Hotel official apologizes for ring-toss game with Lao women

The activity involving Chinese patrons sparked a public outcry, with people saying it degraded Lao women.
By RFA Lao
2024.02.26
Hotel official apologizes for ring-toss game with Lao women At left, a large plastic ring hits a Lao waitress after it was tossed by a Chinese man playing a game to win bottles of wine and beer at a hotel in Vientiane, February 2024. At right, the man laughs as he prepares to throw the ring.
Joseph Akaravong via Facebook

A hotel official apologized for a ring-toss game captured on video in which Chinese guests tossed hoops around Lao female hotel employees, sparking public outrage.

The short video of the Feb. 14 Lunar New Year activity  at the Chinese-owned Vientiane Mekong Hotel went viral after it was posted on Facebook, prompting thousands of angry comments saying the women were treated as animals or toys.

On Feb. 22, the hotel’s deputy manager, identified only as A. Li, apologized in writing in Vientiane Mai, a state-controlled newspaper.

“I, the deputy manager of the hotel, am issuing this statement taking responsibility for the degrading offense and would like to apologize to the Lao people and promise that our hotel will comply with all the rules and laws of the Lao P.D.R.,” he wrote.

The deputy manager went on to say that the hotel would not allow such games to be played again and that it would not do anything that would insult Lao culture. 

“If the hotel [engages in] any activity degrading Lao culture again, the hotel management will be ready to be punished, such as the hotel being permanently shut down,” the apology read. “Once again, the hotel is begging for your forgiveness.”

The video obtained by Radio Free Asia shows a dozen young Lao women in short uniforms standing on steps outside the hotel as a group of Chinese men take turns tossing hoops at them, hoping to ring their bodies for the prizes they held — cans and bottles of beer, wine or spirits. 

The video was posted on the Facebook page of Joseph Akaravong, whose online profile says he is from Luang Prabang, Laos, but lives in Paris. 

A former hotel employee, who like other sources in this report requested anonymity to speak freely about the incident without retribution, told Radio Free Asia on Monday that the hotel initially believed the game would attract more customers. 

“The hotel conducted this activity only once and for entertaining customers during the Chinese New Year only,” the former worker said.

But a tourism expert said Lao authorities should take strict measures against the wrongdoers. 

“I’ve seen the apology, but the hotel hasn’t done anything to compensate the victims,” the person said. “This kind of act disparaged women, made our hotels in Laos look bad, degraded the female employees and violated Lao culture.”

An operator of another hotel in Vientiane said all hotels, especially Chinese-owned ones, should learn from the incident. 

“Although the hotel thought that this was just for fun, it was actually a severe violation of our culture,” the person said. “To prevent this incident from happening again, the authorities should take strict measures against the person [responsible].”

Though the activity may have offended Lao culture, those responsible for it did not break any laws, said a Lao lawyer.

“If one of the employees complains to the police, then the police should legally take action,” the lawyer said. “This is just an act of throwing hoops on the women, not an act of abusing them. Yes, abusing women is against the law.”

Translated by Max Avary for RFA Lao. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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