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Cablegate: Lao Defense Minister Speaks Out Against Child Trafficking


DE RUEHVN #0928 3620603
R 280603Z DEC 07




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense
Lieutenant General Douangchay Phichit spoke to a crowd of 1000
government officials and members of the public at an all-day event
marking the International Day Against Child Trafficking on December
7. The Minister described Lao government actions to try to combat
the problem and warned of the dangers faced by children who become
victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. This is one of the
strongest public statements by a senior Lao official this year
specifically on child trafficking and sexual exploitation. The
event was organized by the Lao Youth Union and funded by local UN
agencies, the US Embassy Public Diplomacy Section, and NGOs. End

2. Laos's first-ever official ceremony to mark the International
Day Against Child Trafficking, which commemorates the adoption of
the UN Protocol to Prevent and Punish Trafficking in Persons, took
place on December 7. (The International Day Against Child
Trafficking is actually December 12.) The Lao Youth Union, a "mass
organization" under the communist party, organized the event.
Speaking on behalf of the Lao government was Lieutenant General
Phichit, who in addition to his role as Deputy PM and Minister of
National Defense is also the President of the National Committee on
Combating Human Trafficking. General Phichit warned that human
trafficking was a serious problem and that combating the problem
required the cooperation of the both the public and private sectors.
Laying out government actions against trafficking over the last few
years, he noted that the GOL had made efforts to prevent and
suppress the problem by passing legislation criminalizing all forms
of human trafficking and had set up programs to help the victims.
He then focused on the specific problem of child trafficking, saying
that 1.2 million children in the world were "for sale" annually and
forced to work in a variety of places, including factories,
entertainment clubs, restaurants, bars, and other "bad places."
Some, he said, were forced to provide sexual services and raped.

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3. Following the Minister, a representative from the UN Office on
Drugs and Crime in Laos described the global scope of the problem,
saying that human trafficking was now the third largest source of
profits for organized crime, after drugs and arms trafficking. Lao
Youth Union President Khamphan Sithidampha said that child
trafficking in Laos was a "matter of future national development and
security" and called on all sectors of society to protect Lao
children. After the speeches, children's groups performed plays,
puppet shows, and songs and gave presentations to warn the public -
especially other children - about the dangers of child trafficking.

4. In attendance at the event were representatives from all
government ministries, various NGOs and international organizations,
and students and families from Vientiane. Funding for the event was
provided by the UN organizations in Laos, a small grant by the US
Embassy's Public Diplomacy Section, and several NGOs. The event
received extensive press coverage.

5. Comment: We were pleased to see such a strong and high-profile
anti-trafficking statement by General Phichit, who is one of the Lao
government's most senior officials. Also commendable was the strong
emphasis placed on educating children on the dangers of trafficking.
Although child trafficking within Laos has not reached the level of
other countries in the region, trafficking of young teenagers to
neighboring countries, particularly Thailand, is a problem. Public
education is the key to halting this type of exploitation and
preventing future growth in domestic child trafficking.


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