Cablegate: Profiles of Anti-Trafficking in Persons Programs in Southern

DE RUEHHM #0936/01 2540852
P 110852Z SEP 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) HCMC 801 B) HCMC 191 C) HCMC 090 and previous D) HANOI 393 E) HANOI 394 F) HANOI 402

HO CHI MIN 00000936 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Women's Union officials in Ho Chi Minh City,
An Giang, and Can Tho provinces report that GVN anti-TIP efforts
under the GVN National Program of Action are generally uniformly
implemented, but the resources made available to the different
provinces are not. Meanwhile, NGOs AFESIP (Acting for Women in
Distressing Situations) and ADAPT (the USAID-funded An
Giang-Dong Thap Alliance for the Prevention of Trafficking)
provided a less optimistic perspective on the Women's Unions
activities. Contrary to recent estimates in the 2007 Vietnam TIP
Report, the Can Tho and An Giang's Women's Union reported many
fewer TIP victims in their region. This under-reporting may be
the result of the fact that the Women's Unions-and the GVN in
general-lack a systematic way of tracking TIP victims and may
not be sharing with each other the little bits of information
they do have. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Between July 2 and August 1, PolOff discussed anti-TIP
efforts with Women's Union officials in An Giang, Can Tho and Ho
Chi Minh City, three of Vietnam's highest-risk areas for
trafficking in persons. (Note: Under the GVN National Program
of Action, the Vietnamese Women's Union, one of the six "mass
organizations" in Vietnam, plays a lead role in anti-TIP
educational awareness and communications programs. It also
supports TIP victim returnees. End note.) The Women's Union
officials talked to us about the activities they have carried
out pursuant to Prime Minister's Decree 130, which outlines the
GVN's anti-TIP strategy and National Program of Action. The
Decree 130 programs run by the Women's Union focus on raising
public awareness and providing health care, vocational training,
and reintegration for returning TIP victims, who typically
reside in shelters from six months to a year. The
government-subsidized shelters and women's centers also work to
educate local communities to prevent women and children from
becoming TIP victims and to alleviate any stigmatization towards
returning victims. The centers offer vocational training
classes such as sewing, embroidery, rug weaving and making
artificial flower arrangements. They also provide small loans
for women to start their own businesses and legal and counseling
services. As carrying out activities under Decree 130 is only
one of six official functions carried out by the Women's Unions,
they also broaden their efforts by partnering with organizations
like the Vietnam Youth Union and the media on a variety of
TIP-prevention activities.


3. (SBU) Leaders of the An Giang Women's Union told us that
since 2001, their branch has helped 52 trafficking victims
reintegrate into their communities. Vice Chairwoman Ms. Tran
Thi Lan noted that of these 52 women, 10 currently lead stable
lives and have started their own families. From 2001 to June
2007, 37 TIP victims (32 women and five children) were rescued
and repatriated through official channels. Most of the
returnees in An Giang come from Cambodia via bordering Tay Ninh
province. Other risk areas the Women's Union focuses on are
Chau Phu, Chau Doc and An Phu districts. Currently the Union
does not precisely track the number of women trafficked from
these areas.

4. (SBU) The An Giang Women's Union has cooperated with two
bordering provinces in Cambodia, Ta Keo and Can Dan, but stated
that such cross-border cooperation is limited by the language
barrier. In addition, a bilateral agreement of cooperation on
TIP issues between An Giang and the two Cambodian provinces is
fairly new and operational details have not yet been formalized.

5. (SBU) Lan noted that TIP victims generally do not want to
work with authorities to convict traffickers because the
traffickers are often family members or acquaintances. The
Women's Union stressed they do not pressure known TIP victims
either to publicly identify themselves or to force them to use
its services. Surprisingly, the Women's Union believes that the
number of women trafficked in An Giang is low, when compared to
other provinces, and is decreasing. This view seems
inconsistent with the USG's 2007 Vietnam TIP Report, which
estimates the number of women trafficked in Vietnam since 1998
could be as high as 50,000 victims (Ref D). It also conflicts
with reports from international NGOs working in the area.

6. (SBU) ADAPT (An Giang Dong Thap Alliance for the Prevention
of Trafficking) is a USAID-funded program that works to prevent
trafficking in the Mekong Delta. The project is administered by
three Vietnamese American NGOs: Pacific Links Foundation, East
Meets West Foundation and the International Children Assistance

HO CHI MIN 00000936 002.2 OF 003

Network. ADAPT uses scholarships as a TIP prevention tool by
helping at-risk girls cover school expenses until they graduate.
The girls are nominated by their schools and screened for
eligibility by ADAPT. On August 1, PolOff attended an ADAPT
Awards Ceremony in An Giang that gave scholarships to 122 girls
in grades six through ten. The scholarships provide funds for
tuition, books, supplies, uniforms, and even health care. This
year, 281 girls in three districts of An Giang were awarded,
many for the second time. In addition to the scholarships,
ADAPT also donated 17 personal computers, dictionaries, and
bilingual books to schools and education centers; and awarded
140 bicycles to girls who improved their grades during the
school year.

8. (SBU) The ADAPT program is not without challenges. During
the 2006-2007 school year, 35 ADAPT recipients dropped out of
school. Of the 35 drop-outs, 19 were eventually convinced to
return to school. PolOff met with two ADAPT scholarship
recipients, Le Thi Trinh (Grade 9) and Nguyen Thi Truc Ly (Grade
9) at their homes. It was clear during the visit how poverty,
poor living conditions, and problematic family relationships
greatly contribute to the problem of trafficking in persons in
Vietnam. ADAPT organizers noted that convincing the parents of
the benefits of education for their girls is one of their
biggest challenges, because parents often feel the girls should
work instead to help out with family finances.

9. (SBU) In Ho Chi Minh City, trafficked women are in the
minority at the Women's Union Shelter, as the majority of
residents are victims of sexual abuse. Of the women who
complete the rehabilitation program, 70 percent reintegrate
successfully and 20 percent re-marry. Chairperson Nguyen Thi
Ngoc Hanh of the HCMC Women's Union and Nguyen Thi Bach Tuyet,
Director of the Marriage Assistance Center, described their TIP
program as having three components: the women's shelter, the
Marriage Assistance Center and a public awareness campaign.

10. (SBU) The Marriage Assistance Center is a matchmaking
service where women can take a variety of classes designed to
assist them in building successful marriages with foreign
spouses. The Center boasts approximately 100 successful matches
a year. The classes include language courses, cooking foreign
cuisine, making floral arrangements, and learning about
immigration laws and individual rights in their respective host

11. (SBU) Foreigners are then matched with a prospective
Vietnamese spouse after completing a questionnaire that includes
information about the foreigners' interests and personality
traits. The system differs from illegal marriage brokerage
services, which commonly feature foreign men picking women out
of lineups. At the Marriage Assistance Center, the matched
couples court each other via phone and/or email. The
prospective foreign spouse must also meet and be approved by his
fiancie's parents. The Marriage Assistance Center does not
charge a fee, unlike most commercial marriage brokers.

12. (SBU) The HCMC Women's Union Awareness Program targets
at-risk groups by arranging talks, publishing news articles, and
distributing information via brochures and their website
( Leaflets are also handed out at the
Women's Club, which has an average attendance of 7,000 women per
year. Through their public awareness campaign, the Club reveals
the most common tricks used by traffickers to lure women
overseas, while encouraging the community at large to denounce
traffickers to the police. They also give out advice on how to
obtain important travel documents and suggest women leave
photocopies of their documents at home with a trusted family
member or friend.

13. (SBU) On July 20, PolOff met with George Blanchard, Director
of NGO AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Situations)
Vietnam, to discuss that organization's anti-TIP programs in
HCMC. AFESIP is a non-profit NGO that originated in Cambodia.
It helps those women who have been trafficked or forced into

14. (SBU) AFESIP focuses on educating sex workers about safe sex
practices and counsels them about the dangers of the sex trade.
Through hotlines and street teams manned by volunteers, they
disseminate condoms and information on sex education and
HIV/AIDS. They also run a shelter, in conjunction with the
Women's Union, for trafficked women who have returned to
Vietnam. Their staff includes four social workers, two peer

HO CHI MIN 00000936 003.2 OF 003

educators and more than 150 volunteers. Their shelter is run in
collaboration with the Women's Union.

15. (SBU) According to Blanchard, getting an accurate number of
TIP victims would be close to impossible in Vietnam, because the
numbers as well as the circumstances change every year. He
believes the number of Vietnamese women sent to Cambodia is
decreasing, but he has found new cases of victims arriving from
Laos. Despite the difficulties in getting accurate numbers, he
feels the Police Department's numbers are the most reliable.
(Note: PolOff contacted the HCMC police, who declined to share
their figures. End note.)

16. (SBU) Blanchard said AFESIP is currently focused on
documenting its program model, so that it may be replicated by
others. Blanchard believes the size of the program is not as
important as achieving a high standard of quality for others to
follow. AFESIP's program has been proudly showcased by the GVN.
While funds are always a concern, Blanchard says
capacity-building is AFESIP's biggest challenge. He explained
that even with an increase in funds, AFESIP would still need
human capital to grow. In the future, AFESIP hopes to open a
separate shelter for child victims.

17. (SBU) In southern Can Tho Province, Ms. Lam Nhat Phuong,
Deputy Director of DoLISA (Department of Labor, Invalids and
Social Affairs) described the operations of the 'Women Far Away
from Home' organization. Established in 1995, the group provides
services for TIP returnees, including social networking,
HIV/AIDS counseling, and vocational training. As in An Giang,
the Deputy Director also claimed that the number of TIP cases in
Can Tho is relatively low when compared to neighboring
provinces. However, she admitted that the number is low
primarily because the union lacks capacity in identifying
victims of trafficking. Right now, the Women's Union becomes
aware of victims only if they return and identify themselves or
are identified by authorities. This year, four women have been
returned by police after being apprehended at the Cambodian
border. Ms. Phuong said most women from Can Tho are believed to
be trafficked to Macao and Thailand through Ho Chi Minh City and

18. (SBU) The Can Tho Women's Union has also received
non-government funding since 2005. The HCF Foundation funds
awareness efforts, while a Spanish NGO funds small loans for
women to start up their own business. Health services are
provided by the Provincial Department of Health and HIV testing
is subsidized by the USG PEPFAR program and NGO Family Health
International (FHI). The incidence of HIV/AIDS is high among
the women in the Women Far Away From Home organization, and lack
of medication for HIV-positive patients is the highest priority.
The Union also highlighted their greatest triumph thus far--
six women who had been forced into abusive marriages overseas
who returned and have now successfully completed the program.

19. (SBU) COMMENT: The lack of accurate measurement tools to
track the number of trafficked victims remains a major problem
in combating and preventing TIP in Vietnam. The fact that
officials of the Women's Union in An Giang and Can Tho believe
that the trafficking problem in their region is "relatively
small" despite lack of accurate numbers is also a concern--and
points to a lack of cooperation and information-sharing among
the provincial and city Women's Union groups. While HCMC's
Marriage Assistance Center is a positive step to combat the
rising tide of illegal trafficking rings posing as marriage
brokers, the service is not being extensively used. On the
other hand international grassroots organizations with GVN
support such as ADAPT and AFESIP are managing small but
successful programs that serve as important models of how to use
resources effectively to combat root causes of TIP and help
victims reintegrate into society. END COMMENT.

© Scoop Media

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