Police and military personnel rounded up and detained 53 Laotians–50 women and three girls who were allegedly employed as sex workers–during raids on karaoke bars in southern Thailand’s Narathiwat province, authorities said Friday.
The Thursday night raids by a multi-agency task force targeted karaoke establishments on Ra-ngaemankha road in Muang Narathiwat, a main city in the province located in Thailand’s Deep South, officials said.
“Officers surrounded the area, and disguised themselves as customers to buy their service at the target karaoke bars ... We raided all karaoke bars in the whole area,” Pol. Lt. Tohsak Sawasdimongkol, director of the anti-human trafficking unit at the Thai police’s Department of Special Investigations (DSI), told reporters in Narathiwat town.
Authorities could not find and arrest the bar owners during the raids, but they were investigating to determine whether the 50 women and three minors from Laos were victims of human trafficking or were sex workers. Some of the detainees may be prosecuted for prostitution, officials said.
The heavily militarized Deep South, which sits along the border with Malaysia, has been wracked by a decades-long Malay Muslim separatist insurgency and is notorious for criminal activity, including human trafficking and drug smuggling.
Three of the 53 females who were detained were minors with falsified ages on their IDs, officials said.
“The 53 are from Laos. All three girls came from Vientiane in Laos,” Tohsak said.
A worker with a local foundation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the group had received a tip from someone in Laos that girls under 18 years old had been lured from the neighboring country into the sex trade in the region.
“We know the target area where the victims were being lured into prostitution from a volunteer in Laos, and coordinated with the police in the human trafficking unit of [DSI]. We inspected [the area] and the evidence was clear, before the authorities went into this area,” the source with the foundation told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
RFA’s Lao Service learned from an NGO that protects women from trafficking that the Thai police raid was prompted by a tip from a volunteer in Laos, who told them that three Lao girls had been lured to at an entertainment venue in southern Thailand to provide sexual services.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, and by RFA’s Lao Service.