Cablegate: An Giang: Tip Problem Depends On Point of View

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: NA
SUBJECT: An Giang: TIP Problem Depends on Point of View

1. (U) Summary: An Giang local government and mass
organization officials do not agree on the seriousness of the
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) in their province. Women's Union
and the Department of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs
(DOLISA) officials portray a fairly serious problem while local
police say they detect one or two cases a year involving three or
four victims each. NGO's have generally depicted An Giang as a
TIP hotbed. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- --
Criminal Police: TIP not really a problem here
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) Lt. Col. Nguyen Van Minh met poloff, Congen EconJO and
FSN at the provincial criminal police office in Long Xuyen to
discuss TIP in An Giang province. Lt. Col. Minh said that about
100 criminal police and local officers are specifically
responsible for preventing TIP-related crimes in An Giang.
According to Lt. Col. Minh there are only about two TIP cases a
year, usually involving one, sometimes two traffickers and three
or four victims. He added that there might be a few more small-
scale traffickers operating in the province, but expressed
confidence that police were catching almost all traffickers. He
said that traffickers usually trick women into thinking that they
can get jobs in Cambodia. As far as police knew, he clarified,
only local people were involved in human trafficking. While
asserting that the human traffickers were not involved with other
illegal activity, he admitted that police did not know about any
connections the traffickers might have in Cambodia. Convicted
human traffickers receive sentences of ten years or more if the
victim is under seventeen, but if not and it is a first offense,
the prison sentence is usually only two years, according to Lt.
Col. Minh.

3. (U) Provincial police only cooperate with district-level
police to investigate traffickers, not with Cambodian authorities
or even with GVN border guards. Despite many claims to the
contrary, Lt. Col Minh said that An Giang was not being used as a
transit route from other provinces to Cambodia. An Giang is also
a source of many Vietnamese brides who have gone to Taiwan. Lt.
Col. Minh said that police have not investigated these because
they are legal marriages.

But there is a drug problem

4. (U) In contrast, Col. Lam Minh Huynh, who said he was in
charge of An Giang's counter-narcotics efforts, there is a
"complicated" drug problem in the province. (Note: Col. Huynh
said that he has attended an ILEA training in Bangkok. End
note.) Many young people were addicted and the number was
increasing, particularly in rural areas. It was difficult to
stop traffickers because the border with Cambodia is relatively
open, and if things get too hot on one side, they can cross over
easily. Since Thailand began its "crackdown" against drug
dealers, things have been getting better in An Giang, although
Col. Huynh admitted that he did not know why.

--------------------------------------------- ------
DOLISA: It is hard to tell who has been trafficked
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (U) Provincial DOLISA Director Nguyen Thi Nga described her
department's efforts to prevent TIP and assist victims. She
explained that An Giang did not have a mechanism to track the
number of TIP victims, but added that the provincial People's
Committee decided the problem was sufficiently severe that they
held a meeting to coordinate a response to the problem. DOLISA's
primary task was to help TIP victims and women who had willingly
gone to Cambodia -- and for whatever reason decided to engage in
prostitution there -- to reintegrate into the community upon
their return. Director Nga indicated that tens of women were
involved in DOLISA's programs. However, these programs are open
to a variety of women in difficult circumstances, not just TIP
victims. (Note: It was not clear whether Director Nga included
women who went to Cambodia willingly and were subsequently
tricked into prostitution as TIP victims, although this may be
considered trafficking under current Vietnamese law. End Note.)
She explained that it was difficult to tell who was a TIP victim,
because there were women who had gone to Cambodia for legitimate
employment or business reasons. Some of them had subsequently
fallen on hard times. A few of these may have then been tricked
into prostitution and thus become TIP victims, but many had
engaged in prostitution voluntarily. Regardless, as returnees,
they were eligible for assistance.

6. (U) Without catching the traffickers "redhanded" it was
difficult to prove trafficking, she said. Contrary to MPS,
Director Nga said that there was considerable cross border TIP in
An Giang, mostly involving people lured from other provinces.
She added that nine TIP victims have been repatriated through
diplomatic channels to Binh Thanh Dong district. Among them were
three women who were not from that district or even apparently
from An Giang. It was even possible that the three were actually
ethnic Vietnamese Cambodian citizens. Per an interministerial
agreement Director Nga said, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is
attempting to find the families of these women. While the other
women are participating in DOLISA reintegration programs, these
three are staying in a DOLISA-run social welfare center in Long

7. (U) DOLISA is working with a French NGO, Terre des Hommes
(TDH), on an anti-TIP program in Binh Thanh Dong and Phu Tan
districts called "Women and Child Trafficking Prevention Across
the Border" Director Nga said. These are deemed the most
vulnerable areas because women there have been tricked. The
programs address job creation, hunger alleviation and poverty
eradication. Some women have received training in sewing and
obtained jobs in garment factories, while 20 others went to Can
Tho University to learn advanced agricultural skills that they
are teaching to their neighbors. While some of the beneficiaries
are returned trafficking victims, others are eligible because
they are part of vulnerable groups.

8. (U) Director Nga declared that education, not poverty was
the main problem behind TIP in An Giang. Most victims had little
education and little awareness of TIP. She said victims
generally had Grade Five or Six educations, at the most. Higher
education levels and more awareness of TIP would be key not only
to eliminating TIP, but to eradicating poverty and hunger too.

--------------------------------------------- -------------------
Women's Union: mass organization makes massive education effort
--------------------------------------------- -------------------

9. (U) Nguyen Ngoc Mai, head of the An Giang provincial Women's
Union (WU) delivered a prepared statement about TIP while other
senior members of the WU and the provincial Committee on
Population, Families, and Children (CPFC) looked on, nodding in
agreement. Ms. Mai said that unsettled economic conditions and
frequent flooding in An Giang contribute to "social evils"
including TIP. Women are "deceived" and "cheated," especially to
go to Cambodia. Others claim to be "tricked" into marrying
foreigners, especially Taiwanese. When they have been able to
return they have said that they were not treated as "wives."

10. (U) While the WU has not done research and does not know
the number of victims, Ms. Mai said that victims have revealed
that women usually cross the Cambodian border "unofficially" with
friends who say they can get them a job as a nanny, cafe girl, or
maid. Others are similarly tricked to going to cities in
Vietnam. Sometimes traffickers invite victims to come with them
to "visit family and friends in Cambodia," but deliver them to
brothels where they are held against their will instead. Ms. Mai
said that not all of the women are tricked into crossing the
border or into prostitution, some of them simply have exercised
poor judgment, are lazy, or think they can get rich quickly.

11. (U) Protecting women and children from "social evils" such
as TIP is a "high priority" of the WU, the GVN, and the Communist
Party of Vietnam (CPV), Ms. Mai declared, adding that such ills
are bad for "social order, family and spiritual happiness, and
are prohibited by the laws of Vietnam." The GVN and mass
organizations have targeted lending, housing, employment,
agricultural production, and education programs to fight these
evils, she noted. The An Giang WU works on step-by-step TIP
awareness-raising, especially in remote rural areas where people
have little access to print media or even radio and television.

12. (U) Ms. Mai explained that with assistance from the
national WU, the An Giang WU held nine courses between May 2002
and May 2003 for 470 trainers to raise awareness of TIP. The
trainers have focused their efforts in 14 communes. They
distributed 57,000 leaflets in these communes and conducted
11,400 meetings with 216,000 An Giang women. They have organized
competitions with district-level WU to role-play the negative
effects of TIP. A result, Ms. Mai claimed, was to increase an
initial set of 134 groups -- comprising 1,461 women who had
committed to not allowing their children to become TIP victims --
to 634 groups comprising 9,735 women who have made this

13. (U) The provincial WU gives "direct" assistance to at-risk
women, enabling them to enter poverty-reduction programs that
have created 5,000 jobs, conducted 18 sewing and other vocational
training courses, and led to the creation of 1,130 "loan groups"
comprising 18,999 women, according to Ms. Mai.

14. (U) Ms. Mai also described a cooperative program the An
Giang Women's Union has been undertaking with the International
Organization for Migration (IOM) since 2001 to assist with victim
reintegration. One component has been to train 30 WU and CPFC
staff members to locate victims -- including those who have
returned through unofficial channels -- and help them through the
process of reintegration. Female community elders are key to
this because their respected community positions allow them to
confidentially approach victims who are otherwise unwilling to

admit that they have been trafficked. First approaches may be
through victims' parents, but in other cases the community worker
may decide it is best to keep the victim's history from the
family. The goal of such intervention is to try to stabilize the
victims' lives, according to Ms. Mai. She commented that this
may mean helping some victims accept their "difficult lives", and
that they must make money "the hard way" as well as manage their
own budgets.

15. (U) Comment: The three differing outlooks outlined above
say as much about institutional interests as they do about the
state of the TIP problem in An Giang. NGOs and IOs active in
anti-TIP efforts in Vietnam generally consider An Giang's problem
to be relatively serious, but have yet to reliably estimate how
large. Provincial authorities did really not shed any light on
the scale of the problem either. The stigma victims and near-
victims may face, even from an organization such as the WU that
is trying to combat TIP, discourages them from coming forward.
Less judgmental points of view are becoming more common,
sometimes in unexpected quarters, such as DOLISA, and continued
cooperation and attention to TIP should produce more productive
outlooks and results. PORTER

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