Cablegate: Seventh Annual Tip Report for Laos

DE RUEHVN #0185/01 0641115
R 051115Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 06 STATE 202745

1. (SBU) Summary: Laos is overwhelmingly a sending country
for trafficking, although on a small scale it is also a
receiving country. The vast majority of Lao who seek work
abroad, including those who are victims of trafficking, go to
Thailand, where cultural and linguistic similarities and an
abundance of work opportunities ensure Lao can find ready
employment. Laos' trafficking problem is largely a matter of
economics: Laos is among the poorest countries in Asia, and
its poverty and abundance of unemployed or underemployed
youth provide a steady stream of laborers to Thailand.

2. (SBU) In the past, the Government of Laos (GoL) paid
attention to trafficking to the extent it believed it could
gain political capital from the issue. However, the
government has begun to take the issue more seriously. While
the GoL still portrays Laos as an innocent country whose
citizens are being preyed upon by nefarious foreign
traffickers, especially those from Thailand, it has begun to
accept the fact that many of those complicit in trafficking
are Lao. The GoL readily professes its desire to control
trafficking because Laos is a victim country. However, the
government remains less willing to engage the issue of
internal trafficking or collusion of Lao officials. The GoL
denies any official complicity in trafficking. No officials
have been punished for involvement in trafficking, although
local level authorities are almost certainly involved in
efforts to smuggle Lao workers to Thailand and/or to other
parts of Laos.

3. (SBU) Lao police are by-and-large unskilled in
investigations and unknowledgeable about trafficking crimes.
Corruption within Laos' police and court system has made it
relatively easy for traffickers to avoid prosecution. The
GoL has, however, increased its efforts to arrest and
prosecute traffickers. The government reported having
carried out 27 TIP investigations between April 2006 and
February 2007 resulting in 12 prosecutions. Moreover, the
government has increased its awareness-raising activities
through the use of print, radio, and television media.
During 2006, the Lao Women's Union (LWU) - one of the most
effective mass organizations in Laos - also made significant
efforts to disseminate the 2004 Law on Women and provided
training to officials in several provinces.

4. (SBU) Recent studies indicate that the number of Lao
migrating to Thailand in search of work has increased. Many
of these migrants make their own way to Thailand but others
sometimes fall prey to traffickers as they seek assistance
from middlemen either to obtain necessary documents for
crossing the border or to arrange onward employment. Many,
if not most, of these migrants go to Thailand knowing the
risks but attracted by wages that are far higher than at
home. Based on studies of Lao seeking employment in
Thailand, most who make the trip are not the poorest, who
lack the means to go, but are relatively well-off farmers or
their children who live close to the Mekong and have a
familiarity with Thailand. Lao workers in Thailand
undoubtedly face many difficulties, as many returnees relate,
but many find the rewards worth the risks and remain in
Thailand for years. Many of those repatriated to Laos
eventually return to Thailand to seek employment. End

5. (SBU) Hereafter paragraphs are keyed to the paragraphs and
questions in reftel, with the paragraph numbers from reftel
given in roman numerals. The entire text of the 2007 TIP
report for Laos is sensitive but unclassified (SBU).

XXVII. Overview of Country's Activities to Eliminate
Trafficking in Persons

A and B. Laos is primarily a source country for trafficking,
with the vast majority of those trafficked going to Thailand.
Some surveys have indicated that perhaps as many as 8,500

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persons from each of the nine provinces along the Mekong
River move to Thailand in search of work each year. A 2003
labor migration survey conducted by the Ministry of Labor and
Social Welfare (MLSW) and the Lao National Statistics Center
found that there were almost 44,000 Lao from Savannakhet
Province alone (out of a total provincial population of
approximately 758,000) working as irregular migrants in
Thailand. The majority of migrant laborers, and by extension
of trafficking victims, originate from central and southern
Lao provinces and Vientiane Municipality. While there are no
exact figures on numbers of Lao in Thailand, the Thai
government has estimated that there are 180,000 Lao in
Thailand at any time, some working seasonally and others
living there more-or-less permanently.

There are no figures on how many of these persons are
actually trafficked, although some NGOs involved with
trafficking believe that perhaps 15-20,000 persons each year
are "trafficked" in some sense: their travel across the
border is brokered, assisted, or controlled in some way, and
someone other than the migrant profits from this. A 2004
International Office for Migration (IOM) study of trafficking
along the Lao-Thai border noted the widespread use of brokers
by trafficking victims, although little research on this
issue has been conducted.

Some Lao who seek work in Thailand fall victim to the worst
forms of trafficking; the majority of these victims are
females, but males are also victims, especially of
exploitative labor. UNICEF believes that there are four
areas where Lao are most likely to fall victim to
exploitative conditions: prostitution, domestic labor and
factory work (both for women), and the southern Thai fishing
industry (for men). Most Lao working illegally in Thailand
do so in Bangkok (especially in factories, domestic labor and
prostitution), with a smaller number working in the northeast
(prostitution and migrant farm labor). NGO surveys indicate
the majority of Lao who seek work in Thailand do so willingly
and in most cases with foreknowledge of the types of work
they will be doing. This is especially true of lowland Lao,
who make up the bulk of those seeking work in Thailand;
lowland Lao are familiar with Thailand, generally already
able to speak its language, and have little difficulty
melding into Thai society.

A small number of ethnic minorities from Laos also seek work
in Thailand. While the UN Interagency Project on People
Trafficking (UNIAP) believes the number of minorities
trafficked to Thailand is small, minorities are far more
vulnerable to exploitation than are lowland Lao because of
their lack of Thai language skills and overall unfamiliarity
with Thai society. Recent evidence indicates that the number
of minority trafficking victims from Laos increased during
the past year. Both lowland Lao and ethnic minorities have
traditionally had little legal recourse in Thailand, as they
are illegal.

The 2002 bilateral MOU between Thailand and Laos on labor has
the potential to improve the situation of illegal immigrants
rescued from abusive situations. However, the MOU has been
only partially implemented to date. The Lao and Thai also
signed an anti-trafficking MOU in mid-2005 that established
the framework for cooperation between the two governments. A
Lao-Thai Joint Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking was
completed in late 2006. IOM has been a key supporter of
Lao-Thai efforts to implement all elements of the MOU.
According to IOM, only about 50 percent of the activities
associated with the MOU have been implemented to date. The
February 27, 2007, signing of an MOU between the GoL and IOM,
however, will allow IOM to have a presence in Laos and to
work more closely with the GoL on implementation.

Laos is almost exclusively a source country. Because of the
country's extreme poverty and poor wages, few traffickers see
Laos as a destination for their victims. One exception
includes a small number of Chinese women who have been

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trafficked into some areas in the far north of the country
for prostitution servicing a Chinese clientele there. In
addition, the number of Vietnamese women and girls working in
the sex service industry in southern Laos appears to have
increased. In at least one southern province, Vietnamese are
estimated to make up more than 50 percent of sex service
workers. Out of concern that an ADB-funded road project in
northern Laos, being built largely with Thai and Chinese
contractors, may fuel an inflow of Chinese and Thai
prostitutes to service work crews, ADB has undertaken an
anti-trafficking project in three northern provinces.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that, while prostitution did
appear to increase along the Thai constructed portion of the
highway, there was little evidence of a similar increase
along the Chinese constructed portion. Chinese work crews
reportedly crossed back into China during the weekends rather
than spending their free time in Laos.

Laos also serves as a transit country in a small number of
cases. In one case in late 2004, officials from the Lao
Anti-People Trafficking Unit (LAPTU) within the Immigration
Department of the Ministry of Public Security intercepted a
group of five Chinese children near the Cambodian border and
arrested the Cambodian national who had brought them from
China. The children were eventually returned to their home
villages in China by the Chinese Embassy in Vientiane. Some
human smugglers have also operated out of Laos to facilitate
onward travel of persons seeking to migrate to developed
countries. In 2004, for example, Lao police shut down a
safehouse being used by alien smugglers to hold South Asians
transiting to third countries and deported the Bangladeshi
national in charge of the operation.

Most Lao going to work in Thailand are ethnic lowland Lao,
especially those from areas close to the Mekong River and
adjoining Thailand. Although some of these Lao are
trafficked to Thailand, the large majority go to Thailand on
their own, following the advice of friends and relatives.
Others use the services of middlemen to help them locate work
in Thailand. The groups most vulnerable to the worst forms
of trafficking are minors, especially girls, and highland
minorities from Laos' interior. There are no accurate
statistics on the numbers of minorities who have been
trafficked, but in 2006 some shelters for trafficking victims
in Thailand have reported an increase in ethnic minority
victims from Laos. With strong language barriers and no
experience out of their remote cultural contexts, such people
are particularly vulnerable to deception.

The prevailing people-smuggling mode in Laos remains
transportation to a job in exchange for payment up front. Lao
people in lowland areas are anxious to obtain work abroad,
and are willing to pay traffickers to assist them in seeking
work, especially in neighboring Thailand. Traffickers fit no
particular profile. Most are probably Lao nationals with
experience in assisting cross-border labor movement. There
are likely also some Thai traffickers operating in Laos
intermittently. Some recruiters and smugglers of people are
helping fellow villagers, even family members, to migrate,
while others probably make trafficking a full-time business.
In one case, a Lao trafficker arrested in Savannakhet
Province in 2005 had connections with the owners of a garment
factory in Thailand, and he trafficked young women to this
factory with apparent foreknowledge of the exploitative
conditions in which they would be working.

Most Lao learn of work opportunities in Thailand by word of
mouth, from those who have made the trip and returned and in
many cases from friends and family members. In at least some
cases, particularly of young women involved in prostitution
in Thailand, the women themselves act as recruiters for
others when they return to Laos to visit family and friends.
IOM's 2004 study of trafficking between Laos and Thailand
found that nearly one-third of Lao trafficking victims had
family members in Thailand, suggesting this may have been a
factor in their decision to seek work there. IOM also found

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that almost all trafficking victims interviewed for its study
had used a broker to arrange their travel to Thailand; often
one broker assisted them to leave Laos and another in
Thailand assisted them in onward travel to employment in
Bangkok. Most of those trafficked traveled with a small group
of friends or relatives. Brokers' fees varied widely, from
as little as 500 baht (about $14) to as much as 30,000 baht
The majority, however, paid between 2,500-7,000 baht
($75-$205) in broker fees.

Corruption of Lao border officials and village authorities
facilitated human smuggling. Smugglers assisted persons
going to Thailand by arranging to obtain their travel papers
from authorities for fees. These Lao officials have often
been complicit in the smuggling and have been aware of the
intentions of those traveling to Thailand. False documents
have sometimes been used to transport people to other
countries but have not been needed to enter Thailand. Border
crossing cards are easily obtainable; they are only valid for
a few days' travel and only for specific Thai provinces, but
once across the border the holders easily ignored these
restrictions. Some smaller numbers of Lao entered Thailand
without documentation, usually crossing the Mekong River by

IOM's 2004 trafficking study extrapolates information
obtained from interviews with 124 Lao women repatriated from
Thailand to draw a picture of trafficking in Laos. The study
confirmed much of what NGOs working on the issue in Laos had
already believed to be true: most of these 124 trafficking
victims came from central and southern Laos; they migrated
for economic reasons; they were overwhelmingly from rural
(but not exceptionally poor) backgrounds; most were employed
in domestic labor and factory work (only 6 of the 124 were
employed in the sex industry); and most had been deceived
about the conditions, but not the type, of work they went

C. The GoL opposes trafficking, based on official government
pronouncements and on conversations with senior officials.
The GoL cooperates with NGO programs to limit trafficking but
lacks its own resources and often takes a political view
(i.e. blaming Thailand) of the issue. At the urging of NGOs,
international organizations, and foreign missions, the GoL
has taken some positive steps. It ratified the Convention on
the Rights of the Child in June 1991 and established the
National Commission for Mothers and Children in 1992. In
December 2006, the GoL passed a Law on the Protection of
Children that includes a trafficking component. The Lao
Women's Union (LWU), a broad-based mass organization, has
been involved in anti-trafficking efforts since the
mid-1990s. The LWU has been active, within its limited
means, in protection and prevention work.

Beginning in 2002 the GoL elevated anti-trafficking to be a
national priority. Since that time, Laos has signed a
memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Thai Government
regarding border control issues, including trafficking, with
particular reference to labor and repatriation procedures.
In 2005, Laos and Thailand negotiated an MOU specifically on
Cooperation to Combat Trafficking. IOM has provided support
for Lao and Thai efforts to implement the MOU, but IOM has
lacked the full time presence in Laos that is needed to
establish regular contact and provide implementation
assistance. The GoL signed an MOU with IOM on February 27,
2007, that will allow IOM to open an office in Vientiane.
IOM expects to provide more regular assistance to Laos in
implementing the Lao-Thai MOU once its new office is

Laos is a member of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial
Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) process, established
in 2004, and under COMMIT the GoL has established a
Ministerial Committee on Trafficking with members including a
Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Security as

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Secretary. Laos hosted the COMMIT meeting in 2006. The

meeting elevated the level of attention given to the
trafficking problem throughout the region and ensured an
increase in GoL resources (especially in the form of staff
time to develop a national plan of action to combat TIP).
Laos is a member of ASEAN and is signatory to the ASEAN
Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons, particularly
women and children, adopted at the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane
in November 2004. In addition, Laos signed the ASEAN
Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of
Migrant Workers in 2007. The GoL held its first national
meeting to combat human trafficking in 2006 and is near
completion of its national plan to combat trafficking in

The higher level of development in Thailand, the long and
porous border between Laos and Thailand, and the corruption
of Lao border officials make controlling cross-border
trafficking extremely difficult. The GoL has signed MOUs
with several NGOs desirous of doing anti-trafficking work and
cooperates closely with IOM in facilitating the repatriation
of trafficking victims from Thailand's Ban Kretakan Shelter
outside Bangkok. The GoL recognizes that its nationals
abroad are a source of significant foreign exchange and has
issued a decree permitting Lao people to work abroad,
legitimizing the practice of Lao workers seeking seasonal
work abroad. This is paving the way for a more open attitude
by the GoL toward economic migration, which will presumably
contribute to a more positive environment for returned
victims of trafficking.

The 2002 Thai-Lao MOU on Labor has yet to be fully
implemented because of organizational and logistical
difficulties on both sides. According to the MLSW, the
process of identifying illegal Lao workers in Thailand on a
large scale began in June 2005. As of late 2005, more than
33,000 Lao workers in Thailand had reportedly been identified
and issued temporary validity Lao passports by the Lao
Embassy. Once issued temporary validity passports, Lao
workers must have employment contracts with their Thai
employers in order to receive Thai residence permits and to
renew their temporary Lao passports. Thai employers,
however, have a disincentive to report their Lao workers,
because legally contracted workers must be paid at least
minimum wages. The GoL did not provide an update in 2007,
despite the Embassy's request, regarding the number of Lao
workers in Thailand that have been documented. However, a
news article resulting from a meeting between the
International Labor Organization (ILO) and the GoL in
September 2006 indicated that there were more than 100,000
Lao workers in Thailand, only 10 percent of whom held
passports and work permits.

The Lao MLSW has primary responsibility within the GoL for
combating trafficking; through an Inter-Ministerial Committee
on the Rights of Women, the MLSW has involved the Ministries
of Justice (MOJ), Public Health (MOPH), and Foreign Affairs
(MFA), as well as several party-led mass movements in an
anti-trafficking effort, including the drafting of anti-TIP
sections contained within the Law on Women.

The MLSW, with NGO help, has run television and radio
educational campaigns warning of the dangers of trafficking.
The MLSW has a small unit devoted to children with special
needs, including a program for protection against and
prevention of trafficking. With the help of the
International Office of Migration (IOM), the MLSW opened a
reception and processing center for returnees from
trafficking situations in 2003 in Vientiane. The GoL signed
an MOU with IOM on February 27, 2007, that will allow IOM to
open an office in Vientiane to better monitor return and
reintegration activities throughout Laos. A second center
opened in late 2005 in Vientiane, with funding from UNICEF,
the Japanese Government and the Asia Foundation. This second
center is operated by the LWU and assists both trafficking
victims as well as victims of domestic violence. At the end

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of 2003, with Australian government funding, the Lao
Immigration Department opened a TIP office under the auspices
of both the MLSW and the MOJ. The GoL plans to move the TIP
office from the Immigration Department to the General Police
Department within the Ministry of Public Security in March

District and provincial police and prosecutors are
responsible for enforcing existing criminal laws that can be
used against traffickers. There is no special penal code
provision against trafficking, but there are statutes on
procuring, kidnapping, selling persons, and misleading minors
into criminal activities. In 2005 the National Assembly
amended the criminal law to address transnational child
trafficking. The amended penal code provides for penalties
of 20 years imprisonment and fines of 100 million kip
($10,000 USD) for those convicted of transnational child
trafficking. In addition, the new Law on Women contains
special provisions recognizing the rights of trafficking
victims to legal protections.

Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that local officials,
especially police, are often aware of smuggling activities
and that some profit from them in the form of kickbacks.
There is also evidence that border officials permit smuggling
of all kinds, and presumably this includes humans. That
said, the Lao-Thai border is extremely porous, and Lao going
to Thailand can easily avoid official scrutiny.

Lack of resources is the biggest impediment to the
government's ability to address trafficking problems. The
GoL is largely dependent on the donor community to fund
anti-trafficking activities, just as it depends on the donors
to fund activities in almost every sector.
Corruption is another serious problem: it is endemic in Laos,
particularly in law enforcement where salaries are miniscule.
Poor human resources poses yet another problem. Few Lao
officials have the knowledge base or skills to carry out
their jobs at international standards.

Many donors believe that resources for anti-trafficking
should be focused on education and reintegration rather than
on law enforcement. Laos is only beginning to develop rule
of law; the justice system is inefficient; and poor
conditions in the penal system have raised serious human
rights concerns in the international community. Given the
nature of the regime, calls for more police powers are
inimical to USG political values, and pressure for heightened
levels of police activity must be very carefully considered.
Some NGOs and researchers also fear that an increased
emphasis on shelters could lead to negative results,
including shelters being operated more like detention
facilities, particularly if the GoL runs the shelters with
little or no oversight by NGOs.

In the past, Lao authorities have sometimes fined returnees
or sent them to "reeducation" seminars (sometimes lasting for
weeks) for leaving the country without authorization or for
remaining abroad longer than permitted. With the MLSW
getting behind efforts to repatriate victims of trafficking
and to regularize the status of Lao workers in Thailand,
there is growing consensus within the national government to
end this system of punishing returnees. The Prime Minister
issued an order in December 2005 to stop the practice of
fining or otherwise penalizing returnees from Thailand.
Training for immigration officials followed issuance of the
order. Although training was not provided to all immigration
officials, training was provided to immigration officials in
Savannakhet Province in July 2006. Savannakhet Province has
been among the provinces with the most significant
out-migration. There is anecdotal evidence that the practice
of fining returnees, often carried out by village and
district level officials
, has begun to diminish. As of early 2007, the Lao
government stopped requiring exit permits, which is likely to
further reduce this practice.

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On an informal level, police in Thailand and Laos cooperate
in returning illegal Lao migrants. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that returnees from Thailand are sometimes
incarcerated after returning to Laos and held for periods
ranging from days to weeks in immigration detention
facilities. There are reportedly immigration centers in each
province, but no outside NGOs or international organizations
have been given access. Returnees are also subjected to
"reeducation" to warn them of the dangers of traveling to
Thailand. The new Law on Women prohibits authorities from
punishing trafficking victims for illegal border crossing but
is not yet fully disseminated and enforced.

D. The GoL, through the Ministerial Committee on
Trafficking, the Inter-Ministerial Committee, and the MLSW,
monitors the TIP situation, although it appears this
monitoring is ad hoc and irregular. MLSW officials are
familiar with the trafficking issue but by-and-large lack the
understanding of the issue found within the NGO community.
The GoL has no official publication on this topic, other than
the reports produced by the MLSW. International organizations
currently working on TIP in Laos put out periodic reports,
some of which are published. UNIAP's Lao-language newsletter
on trafficking developments effectively serves as the GoL's
mouthpiece on this issue.

XXVIII. Prevention:

A and B. The GoL acknowledges trafficking as a problem and
cooperates with NGOs conducting anti-trafficking programs.
Senior officials have acknowledged the trafficking problem,
and a Politburo member heads the Ministerial Committee on
Trafficking. The TIP issue touches upon Lao sensitivities
about their lack of economic development, education, and
sophistication. Stories of Lao people mistreated in other
countries have considerable currency, and the GoL is keen to
put them into the public domain. The TIP issue is one in
which the GoL sees the Lao people as victims, and in which
the GoL is guiltless; this serves the government's political
ends of allowing it to blame problems on foreigners,
particularly the Thai. Mistreatment of repatriated Lao from
Thailand by village and district level Lao officials, while
reportedly widespread, is not acknowledged by the GoL.

The Ministerial Committee on Trafficking is the lead entity
on this issue and includes representatives from the
Ministries of Public Security, Foreign Affairs, MLSW, and
Justice, as well as the LWU, Lao Youth Union, and Lao
Federation of Trade Unions. In practice the Social Welfare
Department in the MLSW is the agency responsible for
day-to-day implementation of anti-trafficking work. A
committee within the MLSW provides oversight of activities
related to combating the trafficking of women and children.
The MLSW also has a seat on the Inter-Ministerial Committee
on the Rights of Women and its Sub-Committee on TIP. Also
represented on that committee are the Immigration Department
(Ministry of Public Security), the Ministry of Justice, the
Ministry of Public Health, the LWU, and the Lao Youth Union.
The Ministry of Education has also been invited to sit on the

The Lao government agency with the most interaction with the
problem is the MLSW, which conducts a program for
repatriation of girls returning from prostitution or forced
labor. The program began in 2002 and is meant to operate in
conjunction with its Thai counterpart. IOM sponsors this
program, which includes a transit center in Vientiane for
those repatriated from Thailand. Since late 2001, more than
800 women and girls have been processed through the MLSW
shelter, about 260 of whom were processed in 2006.
Processing typically lasted five to seven days, with the
shelter providing housing while arrangements were made for
the onward travel of the victims. IOM is now inserting some
skills training into the program. On February 27, 2007, the
GoL signed an MOU that will allow IOM to establish a branch

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office in Vientiane to better assist with return and
reintegration activities countrywide.

The LWU also supports the GoL's anti-trafficking activities
and, with its grass roots connections, partners with some
NGOs such as the Asia Foundation in conducting anti-TIP
programs. As noted, UNICEF, the Asia Foundation and the
Japanese government opened a joint shelter for trafficking
victims in 2005. This shelter, which is operated by the LWU,
provides counseling, legal advice, shelter, and vocational
training for trafficking victims as well as victims of
domestic violence. In 2006 the center assisted 17
trafficking victims.

C. Since 2001, the MLSW, acting with international NGOs, has
conducted data collection and simultaneous parallel public
education campaigns. With NGO and UNICEF funding, the MLSW
has sponsored media messages on the dangers of trafficking.
In conjunction with UNICEF, the MLSW conducted a project in
2006 that was designed to increase trafficking and HIV/AIDS
awareness via a television and radio drama program. The
drama program was produced in the Lao, Hmong, and Khmu
languages. The MLSW also worked with UNICEF to set up
awareness-raising billboards near border checkpoints and in
Laos' larger cities. On November 25, 2006, the LWU organized
a workshop on the dissemination of the Law on Women and Prime
Minister's Decree on the Development and Protection of Women
for senior-level Lao officials.

The Ministry of Education has not as yet cooperated in any
sustained anti-trafficking educational program. Many NGOs
highlight the negative effects of trafficking in their
education programs, however. Anti-trafficking messages have
occasionally been disseminated through schools in the
provinces. Since 2002, Village Focus International and World
Education/Consortium have, with USG funding, conducted
anti-trafficking education campaigns. In 2005, with a small
grant from the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking,
the National University of Laos began to play a small role in
conducting anti-trafficking media outreach and in 2006 hosted
at least two awareness-raising events at the university
library. The library houses a small information center on
human trafficking for students and faculty.

In 2006 the national English language newspaper, the
Vientiane Times, ran several articles regarding the dangers
of human trafficking and the vulnerability of economic
migrants. However, the Vientiane Times is targeted to the
international community in Vientiane, and not all the
articles appeared in Lao language newspapers, therefore
missing the audience in most need of information regarding
trafficking. Nevertheless, in 2006 the number of articles
published in Lao language newspapers appeared to increase
compared to 2005. The LWU reported having published 15
anti-trafficking news articles in various Lao print media and
also broadcast three anti-TIP educational spots on Lao
television during 2006.

D. The GoL, particularly through the LWU and the Lao Youth
Union mass party movements, officially supports women's roles
in public decision-making. Lao youth are officially (by the
GoL) and unofficially (by NGOs) encouraged to stay in school.
However, the GoL invests very little in education. Teacher
salaries are woefully inadequate, and teacher training is
poor. Textbooks are very scarce. Only a small percentage of
Lao youth complete secondary school, and unemployment is high
even among them. Young women are apt to drop out after
primary school, and literacy among women is only two-thirds
of that among men. Laos has few post-secondary educational
or vocational training facilities.

E. There are no domestic NGOs in Laos, and only a handful of
domestic "associations," none engaged in anti-trafficking
work. All domestic organizations involved in
anti-trafficking work, including mass organizations like the
LWU and the Lao Youth Union, are controlled by the Communist

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Party and closely adhere to Party directives. International
NGOs operate in Laos under close government scrutiny and with
many government-imposed restrictions. Some international
NGOs in Laos include anti-trafficking messages as components
of their health and welfare programs.

The GoL devoted little money or staff to anti-trafficking
until 2003. After the MLSW cooperated with the ILO to do
research in several provinces, in late 2003 the GoL began
contributing floor space and personnel to a new anti-TIP
office, funded by the Government of Australia and housed in
the Immigration Department. The GoL plans to move the office
to the General Police Department in March 2007. Outside of
this limited contribution, the GoL has devoted very little of
its own resources to anti-trafficking efforts and is
dependent on foreign donors to fund anti-trafficking projects
conducted outside normal government operations.

F. The GoL cannot adequately police its borders, its border
police are often corrupt, and smuggling in people and goods
is widespread. Laos shares long borders with five countries.
In most places borders can be crossed easily by land or by
boat, and the Lao have very limited capacity to monitor
border areas outside established immigration and customs

The MLSW had at one point planned to establish its own
screening facility in Savannakhet Province but in 2006
decided instead to allow the NGO Assistance for Women in
Distressing Situations (AFESIP) to develop a shelter and
screening center there. A timeline for the development of
the center is not yet in place. AFESIP has thus far been
unable to secure funding for the planned center.

Within the past several years the GoL has stepped up
cooperative efforts with neighboring countries, especially
Vietnam, China, and Thailand, to better control its borders
to prevent criminal activity, including human trafficking.
The GoL does not document patterns of immigration and
emigration. As noted, the Law on Women decriminalized
emigration without permission, but many local authorities may
still treat returnees as criminals.

G. There are several mechanisms for coordinating
anti-trafficking issues among agencies, although it is
unknown how well these mechanisms work in practice. The
Ministerial Committee on Trafficking, established in 2004 as
part of Laos' COMMIT commitment, is one such avenue. The
National Commission for Mothers and Children, an
inter-ministerial policy coordinating body that handles
trafficking issues, is another. A sub-set of this Commission
is the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Rights of Women,
which in turn has a sub-committee concerned specifically with
TIP. The government does not have a viable anti-corruption
agency or mechanism.

As noted above, Laos is a member of the COMMIT process and
participates in its activities. Laos hosted the COMMIT
meeting in August 2006, which drew attention to the fact that
Laos was the only Greater Mekong Sub-region country without
at least a draft national plan of action to combat human
trafficking. During the COMMIT meeting, Laos identified the
development of a national plan of action as its leading
anti-TIP priority. Laos is also a signatory to ASEAN
anti-trafficking initiatives, including the ASEAN declaration
against trafficking in persons.

The government of Laos cooperates with United Nations
agencies, particularly the UNIAP, to monitor, document, and
suggest remedies for trafficking-related problems. UNICEF is
also heavily focused on dealing with this problem, mainly
through research, but the GoL also cooperates with the IOM
and ILO to research trafficking and child labor. The MLSW
and ILO are working together on the second phase of a plan to
reduce the migration of children outside Laos. The project
focuses on capacity building for Lao officials,

VIENTIANE 00000185 010 OF 016

awareness-raising in regard to child labor and human
trafficking, as well as village development fund assistance
for targeted villages. Other NGOs, including Village Focus
International and World Education/Consortium -- both
USG-funded -- are working with the GoL on trafficking issues
as well.

H. The GoL's first attempt to develop a plan of action to
address trafficking in persons was not well coordinated,
having emerged from several meetings in which outsiders could
not participate and in which the level of expertise was low.
This plan was formulated by the MLSW with some limited UN
agency assistance. There is no evidence the plan was ever
implemented in any meaningful way. However, beginning in
August 2006 with the National Workshop to Combat Human
Trafficking, the GoL began work on a National Plan of Action.
The plan is being supported by UNIAP, and outsiders have
been allowed to participate, so the plan's development is
involving more stakeholders than had previously been the
case. The draft plan was completed in January 2007 and
provided to concerned NGOs, international organizations, and
foreign missions for comment. With UNIAP assistance, the GoL
is in the process of revising the draft plan based on
stakeholder suggestions.

XXIX: Investigation and Prosecution of Traffickers:

A, B, and C. As noted, the Law on Women, passed by the
National Assembly in September 2004, contains provisions
dealing with trafficking including sections defining the
rights of trafficking victims. The law was vetted by NGOs,
including those active in anti-trafficking. A U.S. Deputy
District Attorney working with the Department of Justice's
Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training
(OPDAT) Program also vetted the draft of this law. The LWU
published a handbook explaining the Law on Women and also
disseminated more than 7,000 copies of the law in 2006. The
Lao penal code has provisions against prostitution,
procuring, kidnapping, selling persons, and, as of 2005,
transnational child trafficking. There are also statutes
forbidding coercion and depriving people of wages. The Law
on the Protection of Children passed in December 2006
provides legal protections for children against sexual
exploitation, child labor, and child trafficking.

D. The penalty for rape or forcible sexual assault under the
Lao penal code, Article 119, is three to five years
imprisonment. Abduction is punishable under Article 92 by
five to fifteen years imprisonment. Rape of a minor is
punishable by seven to 15 years, prostitution by up to one
year, and pimping by up to three years. Some of these
statutes have been used against traffickers.

The central government has not kept figures on prosecution of
human trafficking, although the draft national plan of action
calls for the establishment of provincial and central
government statistics centers to collect this data.
Generally, however, each case has been handled within its own
local jurisdiction and was pursued under other provisions of
the penal code. LAPTU is currently trying to identify
instances of trafficking from other more routine
immigration-related cases prosecuted by provincial and
central government courts. With the recent passage of the
new transnational child trafficking law, child trafficking
figures may be available in coming years, but the GoL still
has no law against human trafficking.

E. Prostitution is illegal in Laos but in practice is
widespread, and authorities make few efforts to halt it. Lao
law prohibits foreigners from engaging in sexual activity
with Lao citizens outside of marriage, and some foreigners
have been fined or arrested under this law. The government
periodically moves to shut down establishments, such as bars,
nightclubs and discos, where prostitutes operate.
Nevertheless, extreme poverty and lack of viable economic
opportunities for young people ensure a perpetuation of

VIENTIANE 00000185 011 OF 016

prostitution in spite of anti-prostitution laws and
occasional government campaigns.

The majority of establishments offering sex workers - discos,
bars, and restaurants - charge the guest a fee to take the
sex worker out of the establishment. Fees usually range from
$2 to $4 USD. The actual fees for sex services are generally
arranged between the sex worker and the client. However,
open prostitution appears to be increasing in some areas, and
some provincial governments simply limit the number of
prostitutes allowed to work at each venue rather than
enforcing the law against prostitution. Drinking
establishments and guest houses frequently have prostitutes
available, sometimes as employees and sometimes freelance.
The activities of owners/operators of establishments with
prostitutes are also criminalized, as are those of clients.
Although prostitution laws are often not enforced, some
researchers feel that increased enforcement by the GoL would
actually result in negative consequences - prostitutes going
underground and being more likely to be subjected to abuse;
and also a greater likelihood of increased low-level GoL
involvement in the prostitution trade.

There is also some evidence indicating that Chinese
prostitutes are working in Laos, particularly in Vientiane
and some provincial capitals in northern Laos, although the
numbers are apparently very low. These sex workers
apparently serve a primarily Chinese and Sino-Lao clientele.
Some ethnic Lao prostitutes working in northern Laos' border
provinces are capable of speaking rudimentary Chinese - a
function of proximity but also a sign of the increasing
Chinese traffic through the area. Despite an apparent
increase in Chinese clientele, the majority of sex service
clients, even in northern Laos, are reportedly local Lao.
However, the planned 2007 completion of the section of the
Kunming - Bangkok Highway that traverses Luang Namtha and
Bokeo Provinces in northern Laos is expected to result in a
significant increase in Chinese and Thai traffic within Laos.
The Lao Ministry of Health and several NGOs have worked to
educate people residing in the area of the dangers of
HIV/AIDS and other STDs.

F. The GoL has begun to take law enforcement efforts to
combat human trafficking more seriously, although some
officials are still reluctant to acknowledge there is an
internal trafficking problem. The GoL reported 27 TIP
investigations in 2006. These investigations resulted in 15
arrests, 12 of which were prosecuted. In three cases, the
perpetrators were "reeducated" and released. Specific
details of the arrests have not been provided. Among the 12
that have been prosecuted, three persons have been sentenced,
five arrestees incarcerated and pending court action, and
four are in pretrial detention pending the results of ongoing

Among those individuals who have been sentenced, the average
sentence was 6 years with fines ranging from $500 to $3,500
USD. Two of the cases that resulted in convictions in 2006
involved collaborative investigations between Lao and Thai
police. Although LAPTU is trying to establish itself as a
clearing house for information on trafficking-related crime,
there is currently no public record in Laos of arrests,
trails, verdicts, or sentences available. As LAPTU expands,
and as the National Plan of Action to Combat Human
Trafficking is finalized and implemented, the GoL hopes to
develop a more reliable system for collecting information on
trafficking arrests and prosecutions.

In 2006, while Lao law enforcement officials have been
involved in the successful investigation and arrest of
several human traffickers, particularly those cases involving
transport of Lao citizens to Thailand, the government has not
been as willing to address internal trafficking issues. For
example, the U.S. Embassy brought a human trafficking case to
the attention of the government in May 2006. The case
involved a guest house/brothel owner who, in the presence of

VIENTIANE 00000185 012 OF 016

U.S. Embassy officers, local and provincial police, and a
representative of the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
admitted that his wife recruited girls under the age of 16 to
work at their establishment as sex workers. A sex worker who
had recently turned 16 years old reported having been
recruited by the woman when she was 15. Following the
Embassy's request that Lao officials further investigate the
matter, the Embassy was told by a central government law
enforcement official that it would be "against local law" to
arrest the owner of the sex service establishment.

G. Human smugglers in Laos run the gamut from individuals in
small villages to foreigners who enter Laos with specific job
targets (such as prostitution or garment work) and perhaps
with specific ethnicities in mind. By most accounts local
individuals or even family members frequently feed their
charges into larger systems in Thailand. More systematic
recruitment may be increasing, however. Seasonal farm,
construction, and factory laborers have traditionally moved
in large numbers back and forth between Laos and Thailand,
and these have become well-worn circuits. Many of those
working in these occupations are males. Girls and women, on
the other hand, are often seen as vulnerable to more serious
forms of exploitation because they often travel alone or in
small numbers and tend to rely more often on transport
providers who are unknown to them.

The total profits generated from TIP in Laos are unknown. As
most traffickers in Laos are probably not professional
traffickers, their revenues are likely consumed locally. Most
brokers involved in trafficking appear to be
local people, often known to those trafficked, with
knowledge of how to obtain travel documents and where
employment can be found outside the country. A trafficker
arrested in Savannakhet in February 2005 was, according to
LAPTU, the owner of a local travel agency, indicating travel
agencies in some instances may be serving as fronts for human
smuggling operations. Little research has been done on
trafficking networks, and much of the information about this
aspect of trafficking is speculative.

H. In March 2007 the GoL's anti-TIP office, which is
currently housed in the Immigration Department, is scheduled
to be relocated to the General Police Department. This move
was decided during the August 2006 National Workshop to
Combat Human Trafficking and is seen as a means of broadening
the scope of anti-human trafficking policing. With more GoL
focus on the anti-TIP office and continued Australian funding
for LAPTU, the GoL should be able to proceed with more
thorough investigations. To assist the LAPTU unit in
improving its skills, the Asia Regional Trafficking in
Persons Project (ARTIPP) has placed an expatriate policeman
as an advisor to the anti-TIP office and has indicated that
funding for LAPTU will increase in 2007.

The Lao police have received some training assistance in
investigative techniques. Among others, the USG-funded
International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok has
trained Lao police on trafficking-related crimes and on sex
crimes, including those aimed at children. In February 2007
Bangkok-based U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Officers visited Laos to discuss child sex tourism and to
develop a working relationship with key GoL agencies and NGOs
addressing the issue. A U.S. Department of Justice Office of
Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT)
delegation also provided some training to prosecutors and
investigators in the context of a seminar on management of
the prosecutorial function in November 2006. However, in
general the ability of the Lao police to investigate
trafficking or other crimes is extremely limited. Post has
seen no indication that electronic surveillance has been used
to thwart traffickers and doubts that the police have much
capacity in this area.

I. With Australian funding and Lao personnel, the TIP office
also has the mission of educating those GoL officials with

VIENTIANE 00000185 013 OF 016

whom they come into contact regarding the TIP issue. The TIP
office itself has provided some training to its own personnel
as well as relevant officials in the MLSW and the Immigration
Department. LAPTU has created a handbook on investigations
of trafficking crimes for use by LAPTU investigators as well
as by police generally.

In November 2006 the GoL cooperated with the French Embassy
to hold a four-day seminar in Vientiane for Lao and
Vietnamese police officials aimed at encouraging greater
anti-TIP collaboration along the Lao-Vietnamese border. In
December 2006 UNODC organized a seminar in Vientiane on human
trafficking for Lao police. This seminar focused on criminal
legislation, criminal procedures, and the process of victim
repatriation as well as the differences between human
trafficking and smuggling.

J. Laos is beginning to cooperate more closely with Thailand
in the investigation of trafficking cases. This cooperation
is still in its infant stage, and improvement in the
bilateral relationship is advancing slowly. However, recent
successes in working with Thai authorities to arrest
traffickers and shut down exploitive Thai businesses hiring
Lao workers indicate that the partnership may be more
fruitful in the long term. With the creation of the LAPTU
the Lao have a law enforcement mechanism that has a mandate
to work with law enforcement agencies in other countries.
The GoL reported that the arrests of two of the four
individuals convicted of human trafficking in 2006 resulted
from joint Lao-Thai investigations.

K. Laos has extradition agreements with Vietnam, Thailand and
Cambodia. However, the GoL has not extradited anyone for
trafficking-related crimes.

L. There is no evidence of GoL involvement in trafficking on
an institutional level. However, at the local level,
observers believe it almost certain that some officials are
involved in facilitating trafficking, sometimes in collusion
with their Thai counterparts.

M. According to the GoL, no government officials have been
disciplined or punished for involvement in human trafficking.

N. There is no evidence that Laos has a significant problem
with child sex tourism, although there have been a few cases.
The Law on Protection of Children, which was passed by the
National Assembly in December 2006, reportedly criminalizes
child sexual abuse, child labor, and child trafficking as
well as provides protection for victims. International
organizations provided assistance in developing the draft
law. However, the final version of the law that was passed
has not yet been released to the international community and
implementing regulations remain to be issued. In practice,
authorities would be extremely intolerant of such activities,
and pedophiles would likely face severe punishment.

The Ministry of Justice supported and the National Assembly
passed a new law on transnational child trafficking in 2005
that set strict penalties for those convicted of
transnational child trafficking. Also, in early 2006 the Lao
National Tourism Administration, in cooperation with Child
Wise, Australia's leading child protection agency, launched a
campaign against child sex tourism.

O. The GoL has signed and ratified ILO Conventions 29, 105,
138, and 182. The GoL has signed the protocol on trafficking
supplemental to the UN Convention Against Trans-National
Crime, with the aim of getting control of perpetrators of
cross-border crimes. The GoL has signed the UN's Convention
on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It has also signed a
memorandum of understanding with the ILO through which it has
joined IPEC's international program for the elimination of
child labor.

VIENTIANE 00000185 014 OF 016

XXX. Protection and Assistance to Victims:

A through C. The MLSW and the Immigration Department, in
cooperation with the IOM and UNIAP, are establishing better
procedures to assist returning victims of trafficking. The
MLSW maintains a small transit center for that purpose in
Vientiane. The transit center has assisted more than 800
human trafficking victims since it opened in late 2001. The
center assisted 259 trafficking victims in 2006 and has
assisted 15 victims during the months of January and February
2007. The GoL cooperates with the IOM to protect and counsel
returnees that have been processed through the MLSW transit
center. A joint UNICEF-Japanese Government-Asia Foundation
funded shelter which is run by the LWU opened in late 2005.
It provided shelter and legal, medical, and counseling
assistance to 17 human trafficking victims between April 2006
and February 2007. In June 2006, the GoL approved an MOU
allowing Assistance for Women in Distressing Situations
(AFESIP) to open shelters in Vientiane Municipality and
Savannakhet Province. AFESIP opened a shelter in Vientiane in
October 2006 that is dedicated to providing longer-term
shelter and counseling for victims of sexual exploitation,
both domestic and those returned from abroad.

In 2006, the Lao MLSW cooperated with the Thai Ministry of
Social Development and Human Security on a pilot project to
locate Lao trafficking victims who were missing in Thailand.
The pilot project lasted from February through August 2006
and aimed at establishing coordination mechanisms between
Laos and Thailand including a mechanism for reporting missing
persons, a standard form for reporting missing persons, and a
systematic tracking mechanism in Thailand.

D. Unless they are repatriated as part of the bilateral
cooperative program, victims of trafficking must run the
gauntlet of authorities on both sides of the border to return
to Laos. Police in both countries sometimes confiscate the
cash earnings of trafficking victims, and police have also
been known to offer "rewards" for the return of victims to be
able to confiscate earnings. Returnees may still be subject
to fines or reeducation in Laos pending the complete
dissemination and enforcement of the Law on Women.

E through H. Laos has no victim restitution program. The GoL
has no special program for witness protection, a matter of
concern to the LAPTU. A witness may claim the protection of
the police because the Law on Women recognizes the right of
trafficking victims to protection and requires the police to
provide witness protection. In theory, a trafficking victim
could file a civil suit against a trafficker, although this
has not been done in practice.

The 2004 Law on Women contains provisions recognizing the
rights of trafficking victims and requires authorities to
respect these rights. The joint UNICEF-Japanese
Government-Asia Foundation shelter which is run by the LWU
and opened in late 2005 is able to provide some protection to
trafficking victims involved in ongoing investigations.
There are now three shelters for trafficking victims: the
MLSW's IOM-funded shelter; the LWU shelter noted above; and
an AFESIP shelter which was opened in October 2006. All
three shelters are in Vientiane Municipality. NGOs and
international organizations fund most assistance to
trafficking victims offered through these shelters.

Actual laws against trafficking are contained in the criminal
code, including laws forbidding prostitution, procuring,
kidnapping, fraud, forced labor and, as of 2005, a law
against transnational child trafficking. The GoL, in
conjunction with NGOs, has provided limited specialized
training to police in recognizing trafficking victims. The
LWU produced a training manual that it has used to educate
officials about the 2004 Law on Women. The LWU organized six
training sessions for police, prosecutors, health and
education officials, and court decision enforcement officials
in five target locations in 2006: Champassak (August 2006),

VIENTIANE 00000185 015 OF 016

Oudomsay (July 2006), Savannakhet (March 2006), and Vientiane
Provinces (June and September 2006) as well as Vientiane
Municipality (November 2006). The LWU and MLSW also
organized January and February 2007 assessment meetings in
Vientiane Province to gauge the success of implementation of
the Law on Women.

UNICEF and Save the Children UK have organized seminars
designed to educate officials about TIP issues as well. The
MLSW has also organized and paid for several such seminars on
its own and held a meeting in December 2006 to assess the
implementation of the Lao on Women. The meeting was chaired
by a LWU representative and included approximately 45
attendees including immigration police, prosecutors, and

The Lao Embassy in Bangkok has occasionally acted to help
Thai authorities and the Lao MLSW coordinate their
repatriation program. Lao Embassy officials have also
escorted returnees to Laos on some occasions. The Thai
Center for the Protection of Children's Rights (CPCR) and the
Foundation for Women of Thailand have also been involved with
this effort.

I. The following NGOs and International Organizations
currently work on trafficking issues in Laos:

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
Phonkheng Rd, Ban Phonsaat
Tel: (855-21) 213390, 213391, 213394, 213395, 213396,
213397 and 214227
Fax: (855-21) 212029 and 214819

Thadeua Rd, Ban Watnak
Tel: (855-21) 315200, 315201, 315202, 315203, 315204 fax:
(855-21) 314852.

Save the Children, Australia:
213 Phonsavanh St, Unit 16, ban phonsavanneua
Tel: (855-21) 416937, 415432

Save the Children, Norway:
P.O.Box 7475
Tel: (855-21) 314814-5
Fax: (855-21) 314813

Save the Children, UK
373 Nasay St., Ban Nongbone
Tel: (856-21) 452058, 452059 and 452060
Fax: (856-21) 452 057

International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor
006 Phonkheng Rd,
Phonexay Village, Xaysettha District,
Vientiane Prefecture, Lao PDR
Tel/fax: (856-21) 412335
Mobile (856-20)511633, 515015.

Norwegian Church Aid
P.O. Box 4804, Vientiane
Tel: (856-21) 413-867, 416-510, 450-264
Fax: (856-21) 413-450

World Vision
197 Dongpayna Road
P.O. box 312
Vientiane 01005
Tel: (865-21) 412-933, 452-100
Fax: (856-21) 452-101

Asia Regional Cooperation to Prevent People Trafficking
P.O. Box 2391, Vientiane

VIENTIANE 00000185 016 OF 016

Tel: (856-21) 262-396
Fax: (856-21) 262-609

World Education/Consortium
10 Fagnum Rd, Ban Phiawat
Tel: (855-21) 214524, 222439
Fax: (855-21) 217553

Village Focus International
P.O. Box 4697
Tel. (856-21) 452-020

Handicap International
158 Rue Chaimeuang
Bp 946
Savannakht, Lao PDR
Tel. (856-41) 212818

Care, International
139/17 Thong Toum road
P.O. Box 4328
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Tel. (856-21) 217-988
Fax. 214-415

Assistance for Women in Distressing Situations (AFESIP)
P.O. Box 3128
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Tel. (856-21) 312-362
Fax. 214-415

International Office for Migration (IOM)
8th Floor, Kasemkij Building
120 Silom Road
Bangkok 10500 Thailand
Tel. (66-2) 206-8500
Fax. (66-2) 206-8599

These NGOs have roughly the same anti-trafficking goals: to
educate youth, to elicit better behavior from government
toward victims, and to encourage the evolution of the rule of
law with regard to trafficking and other abuses. UNICEF
and UNDP, because of their size and steady funding, probably
enjoy the best government access, and they cooperate readily
with the smaller NGOs. The International Office of Migration
(IOM), based in Thailand but now with approval to open an
office in Laos, is increasingly involved in trafficking
matters in Laos.

Embassy POC on anti-trafficking is Political Officer Terry
Mobley, Tel: (856-21) 26-7000, Fax: (856) 26-7190, E-mail (Terry will complete his assignment in
Laos in July 2007). The 2007 TIP report for Laos was
prepared by Terry Mobley, grade FS-3, and required
approximately 30 hours to complete the writing of the report.
One locally engaged staff member also conducted
approximately eight hours of data collection work in support
of the updated TIP report, and the post review and clearance
process required approximately eight hours. The TIP
portfolio requires approximately seven percent of a full-time
officer's time - roughly 150 hours per year.

© Scoop Media

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