For several years, aid programs in the Mekong region have taken an increasing interest in cross-border mobility and human trafﬁcking and its relationship with development. More recently, there has been an increasing interest in the identiﬁcation of trafﬁcked victims and the investigation, arrest and prosecution of trafﬁckers. Whereas anti-trafﬁcking programs ubiquitously deﬁne themselves as being in a battle with trafﬁckers, this article argues that although they are not homologous social actors, both engage in acts of bad faith. The article elaborates this argument by drawing attention to the recruitment process within the Lao sex industry as well as to the way in which aid programs attempt to identify trafﬁcked victims. It concludes that imaginary aspects of development underpin a simultaneous disjuncture yet enable the social reproduction of the life worlds of ‘trafﬁckers’ and ‘anti-trafﬁckers’ alike.