Cablegate: Ngo and Gvn Partners Talk About Tip in Mekong Delta

DE RUEHHM #0622/01 2860740
R 130740Z OCT 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

HO CHI MIN 00000622 001.2 OF 003

1. (SBU) Summary: A recent visit to the Mekong Delta provinces
bordering Cambodia highlighted the efforts of The An Giang/Dong
Thap Alliance to Prevent Trafficking (ADAPT) against Trafficking
in Persons (TIP). GVN partners reported an increasing number of
victims from An Giang being trafficked directly across the
northern border to China, though hard statistics remain
difficult to determine. Also, while the number of women
visiting foreign marriage counseling centers in An Giang has
decreased in recent years, NGOs have reported "white outs" in
several villages across the Delta where marriageable-age girls
have all emigrated overseas. Lack of local economic
opportunities and educational awareness remain primary drivers
of both trafficking and foreign marriages. End Summary.

New Evidence of Trafficking to China


2. (SBU) From August 6-8, EconOff traveled to An Giang and Dong
Thap provinces to support the anti-trafficking in persons
activities of USAID-funded ADAPT, an NGO coalition comprised of
Pacific Links, the East Meets West Foundation and the
International Children Assistance Network. ADAPT is leading
efforts to assist girls in the Mekong Delta who have been
victims of or are at high risk for cross-border trafficking.
While in An Giang, EconOff also met with Ms. Tran Thi Lan, Vice
Chairman of the province's Women's Union, and Mr. Nguyen Thanh
Hai, Deputy Head of the specialized anti-TIP criminal
investigation police, PC14, and other Vietnamese government
bodies that are also doing their part to combat trafficking.

3. (SBU) PC14's Mr. Hai told EconOff that while typically
victims are trafficked to Cambodia and then to third countries
such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, there is an
increasing trend of victims being trafficked to China. He
pointed to two specific cases over the last 18 months--in
February 2009, Vietnamese police arrested two individuals who
allegedly trafficked four women and one child from An Giang
Province to Guangxi province on Vietnam's northern border.
Similarly, in April 2008, police uncovered a case in which
victims from An Giang were being transported to China by train.
Hai noted that victims are being taken further inland in China,
making investigations and repatriations more difficult. Thus
far, only one trafficking victim from these two cases has been
returned to Vietnam. Mr. Hai also said while these two China
TIP prosecutions are still pending, ten traffickers have been
convicted in An Giang between 2004 and 2009, illustrating the
increasing effectiveness of Vietnamese law enforcement in
combating TIP.

4. (SBU) Despite improving cooperation among GVN agencies
responsible for combating TIP, accurate official statistics are
still hard to come by, and the different perspectives among
partners show in comments made by GVN agencies and NGOs.
According to An Giang Women's Union Vice Chair Ms. Lan, the
number of girls who are being trafficked in An Giang province
has declined significantly in recent years. Ms. Lan said the
official number of victims in 2008 was just one person, down
from a peak of 23 in 2002. She claimed the total number of
trafficking victims has been 191 since 1991. ADAPT staff said
that those figures only reflect cases reported to the police and
don't come close to representing the true scope of the problem.
Based on what they have been hearing in the field, they estimate
closer to 1,000 victims over the last year alone. A senior
contact at the International Organization of Migration said that
the Women's Unions generally underestimate the number of women
trafficked, since they rely on women coming forward and many
victims remain silent for fear of social stigma and
discrimination. In contrast, IOM said figures reported by the
police can be over-estimated, since ward and commune officials
reporting into the residential registration system in some
places have a tendency to report "missing" women as trafficked,
even when IOM has later confirmed through follow up interviews
that the women left to marry overseas or work in factories
around Ho Chi Minh City.

Delta "White Outs"


5. (SBU) The trend of young Delta women emigrating overseas for

HO CHI MIN 00000622 002.2 OF 003

marriage or employment, primarily to Taiwan and Korea, has also
contributed to the trafficking problem, as many traffickers pose
as marriage or labor brokers in order to lure women overseas
into prostitution or forced labor. The An Giang Women's Union
runs a counseling center for women considering foreign
marriages, briefing them on the culture and traditions of their
intended countries as well as warning them about popular
trafficking schemes and informing them of their legal rights
abroad. Ms. Lan said while the numbers of girls seeking
assistance had been steadily declining from 700 cases in 2003 to
around 200 cases in 2008, there are now several villages,
particularly around the southern city of Can Tho, where all of
the marriageable age girls have left to marry foreigners,
resulting in "white outs." She said that the center does not
discourage these marriages, though the media has increasingly
reported stories of women subjected to domestic violence and
forced labor after contracting marriage abroad. Ms. Lan
estimated that these stories represent only a small number of
cases ("around 5 percent") and in most instances women who marry
overseas are able to send back an average of $160 UDS per month
to their families, and some "good" husbands even build new homes
for their brides' families in Vietnam. As families see their
neighbors economically benefitting from their daughters' foreign
marriages, increasing numbers want to encourage theirs to do the

Efforts to Combat Trafficking


6. (SBU) The An Giang Women's Union is primarily involved in
public awareness campaigns in border villages, including
distributing educational materials and using performing arts
groups and the media to disseminate information about the
dangers of trafficking. Ms. Lan said that they receive $25-35
million VND per year from the GVN for their anti-TIP programs
and receive aid from IOM to run a Victims Assessment Center and
from the Asia Foundation to operate a micro-credit program.

7. (SBU) ADAPT is the primary driver for programs geared at
preventing at-risk girls from being trafficked and for
repatriating/reintegrating victims from the border provinces.
In terms of prevention, ADAPT runs a scholarship program for
more than 300 students in three Mekong provinces encouraging
families to keep their daughters in school, as well as several
summer camps where girls learn about the risks of being
trafficked and participate in exercises to build confidence and
life skills. ADAPT also runs a vocational training and job
placement program that has recently been expanded to the
culinary industry in Ho Chi Minh City.

8. (SBU) EconOff and USAID reps toured the Open House for
repatriated victims of trafficking run by ADAPT with the support
of the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (DOLISA)
The bright, welcoming center currently has 20 residents and
provides room and board as well as temporary residency
registration procedures, medical care, psychological counseling
and vocational training.

9. (SBU) Comment: While the GVN has ramped up efforts in recent
years to combat TIP through public awareness campaigns and
increased law enforcement efforts in recent years, providing
assistance to TIP victims remains primarily in the hands of
NGOs, several of which have expressed concern over the
decreasing level of public and private funding available for
anti-TIP initiatives in Vietnam. One contact lamented that
while philanthropic support for anti-TIP programs was very "hip"
among donors in Vietnamese communities in Southern California
several years ago, many have decreased their contributions due
to the economic downturn or decided to donate to other causes.
At the same time, many NGOs feel USG funding has moved on to
other Southeast Asian countries perceived to have more urgent or
more recent TIP issues. GVN contacts note that young women in
the Delta will continue to become at-risk for trafficking as
long as economic hardships at home force them to look at
opportunities abroad, and believe Vietnam's continued economic
development is the key to resolving TIP issues long-term. End

HO CHI MIN 00000622 003.2 OF 003

10. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.

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