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Cablegate: Burma to Host Major Regional Tips Conference

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 001357

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL,INL, G/TIP, STATE PASS LABOR FOR
ILAB, COMMERCE FOR ITA JEAN KEELY, TREASURY FOR OASIA JEFF
NEIL, USPACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ELAB PGOV BM
SUBJECT: BURMA TO HOST MAJOR REGIONAL TIPS CONFERENCE

REF: A. RANGOON 1301
B. RANGOON 1132 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: The Burmese Government, with support from
the United Nations, is preparing to host a three-day regional
conference on trafficking in persons, October 27-29. This is
a safe issue for the generals. It provides an easy platform
on which to interact with their neighbors and to improve
their international image. There are few signs, however,
that they will be able to control fully either domestic or
international trafficking in Burma in the near future. End
Summary.

2. (U) The Governments of Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos,
Thailand, and Vietnam plan to meet at the ministerial level
in Rangoon on October 29 to sign a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) committing their governments to cooperate
against trafficking in persons (TIPs). Staff work and
substantive coordination are being provided by the United
Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the
Greater Mekong Sub-Region (UNIAP), a Bangkok-based
organization located in the United Nations Development
Program (UNDP) with offices in each of the participating
countries.

3. (U) The objectives of the MOU are to facilitate
inter-governmental cooperation among the participants in all
areas of trafficking, including repatriation and labor. The
agreement also aims to strengthen bilateral agreements
reached earlier on related issues between Thailand-Cambodia
(2003) and Thailand-Laos (2004). Understandings reached
previously between Thai and Burmese authorities served as the
basis for the repatriation of twenty Burmese girls from Mai
Sai to Tachileik on August 10. Six Burmese girls were handed
over by Thai authorities to Burmese Embassy officials in
Bangkok and repatriated in December 2003. The MOU aims to
extend such bilateral cooperation through both additional
formal agreements on specific issues of particular interest
to the participating governments and informal understandings
on problems as they occur.

4. (U) In addition to the foregoing, UNIAP's acting
director, Susu Thathoun (Burmese), told poloff recently that
the MOU signing will be preceded by two days of talks among
senior officers of the participating governments, October
27-28, aimed at developing an "action plan" to support the
MOU's objectives. A follow-on senior officers' meeting is
scheduled for Hanoi in March 2005 to review and refine the
plan. Plans for a subsequent ministerial level meeting in
China are underway.

Background--A Big Tent Over the MOU

5. (U) UNIAP was formed in 2000 and now brings together,
according to Susu Thathoun, "six governments, twelve U.N.
agencies, eight international NGOs, and a wide variety of
local partners in the anti-trafficking community." She said
the Chinese government has played an important role in the
formative process, and was instrumental in launching the MOU.

6. (U) UNIAP draws help from faith-based organizations,
INGOs, U.N. agencies, and the Australian Government. World
Vision, with support from the Department, has been an
important player in Burma. Through an Australian Aid
project, "Asia Regional Cooperation to Prevent People
Trafficking," Australian police officers are training
counterparts in anti-trafficking units in Burma (ref A),
Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, all of whom are expected to be
involved in supporting the MOU.

7. (SBU) Susu Thathoun cited the drafting in September of a
Burmese law against trafficking as a major breakthrough in
the international community's relationship on trafficking
issues with the Burmese regime. After some urging, the
latter agreed to allow open discussion about the new law
among all concerned--Burmese and foreigners--during the
drafting process. Accepting this arrangement had not been
"intuitive" among the generals and other government
officials, who nevertheless recognized the value of doing so
in the end. The draft law is now under inter-agency review
and is expected to be approved by the SPDC in December 2004.
Susu Thathoun spoke very highly of the work done on the law
by Burkhard Damon, an official with the United Nations Office
of Drug and Crime Control (UNODC) in Vienna.

8. (SBU) Comment: We are encouraged by the procedural gains
described above (and we are also impressed with UNIAP's Susu
Thathoun, a Burmese citizen with Mon-Arakanese antecedents
and a Ph.d from a Japanese university). However, the
impediments to effective control of trafficking of persons in
Burma are great. No one in the 40-man police
anti-trafficking unit (currently co-located with their
Australian trainers in a house on the outskirts of Rangoon)
has been deployed to the field. Agreement has apparently yet
to be reached on whether to assign them to existing field
units or to base them in Rangoon and deploy them on specific
investigative assignments. Also, as reported previously (Ref
A), they are to work solely on international trafficking
cases. Domestic abuses will be handled by others. Further,
according to the deputy head of the Australian training unit
(John Rennie), police procedures related to trafficking are
highly antiquated, with related laws dating to the 19th
century.
Martinez

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