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19 Dec 2021

Eugene Whong, Radio Free Asia

Debt-trapped Lao ‘chat girls’ forced to sell sex in China-run economic zone

19 December 2021

When a young woman from the Lao capital Vientiane took on a job as a "chat girl” at the Kings Romans Casino in far northern Laos, she saw a chance to earn an honest living selling shares in her new company to casino patrons.

But only months after she was recruited and had already agreed to take on debt to finance her application fees and moving expenses, she was told she would have to start selling sex when she couldn’t meet impossibly high sales quotas.


In 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department declared Zhao Wei’s business network, centered on Kings Romans Casino, a “transnational criminal organization” and sanctioned Zhao and three other individuals and companies across Laos, Thailand and Hong Kong.

Zhao’s business “exploits this region by engaging in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, bribery, and wildlife trafficking, much of which is facilitated through the Kings Romans Casino located within the GT SEZ,” said a Treasury


The Golden Triangle casino did not respond to efforts by RFA’s Lao Service to seek comment on the chat girl program and trafficking accusations.


Sales quotas are too high for the majority of women to meet. Their debts then can be held over their heads, and they can be forced to sell their bodies.


“Some companies won’t even let the women eat if they don’t meet their quota, because they bought them at such a high price. To get the money back, the company sells the workers to other companies or forces them to sell sex,” the second recruiter said.