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Cablegate: Trafficking in Persons in Vietnam

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 002323

SIPDIS

STATE FOR G/TIP, EAP/BCLTV, EAP/RSP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN KCRM VM CH TW CA OMIG TIP
SUBJECT: TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS IN VIETNAM

REF: A. HANOI 527 B. HANOI 3000

1. (U) This is an action request -- see para 5.

2. (U) Summary: A large interagency conference chaired by
Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem in Ho Chi Minh City
September 9 articulated the GVN's intended next steps in a
coordinated antitrafficking policy. The Deputy Prime
Minister recommended that the government propose a long-term
program of action and designate a lead agency. The GVN's
strategy tracked closely with the objectives of the USG-
funded UNODC Vietnam antitrafficking project, which the
Ministry of Public Security has recently signed and
approved. This likely shows that USG assistance is having a
positive effect and is guiding at least some of the GVN's
thinking on trafficking. Current NGO and international
organization antitrafficking activities in Vietnam are thin,
but coordinated, and would be even more effective given
greater resources and a more coherent GVN strategy. End
summary.

Trafficking situation in Vietnam
--------------------------------

3. (U) According to UNICEF and Interpol estimates, "tens of
thousands" of Vietnamese women and children have been
trafficked to third countries in the last three to five
years. The problem can be roughly divided along geographic
lines, with victims in the north mostly trafficked to the
PRC for marriage, labor, sex industry work, and adoption.
(Note: in cases of Vietnamese infants trafficked to China
for adoption, the victims are almost always male newborns.
They are usually kidnapped from their parents in northern
Vietnam and provided for fee-based adoption in China.) In
the south, most victims are trafficked to Cambodia to work
in the sex industry, though a sizeable number (estimated
1,200 per month) of women from the Mekong Delta go to Taiwan
for arranged marriages. It is not known how many of the
women who go to Taiwan (or to a lesser extent, Korea) are
trafficked, but some definitely are.

4. (U) The lack of hard data complicates efforts to evaluate
and respond to the trafficking problem in Vietnam. UNICEF
and Interpol both admit that their estimates are more
guesses than concrete information. The GVN does not
maintain statistics, and what information it does provide is
compromised by the fact that very few police or security
officials make a distinction between trafficking and alien
smuggling (there appears to be only one term in Vietnamese
for both). UNODC has submitted a project proposal that
would collect some more useful and reliable data on
trafficking in Vietnam (ref b), and we are waiting for
Washington's response to this proposal.

5. (U) Action request: Embassy would welcome an update or
response to ref b proposal as soon as possible.

GVN response
------------

6. (U) Within the GVN, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS)
unit liaison with Interpol is also the designated
investigative authority for trafficking cases. On the
policy and prevention side, MPS shares responsibility with
the Ministry of Justice, the Women's Union (a nation-wide
"mass organization" under the umbrella of the Vietnam
Fatherland Front), the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and
Social Affairs' Department of Social Evils Prevention
(MOLISA/DSEP), and the Border Guards. In addition, the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Consular Affairs Department
plays a role in returning victims to Vietnam. Local
Peoples' Committees also have input into how local projects
are run. However, there appear to be no overall
coordinating authority, formal lines of communication, or
interagency tasking authority. In addition, there is only
very limited coordination and communication across either
provincial or national borders. Compounding the problem,
awareness of the issue is low even among law enforcement
agencies likely to encounter traffickers or their victims,
such as Customs or Border Patrol. The capacity of local
authorities to investigate and prosecute traffickers also
appears weak.

Deputy Prime Minister's Conference
----------------------------------
7. (U) The September 9 conference in Ho Chi Minh City
brought together officials from every relevant ministry and
office, as well as participants from various mass
organizations and other designated Vietnamese groups. Its
announced purpose was specifically to address trafficking in
women and children. At the end of the conference, DPM Khiem
directed MPS and the Prime Minister's office to propose a
long-term program of action and to recommend a lead agency
to take responsibility at all levels of government. The
local press quoted a Vice Minister for Public Security
outlining the following proposals:

(A) Take measures to change the life of the people in far-
off and border areas, especially those in the South West and
border provinces in the North, and measures to support
returnees (women and children);

(B) Increase awareness of trafficking in order to take
precautions against it, uncover traffickers, and coordinate
with authorities;

(C) Continue to complete and build the legal system,
especially to overcome weaknesses in labor export and
marriage laws;

(D) Improve investigation and severely punish criminals,
trafficking rings, and especially transnational syndicates;
and,

(E) Expand international cooperation.

Action on the last item is apparently underway. The
Minister of Public Security is scheduled to visit Beijing
September 16, and one of his agenda items is to sign a
"cooperative mechanism" between the two countries' security
ministries addressing, among other issues, trafficking in
persons.

8. (U) DPM Khiem also cited four main requirements to
implement the above tasks effectively:

(A) A commanding (coordinating) agency under the government;
(B) A favorable legal "corridor";
(C) A program with specific road map; and,
(D) Adequate funding and training of cadres.

(NOTE: With the exception of dealing with socioeconomic
development in areas prone to trafficking, all of the para 7
proposals and all of the para 8 requirements are covered in
the `expected outputs' section of UNODC's antitrafficking
project proposal FS/VIE/03/R21, approved and funded by the
USG in FY03 and signed by MPS in August, 2003. END NOTE.)

NGO and International Organization actors
-----------------------------------------

9. (U) International assistance against trafficking in
persons remains modest, totaling only about USD 5 million
annually. According to our contacts at UNICEF and UNODC,
the NGO and IO efforts are well coordinated to avoid
duplication of effort and waste, but would be even more
effective if the GVN established a clearer strategy and
designated an agency to lead the official antitrafficking
effort, as now appears to be in the works. Major ongoing
projects include the following:

-- Oxfam Quebec, Save the Children UK, and Save the
Children Sweden are carrying out a project in Vietnam's
northeast (Bac Giang, Quang Ninh, and Lang Son provinces)
aimed at awareness-raising through the distribution of
leaflets and at local economic development through the
provision of training and support for women starting their
own businesses.

-- the ILO: The ILO's project is part of a subregional
project including all of the Mekong subregion countries. It
is located in Quang Ninh and Thanh Hoa provinces and in Ho
Chi Minh City. ILO focuses on advocacy and awareness
raising; capacity building in MOLISA, Border Guards, MPS,
and the Vietnamese Women's Union; and direct assistance.

-- IOM: The IOM is focused on protection of returnees.
Also a regional Mekong project, IOM has opened a shelter for
returned trafficked children in Ho Chi Minh City and
provides assistance to trafficking victims who want to
return to Vietnam.

-- UNICEF has a Vietnam component to a subregional
antitrafficking project, which focuses on protection of
victims and institutional capacity building, as well as
legal reform. UNICEF's project is unique in that it
incorporates children themselves in project planning.

-- A new UNODC project, with funding by the USG, focuses
on capacity building among law enforcement agencies, legal
reform leading to accession to UN protocols on trafficking,
and international law-enforcement cooperation.

-- The Asia Foundation project, also funded by the USG,
focuses on prevention of trafficking in Quang Ninh and An
Giang provinces. TAF works with Vietnamese NGOs and the
Women's Union to improve conditions and opportunities for
women in the provinces. Activities include training of
women political candidates and business managers, and
provision of microcredit loans for women starting small
businesses.

-- the UN Interagency Project in Bangkok administers a USD
3 million project against trafficking in women and children
in the Mekong Sub-region, including Vietnam, and attempts to
collect data and to improve internal coordination among GVN
agencies. The UNIAP is currently on hiatus in Vietnam
pending the GVN's approval of its `second phase' projects.

10. (U) Comment: The GVN is increasingly seized with the
trafficking issue, as was evident in this unprecedented,
recent high-profile conference. As in dealing with other
major social problems, the GVN is hampered by a lack of
resources and competence, and turns to the international
community for assistance. The next challenge will be to
move from the fairly modest ongoing and planned awareness-
raising and capacity-building projects into more practical
measures to fight against trafficking and assist victims.
BURGHARDT

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