Cablegate: Tip in Vietnam: Visit of G/Tip Program Officer

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




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 03 Hanoi 2323 B. 03 Hanoi 3288

1. Summary: G/TIP Foreign Affairs Officer Gregory
Holliday's meetings in Vietnam were productive and reflected
the hard work and effort Vietnam is putting into the fight
against trafficking in persons. He heard about the GVN's
increasing attention to trafficking and about recent changes
to how the GVN is addressing the problem, including the
issue of the regulation and control of labor export
companies. In addition, he focused on specific programs run
by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime and OXFAM
Quebec. The September 2003 GVN interagency conference on
trafficking, the new GVN labor decree regarding labor
exports, the Ministry of Public Security's (MPS) new unit to
focus on trafficking, distribution of the UNICEF-MPS
reports, and indications of success on the northern
trafficking front were all welcome signs that the GVN takes
TIP seriously and is making progress in combating it. End


2. In Vietnam, the agencies responsible for addressing TIP
issues are the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the Border
Army, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labor,
Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA), and the Women's
Union. While in Vietnam, Mr. Holliday had the opportunity
to meet with MPS and MOLISA at the central level. He also
met with Women's Union representatives in Bac Giang and Lang
Son provinces, and UNODC staff who are working directly with
the Ministry of Justice on a U.S.-funded legislative reform
project, as well as representatives from the International
Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labor
Organization (ILO), the Asia Foundation (TAF), and UNICEF.

3. MPS sent Sr. Colonel Pham Ho and Col. Dang Xuan Khang,
Chief and Deputy Chief of Interpol Vietnam, to meet Mr.
Holliday and talk about MPS' approach to trafficking in
persons and Vietnam's international cooperation. Ho said
MPS greatly appreciated the UNODC project to strengthen the
legislative framework for combating trafficking in persons,
and looked forward to the second phase of that program,
which would involve strengthening law enforcement capacity.
Ho said that a key factor in TIP in Vietnam and elsewhere in
Southeast Asia was the demand side, and that for TIP efforts
to succeed it would be necessary to go after domestic
consumers of sex services as well as international sex
tourism customers. Vietnam was engaged in an anti-
prostitution campaign, he said, which was specifically
designed to diminish trafficking in persons as well.

4. Ho noted that Articles 119 and 120 of the Vietnamese
penal code identified trafficking in persons as a crime and
set the penalties for trafficking at 12 years in prison (for
trafficking adults) or 20 years in prison (for trafficking
in children). He added that in September 2003 Deputy Prime
Minister Pham Gia Khiem held a nationwide meeting at the
ministerial level to discuss trafficking in persons efforts
in Vietnam and inform all agencies that they should
strengthen their coordination and work against TIP (ref a).
At that meeting, MPS had been given a more central role in
the fight against TIP, he noted. In the intervening months,
MPS had responded by creating a new unit devoted to
investigating TIP and other sex-trafficking crimes, a unit
that MPS was considering expanding into an entire division
(ref b).

5. Internationally, Vietnam was also engaged on the
trafficking issue, Ho said. Vietnam signed the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1999, and in 2000
signed the UN Convention on Transnational Crime. In
addition to those steps, Vietnam had 13 separate
international legal agreements and treaties that contained
provisions relating to TIP.

6. Ho identified three main separate trafficking modalities
from Vietnam. First, he noted the phenomenon of labor export
fraud, where Vietnamese workers were sent overseas through a
labor export company to a working situation where they were
abused. This had become especially common between Vietnam
and Malaysia. With recent efforts to combat labor export
fraud in Vietnam (septel) and the implementation of a
Vietnam-Malaysia "border agreement," Vietnamese police had
been able to work with the Vietnamese Embassy in Kuala
Lumpur and with Malaysian Royal Police to uncover fraud
cases. Ho had no details to offer on these cases, however.
Second, Ho noted the well-documented route of poor, young
women from the Mekong Delta region trafficked to brothels in
Cambodia. Ho said that Vietnamese and Cambodian police
cooperated in battling this kind of trafficking, and
confirmed that there had been cases of Vietnamese
traffickers brought to justice in Vietnam. However, he
again lacked specifics, he admitted. Third, Ho noted that
criminal traffickers in northern Vietnam recruit women from
poor and rural areas and sell them to Chinese customers as
wives. China's one-child policy had resulted in a lack of
women, Ho noted, and made marriage to a Chinese girl an
impossibly expensive proposition for some Chinese men. This
created a market for Vietnamese women. Fortunately, MPS in
Vietnam had some success in working with the Chinese police
on these cases following a bilateral agreement. In 2002,
the two sides had cooperated and cracked a TIP case after
receiving information from the victim and the family, he
reported. Since then, however, MPS had not had enough
information to initiate a joint case with Chinese
authorities. He attributed this to the deep unwillingness
of Vietnamese trafficking victims and their families to
reveal details of their experiences out of fear of social
shame and humiliation.

7. Ho apologized for the lack of hard data on the number of
TIP cases underway, as well as on the number of arrests,
prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers. He
recommended asking the newly-created office of statistics in
the Supreme People's Procuracy for data. [Note: Embassy has
made requests to this office already, which have been
deflected until the new office is more firmly established.
End note.] When asked for his recommendations about steps
the international community could take to assist Vietnam in
combating TIP, Ho suggested a three-prong, prioritized
approach that tracked the GVN's own efforts: first, the
international community should help Vietnam reduce the
social causes of trafficking, namely poverty and a lack of
social and economic opportunity and education. Development
of poor areas and expansion of economic options for women
would reduce the fertile trafficking ground of rural
Vietnam. Second, awareness campaigns to teach high-risk
groups about the danger posed by traffickers' seductive
promises would be a strong step in addressing the problem.
Finally, targeted assistance to law enforcement agencies
tasked with combating TIP - particularly MPS and the Border
Army - should be combined with technical assistance to MOJ
and the Supreme People's Procuracy in making and enforcing
TIP laws to enhance the prosecution side of the TIP problem.
He expressed a hope that the U.S. could match the GVN's
determination in tackling the problem of trafficking in
persons in Vietnam.

MOLISA on labor exports

8. Holliday also met with a delegation from MOLISA,
including representatives from the Department of Social
Evils Prevention (Deputy Director General Nguyen Van Minh)
and the Department of Overseas Labor (Deputy Director
General Nguyen Ngoc Quynh), as well as Deputy Director
General Nguyen Manh Cuong from the Department of
International Cooperation. Cuong said that MOLISA was
familiar with the G/TIP office and understood its mandate,
and had read the TIP report each year it had come out.
MOLISA wanted to emphasize that neither the law nor the
political will in Vietnam tolerated trafficking in persons,
and that the GVN was committed to cooperating with the
international community in the best way possible to combat
the problem of trafficking in persons.

9. Cuong emphasized that the primary agencies for combating
TIP from the law enforcement standpoint were MPS and the
Border Army. MOLISA's role was to create employment and
reduce poverty in order to lower the number of families and
communities at economic risk of being trafficked. When
victims were trafficked, Cuong said, MOLISA had a role to
play in integrating them back into their communities.

10. DDG Quynh reviewed the status of the current GVN labor
code, which had been recently revised. (Note: current
Vietnamese law on trafficking does not include provisions
related specifically to labor export and exploitation, which
are covered by other criminal statutes. End note.) He
emphasized that labor export businesses wanting permission
to conduct labor export activities had to meet certain
criteria, such as having sufficient capital, human
resources, and training facilities. Only after receiving a
license to export labor could they begin negotiating
contracts with foreign companies. Contracted labor would
then receive training, which in addition to job-specific
training normally included:
-language of the destination country
-laws of the destination country and Vietnamese labor laws
-traditions and customs of the destination country, and
-conditions of the contract and contact information of the
Vietnamese Embassy in the destination country.
11. Quynh added that under the code, labor export companies
had to maintain representatives in the destination countries
to help workers deal with emergencies. In the event of
emergencies involving exploitation or abuse of workers, the
code and GVN policy stated that the labor export company,
MOLISA, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared
responsibility. The new labor decree established a fund to
provide financial aid to deal with unexpected problems faced
by Vietnamese workers overseas, he added. While the details
of implementation of that fund were still being worked out,
Quynh said MOLISA anticipated that the fund would be of the
most use in cases where the employer was bankrupt. To
attend to the problems of Vietnamese workers overseas, the
GVN had created 6 labor attache offices overseas to assist
laborers in trouble in the countries that had the most
overseas Vietnamese workers, Quynh noted.

12. Quynh said that the Vietnamese labor code owed a lot to
the Philippines' labor export regulations, due to a study
trip to the Philippines by MOLISA officials and a month-long
consulting trip to Vietnam by the former head of the
Philippines labor export office. Quynh said he believed the
Vietnamese law was better at protecting worker rights than
the Philippines law, and noted that Vietnam provided more
training on local laws and language than the Philippines
did. He added that Vietnam exceeded the Philippines in the
requirement that the sending organization must have a
presence in the destination country. Quynh said that there
were two kinds of abuse MOLISA was concerned about: one
involving unlicensed labor export companies sending workers
abroad, and the other involving licensed companies who broke
the rules. In both cases, he said, MOLISA contacted
Vietnamese law enforcement to deal with the problem. He
added that, in the case of legal labor export companies,
most of the complaints MOLISA heard involved Vietnamese
workers who felt that the sending companies had not honored
the terms of their contracts. In "quite a few cases,"
MOLISA had sanctioned errant labor export companies through
permanent withdrawal of labor export licenses, suspension of
licenses, or suspension of licenses in certain labor markets
only. If the labor export company were found to be actually
trafficking in humans, there would be a permanent withdrawal
of the license and subsequent law enforcement action, he

13. When asked about cases where representatives of labor
export companies had reportedly gone to the family members
of Vietnamese workers who had complained about abuse
overseas, Quynh said approaching families was "unusual" and
only occurred when a worker had left a contract and was no
longer in contact with the employing or sending business.
In those cases, he said, companies sometimes would contact
the families in order to get in touch with the worker and
convince him to return to work and not break the terms of
his contract. In reality, he said, the only reason to
contact families was to "expedite solutions to problems."
Quynh said he did not see a potential conflict of interest
in having a labor export company investigate abuses in an
employing company with which it had a labor export contract.
In some extreme cases, however, it was necessary for the
Vietnamese Embassy or even MOLISA to get involved in a case.
He himself had been to Malaysia in 2003 to look at issues
involving working conditions for Vietnamese workers and to
talk to workers. MOLISA did not do that on a regular basis,
he emphasized, but if a strong complaint or compelling
reason emerged, his department would act, he promised.

IO and NGO projects going well

14. Holliday also met with the project managers of UNODC's
U.S.-funded antitrafficking project and officials in a rural
northern commune in Lang Son province who are implementing
an OXFAM Quebec antitrafficking project. The UNODC project
staff reported great progress in the initial phase of their
project, which involves working with international legal
experts and an interagency team within the GVN to review
Vietnamese antitrafficking legislation and recommend changes
or amendments that would allow Vietnam to sign the UN
protocol on trafficking. The UNODC team had just come from
the first day of a five-day seminar at the Ministry of
Justice, and reported excellent attendance and cooperation
with the Vietnamese ministries involved. Hoang Van Lai,
national project coordinator, said it was possible that the
legal review could be completed and recommendations sent up
the line in as little as three months. This could result in
legislation changes by mid-2005. Lai opined that
trafficking in persons was the area in which the GVN was
most committed to cooperating with the international
community. He looked forward to beginning the second phase
of the project, which would involve creating training
courses for Vietnamese law enforcement, especially Border
Army units in trafficking hotspots such as Quang Ninh and An
Giang provinces.

15. The Women's Union and the People's Committee of the
commune of Hoang Van Thu in Lang Son province (a
mountainous, rural province on the Chinese border) received
Mr. Holliday. According to Hoang Quoc Hoi, the Chairman of
the People's Committee in the commune, Hoang Van Thu had
suffered for years from trafficking in persons. Women were
trafficked to China to become wives of Chinese men, and
teenagers left the commune to go to Ho Chi Minh City to
work. They were sometimes trafficked by strangers, or by
people they knew, and were "taken advantage of". Ms. Dang
Kieu Van, an officer of the Provincial Women's Union,
credited the awareness raising and economic opportunity
program run by OXFAM Quebec, in addition to heightened
attention to education and economic development from the
central level and the province, with reducing the number of
trafficked women and children in the commune from an average
of 8-9 per year from 1990-2002 down to zero in 2003.
According to Ms. Ngo Thi Thuy, Chairman and President of the
local chapter of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, a core group
of 15 volunteers (mostly from the local Women's Union, and
including returned trafficking victims) had been trained in
anti-trafficking awareness raising and had held large
awareness-raising meetings in all the villages of the
commune. They had reached hundreds of people, possibly even
a thousand, Ms. Thuy claimed, adding that it was "certain"
that the message had reached most of the commune. That
message, along with the roads and electricity and schools
that the government brought to the isolated valley, were
what had reduced trafficking to zero in 2003, said Ms. Hoang
Thi Ha of the district Women's Union. The officials
Holliday met were familiar with Decree 766 against
trafficking in persons, and with the September 2003 meeting
that reviewed the five-year progress of the decree and urged
greater action. The group said it was proud of Lang Son's
accomplishments and thought the commune's success could be
replicated elsewhere in the province. [Note: Embassy Hanoi
has submitted a Lang Son-based awareness-raising project
similar to this for funding consideration under the 2004 EAP
Women's Initiative. End note.]

16. In a dinner with representatives from trafficking-
focused NGOs such as the International Organization for
Migration (IOM), the International Labor Organization (ILO),
the Asia Foundation (TAF) and UNICEF, Holliday discussed
those organizations' TIP projects and observations on
working with the GVN on trafficking. IOM described its
efforts in Ho Chi Minh City to work with returned victims of
trafficking, and confirmed that victims who returned from
abroad were not subject to "reeducation" or forced into
rehabilitation centers. However, the problem of
reintegration was complicated by the severe social stigma
felt by returnees. ILO representative Rosemary Greve noted
that ILO's trafficking project, part of the Mekong Subregion
regional trafficking project, was currently on hiatus,
waiting for the second phase to begin. TAF Representative
Jonathan Stromseth cited its awareness-raising and victim
assistance programs in the high-risk provinces of An Giang
and Quang Ninh, and said that Provincial-level Women's Union
officials were often the best, most effective counterparts
on TIP. UNICEF Representative Anthony Bloomberg said that
his organization had success in working with all levels of
the GVN on trafficking, especially MPS. He noted that
UNICEF had worked with the General Department of Police
(within MPS) to produce reports on the trafficking situation
in the north and in the south. The report on the north had
been released in January 2003, and the report on the south
was due to be released shortly. These reports, he noted,
contained extensive research and data on victims and
traffickers, as well as the general regional trafficking
situation. In his opinion, the GVN's failure to share 2003
trafficking statistics was likely based on a lack of
organized data rather than an unwillingness to cooperate, as
evidenced by MPS participation in and distribution of the
reports containing statistics from 1999-2002.

17. Comment: There were some disappointments in Mr.
Holliday's trip. The central-level Women's Union, for
example, was unable to meet with him due to a competing
event in Dien Bien city far to the northwest, and the police
unit recently assigned to combat TIP was unable to attend
the meeting held at Interpol's main office. But the rest of
Holliday's meetings were productive and reflected the hard
work and effort Vietnam is putting into the fight against
trafficking. The 9/03 interagency conference on
trafficking, the new labor decree regarding labor exports,
MPS' new unit to focus on trafficking, distribution of the
UNICEF-MPS reports, and indications of success on the
northern trafficking front were all welcome signs that the
GVN takes TIP seriously and is making progress in combating

18. Holliday has/has not cleared this message.

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