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Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Lao Women's Union

VZCZCXRO1431
PP RUEHCHI
DE RUEHVN #0636/01 1880633
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 070633Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0110
INFO RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 6687
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 2692
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 2141
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH 1804
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0429

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VIENTIANE 000636

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MLS, G/TIP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KWMN LA
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S MEETING WITH LAO WOMEN'S UNION
PRESIDENT ADDRESSES LAOS' TIER 3 RANKING

REF: VIENTIANE 571

1. (SBU) Summary: Ambassador met with newly-elected Lao
Women's Union (LWU) President Sisay Leudetmounsone July 6 to
discuss Embassy cooperation with the LWU across a range of
issues. The LWU has played a prominent role on TIP issues,
and Ambassador used the occasion to explain Laos' recent Tier
3 ranking and suggest areas where the Lao could take steps to
improve their standing. President Sisay, who was aware of our
TIP Report, suggested the LWU would be willing to work with
the Embassy and, as a starting point, would meet with a
visiting G/TIP official later this month. Sisay pointed out
other positive developments: the LWU women's shelter, funded
jointly by UNICEF, the Japanese government and The Asia
Foundation (TAF), was up and running, the government had just
issued a Presidential Decree on implementing the 2004 Women's
Law, and the National Committee on Anti-Human Trafficking had
recently met. The LWU is one of the lead GoL agencies on
TIP; Sisay appears to be as committed to the issue as her
predecessor, who has taken the reigns at the Ministry of
Labor and Social Welfare. End summary.

2. (SBU) Ambassador described to President Sisay the
Embassy's long record of cooperation with the LWU, especially
through USG-funded projects implemented by LWU partners like
TAF and, more recently, with the Academy for Educational
Development (AED) on Avian Influenza. TAF, in particular, had
enjoyed an extremely close and productive relationship with
the LWU, helping the Union construct a women's shelter, the
first of its kind in the country, in conjunction with UNICEF
and the Japanese government. Over nearly a decade, TAF had
worked with the LWU in providing training for women in a
variety of areas, had been a partner in drafting and
disseminating the 2004 Law on Women, and had assisted the LWU
on its TIP strategy.

3. (SBU) Although the LWU had been at the forefront of TIP
efforts, the Ambassador reminded Sisay, other parts of the
Gol had been laggard, with the result that this year the
G/TIP office had demoted Laos to Tier 3 ranking -- partially
a result of the GoL's inability to show serious efforts on
prosecution of traffickers and protection of victims. A
senior official from the State Department's G/TIP Office
would visit Laos later this month to discuss recommendations
for Laos to follow on trafficking, and she hoped the LWU
would be able to meet with him. Sisay was familiar with the
ranking and indicated she understood the TIP Report critique.
She took issue with the ranking overall, however, and claimed
that the government had been making serious efforts; its
failures were of omission, not commission. As an
illustration, she said there had been a number of
prosecutions of traffickers, but unfortunately details were
sparse because of the inherent difficulties in collecting
information on cases from provincial courts and police.

4. (SBU) Sisay told Ambassador that one manifestation of Lao
intentions regarding trafficking was its passage of the 2004
Women's Law. This law had been slow to be implemented, but
earlier this year the President had finally issued
implementing regulations for the law in the form of a
Presidential Decree. This decree would allow the law, with
its many sanctions against trafficking, to be put into
effect. This would in turn have an impact on the government's
ability to prosecute traffickers. On protection of victims,
the LWU now had the Women's Shelter, which was finally up and
running, providing for out-patient counseling services for
victims of trafficking and domestic abuse and short-term
accommodations for women, and their children, who had no
other place to turn.

5. (SBU) Sisay also said the Lao government's National
Committee on Anti-Human Trafficking had met recently, the
first time since the body was set up two years ago. She hoped
this would be the start of a continuous effort at the
national level. She said she welcomed the visit of the G/TIP
official (Senior Reports Officer Mark Taylor) to discuss
recommendations for moving Laos off Tier 3. Sisay said she
would be happy to meet with him to discuss the
recommendations.

6. (SBU) Comment: Tier 3 ranking appears to have galvanized
the Lao to an extent we had not anticipated. Interlocutors at
both the LWU and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare
have generally welcomed establishing a dialogue with us to
discuss their ranking, and are tangibly more willing to share

VIENTIANE 00000636 002 OF 002


with us what they've been doing on TIP than they were before
our report came out. The recent cabinet shakeup may help as
well: the LWU's former President, Onechanh Thammavong, has
moved over to become Minister of Labor and Social Welfare.
Onechanh has been closely engaged on TIP efforts and her
presence at the MLSW should be a fillip to that office's TIP
work. Sisay is new to the LWU's Vientiane office, but came
here from Champassak, where she headed the provincial LWU for
many years. Champassak is a point of origin of many Lao
migrants to Thailand, and is in the front line of the TIP
issue. Sisay brings to the LWU substantial experience on
TIP. End comment.

7. (SBU) On a biographical note, Sisay is an up-and-comer
whom we would definitely rate as one of our more personable
interlocutors. Born in Salavane province in 1959, she is an
ethnic Katang who moved to Champassak at the age of 9 and has
spent nearly all her life in that southern province. She
worked her way up through the provincial education department
and LWU; she was for many years a teacher of science at the
Teachers' Training School in Champassak, and in 2005 was
named Director of the Provincial Education Department. She
served two terms, from 1998 to 2006, as a National Assembly
representative from Champassak. Relatively unknown outside
the province, in March she was elected to the Central
Committee at number 48 in the 55-member body, one of only
four women represented at that level of the Party. Unusually,
she is single. She speaks some English.
HASLACH

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