Cablegate: Mekong Delta Provinces Struggle to Combat Tip

DE RUEHHM #0191/01 0600949
P 010949Z MAR 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. HCMC 90 B) 06 HCMC 521 C) 06 HCMC 437 D) 06 HANOI

B. 507

HO CHI MIN 00000191 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Officials in the Mekong Delta told us they were
conducting three investigations of trafficking-in-persons
(TIP) involving at least 35 women trafficked to Malaysia,
Cambodia and, possibly, South Korea for sex exploitation
and forced marriages. Six suspects had been arrested and
an Interpol arrest warrant issued for the ringleader of the
group smuggling women to Malaysia. Provincial officials
also detailed a range of assistance programs -- some in
cooperation with U.S. and other international NGOs -- to
prevent at-risk girls from falling prey to traffickers and
to help victims seeking to reintegrate back into their
communities. However, critics say that police are not
proactive and are overly reliant on victims stepping
forward in their TIP investigations. Controls along the
Cambodian border are also weak. Provincial officials
acknowledge that their programs for returnees have only
assisted a very small number of victims; many more appear
to return to Vietnam from Cambodia through unofficial
channels and do not access GVN assistance programs. A
U.S.-NGO representative operating in the Mekong complained
that the GVN and the GOC are not doing enough to ensure the
rapid repatriation of Vietnamese victims in shelters in
Cambodia. Some of these women allegedly return to
prostitution in Cambodia. End Summary.

2. (SBU) During a visit to the provinces of Hau Giang, Can
Tho and An Giang February 1 - 3, PolOff met with provincial
and police officials, Women's Union representatives,
journalists and NGO activists to discuss TIP issues in the
Mekong Delta. Hau Giang and Can Tho authorities confirmed
ref A reporting that in January they had disrupted a
criminal ring responsible for trafficking 30 women from the
region to Malaysia. Hau Giang police told us that they
launched the investigation in July 2006 when six
trafficking victims escaped captivity in Malaysia and
returned on their own to Vietnam. Some came forward to
report the trafficking ring to local authorities. Four
individuals from Hau Giang, Can Tho, An Giang, and Lam Dong
provinces are in detention awaiting trial (NFI). The
alleged ring leader, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Nga is a Vietnamese
national married to a Malaysian. Her whereabouts are
unknown. Hau Giang and Can Tho police are working with
Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant for Nga.
According to our police contacts, they are seeking to
identify and repatriate the remaining 24 women trafficked
to Malaysia. Police said that of the 30 trafficked-women
six were from Hau Giang, nine from Can Tho, seven from Vinh
Long, four from An Giang, two from Kien Giang and one each
from Soc Trang and Dong Thap provinces.

3. (SBU) Hau Giang authorities also said that they are
investigating a second trafficking case involving two Hau
Giang men who have been charged with trafficking four women
to Cambodia as sex workers. The victims managed to escape,
return to Vietnam, and file complaints against the
traffickers. Additionally, Can Tho police officials told
us that they opened separate investigations of allegations
of a woman trafficked to Singapore and another involving
possible sham marriages between local women and South
Korean men. Can Tho police would not provide any further
details. (Per ref B, the Singapore case may involve a
woman who married a Singaporean man who then attempted to
sell her to another family after getting her to Singapore.)
In a separate phone conversation, the HCMC Ministry of
Public Security (MPS) official who oversees TIP
investigations for southern Vietnam told us that the South
Korean marriage case revolves around suspicions of fake
marriages between women from the Mekong Delta and South
Korean men that may be masking TIP activities. In a joint
investigation, Can Tho and Lam Dong provincial police
reportedly broke up a ring operating out of Dalat, in Lam
Dong province, which was brokering suspect marriages. No
South Korean men were arrested because it is not illegal in
Vietnam to marry a foreigner. The individuals who
allegedly arranged these marriages have not been identified
and located, according to our MPS contact. Officials from
the border province of An Giang told us that they have no
on-going anti-TIP investigations. (The GVN considers An
Giang a trafficking "hot spot" because of rural poverty and
its proximity to the Cambodian border.)

More Than An Ounce of Prevention Needed?

4. (SBU) Officials in the three Mekong Delta provinces

HO CHI MIN 00000191 002.2 OF 003

stressed that prevention is a major component of their
anti-TIP strategy. They maintained that they conduct anti-
TIP information campaigns in schools and other grassroots
outlets. Provincial Women's Unions and Department of
Labor, Invalid, and Social Affairs (DOLISA) offer at-risk
girls and women vocational training and financial
assistance, such as micro-loans. In 2006, the Hau Giang
DOLISA identified 11 at-risk women who were contemplating
leaving the province with no set plans. DOLISA provided
them with small micro-loans. As a result, they remain in
the province and run their own home-based businesses. Hau
Giang is working with the International Labor Organization
(ILO) on a USD 50,000 project to provide preventative
public information, vocational training, and financial
assistance to at-risk girls in four communes in the
province. Provincial officials said that they also provide
reintegration assistance in the form of medical care,
including treatment for diseases, psychological counseling,
vocational training, financial assistance, and follow-up
care for any trafficked women who voluntarily return to
Vietnam or who are repatriated.

5. (SBU) An Giang officials praised the work of the NGO-
run An Giang and Dong Thap Alliance for the Prevention of
Trafficking (ADAPT) program. ADAPT, which is partly-funded
by USAID and run by U.S.-based NGOs, has focused on TIP
prevention by assisting at-risk women and their families.
ADAPT has provided scholarships to 300 at-risk girls
between the ages of approximately 10 and 14 to attend
public school or receive vocational training. Two
beneficiaries we spoke with told us that their families
earned about USD 1.5 a day from rice farming and other
menial labor. Each girl was the only child in the family
attending school. Both girls said they would have had to
drop out of school were it not for the ADAPT scholarship

6. (SBU) However, two leading Mekong Delta-based
journalists told us that the current level of government
and NGO efforts were insufficient to stem the TIP problem
in the Mekong. They asserted that "large numbers" of
victims continue to be trafficked despite government claims
that they have instituted effective prevention measures. A
porous border with Cambodia is one unresolved TIP problem.
They noted that the few official border crossings are
understaffed and the Vietnam border guards are over-worked
and vulnerable to bribes. Local government inability to
improve the economic conditions for vulnerable women and
their families was another concern. One journalist
observed that very few Vietnamese women return from
Cambodia, even if they escape the sex trade there, because
they can earn more in Cambodia working legitimately -- as
much as USD 5 per day -- than they can back home. The
journalists praised the TIP prevention programs offered by
international NGOs, such as ADAPT, but cautioned that there
are currently not enough such programs to assist the GVN.

7. (SBU) Separately, Vuong Ngoc Diep (protect), overall
coordinator for the ADAPT program, criticized the GVN's
mechanism for properly identifying and repatriating
returnees trafficked to Cambodia. During a recent visit to
Cambodia, she visited a number of shelters for trafficked
women that were "full of Vietnamese waiting to return."
Because they lack space and resources, including native-
Vietnamese speakers, over-18 women frequently return to the
street. (Vuong noted that underage girls are required by
Cambodian law to remain in shelters). According to Vuong,
women who seek official repatriation to Vietnam must endure
a cumbersome bureaucratic process that can take up to
several years to complete, in part because they lack
identification documents. Vuong said that virtually all
trafficking victims make their own way back to Vietnam or
fall back into prostitution in Cambodia. Those who do
return independently generally are unaccounted for and are
unaware of government-reintegration services in their home

Where Are The Returnees?

8. (SBU) Although GVN statistics indicate that up to
50,000 women (ref D) from the Mekong Delta may have been
trafficked over the past decade , local official in the
three provinces we visited acknowledged that very few step
forward to seek help. Many of those who do come forward
eventually leave their home provinces due to stigma at the
village level. GVN officials state that most go to HCMC.
Hau Giang records eight official returns since 1998. In
Can Tho in 2006, five additional women registered for
reintegration assistance, bringing the total number of

HO CHI MIN 00000191 003 OF 003

returnees identified by Can Tho Police to 42 since 1997. A
representative of the An Giang province Women's Union told
us that in 2006 the province reported only five official
returnees who were trafficked to Cambodia; one woman is
receiving psychological treatment, and the other four women
are receiving vocational training and financial assistance.
The Women's Union representative noted that they have
recorded 69 returnees since 2003.


9. (SBU) Our visit indicates that the GVN has made some
additional progress in combating TIP in the Mekong Delta.
Provincial police are pursuing TIP cases more aggressively.
Similarly, provincial authorities in the three provinces we
visited were able to outline in much greater detail a range
of anti-TIP programs that they have put in place in
accordance with the GVN's anti-TIP National Program of
Action. Local government coordination and cooperation with
NGO groups on TIP issues also appears strong.

10. (SBU) That said, much more work remains. Although the
provinces have more of a framework in place for combating
TIP than they had in the past, proper implementation
remains a question. Police still appear to key on victims'
testimony before they launch investigations against
traffickers. Although provincial governments have support
systems in place for victims, they apparently are reaching
only a handful of victims that may have returned from
Cambodia. NGO grassroots programs appear effective but are
very limited in scope. We defer to Embassy Phnom Penh to
evaluate claims that significant numbers of Vietnamese
trafficking victims are stuck in Cambodia awaiting
repatriation. Moreover, the absence of comprehensive data
on the number of trafficking victims or a large,
identifiable flow of returnees to Vietnam suggests that
much more work needs to be done to assess accurately the
overall magnitude of the trafficking problem in the Mekong
Delta. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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