated in AAT’s empowerment program and belong to one of the women’s groups supported by AAT in Laos. The women’s groups were formed in order to partici- pate to develop economically their communities as well as to undertake prevention pro- grams to protect other women and children from risks of trafficking.
Discussing with other members of the community, they managed to find out that the group of their former traffickers were still trafficking new Laotian girls to Thailand. “I didn’t understand how she could still be free, even though we had already been rescued and we all knew who she was”, one of the women told AAT staff.
After identifying the lead trafficker, a Lao woman, at a market in Vientiane, the women jointly contacted AAT staff in order to file a lawsuit against the traffickers. AAT hired a Laotian lawyer to lead the case. The process led to the arrest of the lead trafficker, although her Thai accomplice was able to escape.
In the later course of the investigation, two other local traffickers were arrested.
After the Thai brothel where the girls were trafficked was raided in 2008, no arrests were made and the criminal activity was allowed to continue. The traffickers continued their activities in the same village the girls returned to after the rescue operation. The brothel re-opened and received new trafficked girls, until a new raid by another NGO network shut it down again.
On October 2nd, a Lao court sentenced the lead trafficker to 17 years in prison, while the two local traffickers were given sentences of 15 years each. The victims received monetary compensation amounting to a total of 10 Million Lao Kip (approximately 1300 USD).
“This is one of many cases that showcase the courage of the women we work with”, says Pennapa Wutthimanop, Coordinator of the Empowerment Program at AAT Regional Thailand. “Only the actions of the women’s group were able to completely shut down the trafficking circle, which proves that trafficking can only be fought efficiently by involving local communities and empowering women.”
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