Cablegate: Labor Export Situation and Vietnam's Tier

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


1. (U) Summary and action request: Embassy has reviewed the
suggested language in the Trafficking in Persons report and
would like to clarify some issues that appear to have led
G/TIP to recommend a "watch list" designation for Vietnam.
The GVN is engaged in monitoring and investigation of work
conditions and welfare of Vietnamese overseas laborers, both
through stationing dedicated labor attaches in key labor
export market countries and the use of central government
delegations to investigate the situation in areas with high
numbers of worker complaints, such as Malaysia. In
addition, post has not been able to confirm G/TIP's findings
regarding the legislative connection between labor export
companies, the police, and victims' families. Our work with
the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs
(MOLISA), with Vietnamese attorneys, and with our own
experienced staff has, on the contrary, uncovered no
sections of Vietnamese law equivalent to those quoted in
recent G/TIP emails. If there is more information
available, please provide substantiation of the claim that
the revised labor code provides for police harassment of the
families of overseas workers. End summary and action

2. (U) The GVN remains closely engaged on the issue of
exploitation of Vietnamese labor overseas. This engagement
manifested itself most recently in the GVN's taking an
active role in monitoring conditions for Vietnamese workers
overseas and acting to combat abuses when necessary. One
recent example: on April 7, Vietnamese television reported
that MOLISA's Department of Overseas Labor sent an
investigative mission of GVN officials in March to Malaysia
to examine labor conditions for Vietnamese workers. MOLISA
official Tran Xuan Nhat confirmed April 8 that the MOLISA
investigation trip to Malaysia was one of "several" trips
GVN officials had made to gauge the situation in economies
with high numbers of Vietnamese workers. Following the
MOLISA trip, Vietnamese Ambassador to Malaysia Nguyen Quoc
Dung issued a public statement warning potential Vietnamese
overseas laborers that working in Malaysia entailed "many
risks" and cautioned that Malaysia was "not a market for
Vietnamese to make fortunes."

3. (U) In addition to these trips by Vietnam-based
officials, the GVN established and filled labor attache
positions in SRV Embassies in the six countries/economies
with the greatest number of Vietnamese laborers. Among
other duties, these attaches are charged with investigating
Vietnamese worker claims of abuse or fraud. They also have
the authority and funding to assist Vietnamese workers who
encounter problems overseas, including repatriation if
necessary. (Ref. B)

4. (U) MOLISA Deputy Director General of the Department of
Overseas Labor Nguyen Ngoc Quynh confirmed in an April 9
meeting with Econoff that MOLISA has the responsibility for
monitoring compliance with labor export regulations. In CY
2004 MOLISA has already exercised this authority nine times,
suspending the license of one labor export company and
warning eight others, he said. (Note: these enforcement
activities in CY 2004 are in addition to the ten license
revocations and eight suspensions carried out from 2001-
2003, reported reftel B. End note.) For cases involving
significant violations of the law or abuse of workers,
MOLISA referred cases to the Ministry of Public Security, he
added. In 2003, one of these cases resulted in a death
sentence for a "labor exporter" who defrauded hundreds of
workers seeking overseas jobs, Quynh noted.

5. (U) An Embassy review of the Vietnamese labor code failed
to uncover any documentation substantiating Washington's
assertion that the law authorizes unit "A-19" of the
"political police" to contact workers' families in the event
of a dispute, or any mention whatsoever of police or a unit
A-19. Pham Thu Huong of the Hanoi Lawyers' Association
stated April 8 that "nowhere in the Revised Labor Code
discusses a connection between laborers, agents, and the
police." MOLISA's Nhat separately noted that, according to
Vietnamese law, it is the right of the labor export company
(or any other individual or entity) to report "trouble or
complaints" to the police, but added that the labor code
would not provide any authority to the police to contact
family members or sponsors in connection with a case.
6. (U) Comment: In terms of the issue of labor exploitation,
Vietnam's performance has improved substantially since last
year's TIP report. The revised labor code of 2003,
currently in the process of implementation, represents a
serious effort by the GVN to address the problems of
laborers in general and the problems of overseas laborers in
particular. The issue of Vietnamese workers maltreated
overseas - and defrauded at home - has been widely covered
in the press and in the broadcast media, and has been a
priority for the GVN. More than ever before, Vietnamese
laborers overseas are receiving the attention of their
government and assistance when it is needed. Proof of this
can be seen in the numerous fines, suspensions, and license
revocations handed out to crooked labor export companies
over the last year, as well as stiff sentences for people
involved in exploitation of overseas labor (Ref A). These
developments represent real progress in Vietnam's struggle
against labor exploitation and should be considered a
mitigating factor in the decision as to whether Vietnam
merits "watch list" status.

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