Using the Lao PDR as a case study, this paper analyses human trafficking as discourse. Human trafficking is identified as a global discourse that is globalized through a set of powerful relations and actors. Following Appadurai, it is argued that this global discourse is not passively received by local actors such as the Lao state. This demonstrated by unravelling the global–local interactions through which it has entered the Lao social landscape. This is complemented with an analysis of a series of events in which the human trafficking discourse is staged on Lao soil. On this basis, the paper argues that the global human trafficking discourse is actively indigenized through, amongst other things, the social practice of staging. In addition, the paper argues that this indigenized discourse is employed by actors in more localized power struggles; in this case, by the Lao state as a response to boundary crises triggered by the phenomenon of cross-border migration into Thailand as an important manifestation of the overarching process of transition.