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Cablegate: Slow and Steady Progress Combating Tip in Southern Vietnam

VZCZCXRO6254
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0756/01 2350621
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 220621Z AUG 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4812
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3239
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 5040

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000756

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND G/TIP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KTIP PREL PGOV SOCI VM
SUBJECT: SLOW AND STEADY PROGRESS COMBATING TIP IN SOUTHERN VIETNAM

REF: A) HCMC 936 B) HCMC 806 AND PREVIOUS

HO CHI MIN 00000756 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary: The GVN made positive strides in combating
trafficking-in-persons (TIP) during the first half of 2008, with
provincial police busting four trafficking rings in Tay Ninh and
HCMC police conducted their biggest raid yet against an illegal
marriage brokering agency catering to Korean men. Additionally,
complementary efforts between the Vietnam's Women Union and the
International Organization for Migration (IOM) to assist
Vietnamese women considering marriage to foreign husbands are
providing alternatives to illegal marriage broker operations
that can be fronts for trafficking and prostitution. Government
officials and NGOs all agreed more resources are needed to raise
awareness and improve Vietnam's law enforcement efforts in
combating TIP and illegal marriage broker schemes. End Summary.

Arrests Are Increasingly Frequent -- and Public
--------------------------------------------- --
2. (SBU) In Tay Ninh province, located on the border with
Cambodia, police broke up 4 trafficking rings, arresting a total
of 11 suspects and rescued 15 TIP victims in a series of raids
carried out during the first half of 2008. Two of the
trafficking groups posed as marriage brokers recruiting
Vietnamese women for marriage to Malaysian men. On July 17 in
Ho Chi Minh City, a 3am police raid disrupted a meeting where
112 women were gathered in a 15x2 meter room in a mini-hotel for
the perusal of three Korean clients.

3. (SBU) These recent law enforcement efforts illustrate the
strides Southern officials are making to implement the GVN's
anti-trafficking policies by cracking down on illegal marriage
schemes. Recently, HCMC People's Committee Vice Chair Nguyen
Thanh Tai called upon city officials to impose strict penalties
on illegal marriage brokers. Efforts to foster greater
inter-agency collaboration against trafficking and recognition
that men need to be included in Vietnam's legal framework
indicates that Vietnam is "getting it" and steadily moving on
the right path to build capacity towards eventual ratification
of the International Convention Against Trafficking.

Raising Awareness, Empowering Women
-----------------------------------
4. (SBU) Complementing law enforcement efforts to combat TIP and
crack down on illegal marriage brokers, the Vietnam Women's
Union (VWU) and the International Organization of Migration
(IOM) combine public awareness campaigns, counseling/assistance
programs, and pre-departure orientation programs to promote a
safe, transparent and free way to assist women who choose to
pursue foreign marriages. Spurred on by the glamorous
lifestyles depicted in increasingly popular Korean soap operas,
music videos and movies, Korea is now a destination of choice
for many young Vietnamese women seeking marriage abroad. Thanh
Nien newspaper reported 10,000 Vietnamese brides migrated to
Korea last year, up 74 percent from the previous year.

5. (SBU) PolOffs recently visited the HCMC Marriage Assistance
Center to discuss the Center's efforts to provide an alternative
way for Vietnamese women interested in foreign marriages to meet
potential spouses in a safe and supportive environment (ref A).
The Center, which receives funding from the Korean government,
provides a matchmaking service that not only introduces
Vietnamese women to their future spouses, but also provides
counseling and classes in Korean culture, language and legal
regulations. The Center asks prospective brides and grooms to
fill out profiles and then arranges for the couples to exchange
emails and chat via Webcam, if both mutually agree.
Interpretation assistance is also available if needed. While
the Center is small and resources are scarce (there is only one
computer station thus far), the services are free and much more
comprehensive than those provided by commercial matchmakers.

6. (SBU) IOM's pre-departure workshops for young women and
user-friendly website (www.vovietchonghan.org) are intended to
set appropriate expectations and dispel the popular illusions
promulgated by commercial marriage brokers and the glamorous
lifestyles depicted in popular Korean entertainment media. The
IOM website depicts a "wheel of life" that illustrates two
different scenarios--one side of the wheel shows a happy
Vietnamese bride with a handsome young Korean husband at a fancy
modern wedding, another shows an older Korean man with hoe in
hand standing in front of a rural farmhouse. The Vietnamese,
Korean and English-language website has hotline numbers, recent
news articles and testimonials from Vietnamese brides living in
Korea. IOM has also compiled a wealth of information about
Korean law, housing, transportation, foods and customs in a
handbook given to every young woman who participates in their
pre-departure workshops.

7. (SBU) Women entering into marriages based on uninformed and
overly glamorous images of life abroad represents only part of

HO CHI MIN 00000756 002.2 OF 002


problem posed by commercial marriage brokers. As in the case of
the trafficker of "brides" to Malaysia who was recently busted,
commercial matchmakers are frequently fronts for criminal groups
that entrap women via promises of marriage to rich men only to
sell them into forced prostitution. Programs organized by the
Vietnam Women's Union and IOM target these scams as well through
a combination of public awareness campaigns and individual
counseling. By offering a safe, legal alternative to commercial
brokers, support centers run by the VWU and programs operated by
IOM serve to help women avoid becoming unwitting victims of
traffickers. Unfortunately, these programs are only reaching a
fraction of the estimated 12,000 Vietnamese women who immigrate
for purposes of marriage each year.

7. Comment: While anti-TIP efforts are improving, they are far
from perfect. Continued improvements in the collection of
statistics, more resources and improved coordination between
Vietnamese officials and regional governments are needed in
order to combat trafficking-in-persons more comprehensively and
effectively. As in other poor developing countries, poverty
will remain a strong force in pushing women into situations
where there are at risk of being trafficked. The accurate and
well intentioned messages broadcast by local and international
NGOs simply are not as convincing to many poor rural women as
are the glamorous imagery promulgated in popular Korean TV
shows, movies and music videos. Fortunately, Vietnam's news
media is playing an increasingly constructive role by reporting
extensively on marriage broker schemes, TIP arrests and
convictions, and by articles retelling the tragic stories of
failed cross-cultural marriages. End comment.
FAIRFAX

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