Cablegate: Vietnamese Border Guards' Role in Combating Human

DE RUEHHI #0068/01 0221020
O R 221019Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Vietnamese Border Guards' role in Combating Human

REF: 09 HANOI 1436

1. (SBU) Summary: In a January 7 meeting, the Deputy Chief of the
Ministry of Defense's Border Guards Division, Bui Quang An, stated
criminal activity, including human trafficking, was on the rise.
The northern border provinces of Lang Son, Lao Cai and An Giang
registered the largest number of TIP victim returnees. The Border
Guards are implementing a new initiative to track cases of
suspected trafficking, to date, 205 cases have been turned over to
Ministry of Public Security (MPS) for investigation and
prosecution. Bui Quang An said, the Border Guards, who work
closely with domestic and international counterparts, and would
welcome U.S. assistance to expand TIP shelters. An earlier
TIP-focused trip to Lang Son and Cao Bang provided an opportunity
to discuss anti-TIP efforts on the ground with the Border Guards
and their government counterparts, as well as an opportunity to
visit local TIP shelters. Officials are increasingly eager to
discuss TIP and quite proud of their outreach and educational
efforts, increased coordination with counterparts across the
border, and measures to assist victims. Vietnam's efforts to
address labor trafficking and trafficking involving men continue to
lag. However, this reflects both the actual scale of the problem
(which by all accounts is less severe than trafficking for sexual
exploitation) and the fact that definitional shifts pushed this
year at the national level have yet to register throughout the
government. End Summary.

The Overall Picture

2. (SBU) On January 7, Poloff met Bui Quang An, Deputy Chief of
the MOD's Border Guards Division to discuss the Border Guards'
anti-human trafficking efforts. An, together with several
colleagues, explained that Vietnam's 4,610-kilometer borders with
China, Laos, and Cambodia consist of rough, often mountainous
terrain that is porous and difficult to monitor. The Border Guards
efforts to combat crime, including trafficking, are compounded by
the fact that villages located along the border share long-lasting
ties with another. Vietnam currently has 141 border posts, of
which 42 are major international border gates with significant
amounts of travel and trade, but there are an even great number of
informal, unmanned crossings. Additionally, An stated that
economic growth and increased trade have spurred a rise in
cross-border criminal activity, including human trafficking.
According to the Border Guards, the provinces of Lang Son, Lao Cai
and An Giang received the largest number of TIP victim returnees in
2009. Along the Laos border, Ha Tinh and Quang Tri received the
most returnees, while An Giang, Kien Giang, Tay Ninh, and Lang An
were the provinces along the Cambodian border with the most TIP
return cases.

3. (SBU) Bui Quang An reported that most Vietnamese trafficking
rings originate further inland away from border areas and that the
majority of trafficking victims continue to be from rural areas.
Most TIP cases across the Chinese border involve women trafficked
for prostitution or forced marriage, and children who have been
kidnapped to be adopted into a family; there are also cases of
Vietnamese children being trafficked across the Chinese border for
labor, An said. Most women and children trafficked to Laos are
victims of sex trafficking. An stressed that while hard data is
scarce, he and the Border Guards suspected that the number of
trafficking cases was probably increasing, with a particular
increase in the number of cases involving children kidnapped to
China. (Note: Vietnam defines child selling to be a form of
trafficking. The annual TIP report does not, because the practice
does not necessarily involve sexual exploitation or forced labor.
End note.)

The Border Guards' Role in fighting TIP
4. (SBU) In 2009, the Border Guards established a special task
force on human trafficking and expanded efforts to monitor and
track suspected cases. This year, the unit identified 205 cases of
suspected trafficking, which were turned over to MPS for
investigation and prosecution. 154 women and children were
"rescued" by the Border Guards, while there were 131 returnee cases
from neighboring governments, An said. (Note: The 131 cases do not
indicate the actual number of individuals returned, as An said that
each individual case might have more than returnee. End note.)
According to a May 2008 GVN Inter-ministerial Circular, the Border
Guards receive both self-return and government-return cases.
Victims returned by the government are referred directly to MOLISA
for shelter assistance, job assistance and travel to home
provinces. In self-return cases, the Border Guards coordinate with
MPS to receive and interview the victim, and to determine whether
the returnee is a victim of trafficking at which point the case is

HANOI 00000068 002 OF 003

referred to MOLISA. Border Guards interviews are typically
conducted by male officers as there are no female officers serving
at border posts. At a few posts, female staff have been "borrowed"
from other government agencies to help facilitate the interviews of
victims. Currently, Lang Son, Lao Cai and An Giang are the only
provinces with dedicated TIP shelters run by the government.
Victims can be referred to these shelters for short term stays, but
the majority are sent to their home provinces. The Border Guards
indicated they would like to expand the number of shelters
available for TIP victims, but funding constraints limit their
ability to do so.

Looking back on 2009 and forward to 2010
5. (SBU) The Border Guards were active in 2009 according to An.
Based on training from the National Standing Committee-130
(Vietnam's standing committee on TIP), Border Guards trainers
conducted follow-on training sessions for staff at several border
posts this year. As part of their outreach efforts, the Border
Guards worked with local leaders in border areas to discuss ways to
coordinate local prevention efforts with Border Guards' activities.
The Border Guards conducted public awareness campaigns on the
dangers of trafficking, including hosting public gatherings in
border villages. The Border Guards also meet regularly with
counterparts in neighboring countries to discuss TIP issues. (At
the national level, counterparts meet annually; at the provincial
level, every six months; while border checkpoint officials meet
with their counterparts quarterly or even monthly.) An indicated
that the provincial and local border checkpoint meetings are the
most effective as discussions are based on the day-to-day
operations of both sides and "real" results were obtained from

6. (SBU) Looking ahead, An said that the Border Guards would focus
on strengthening their ability to conduct surveillance and arrest
suspected traffickers. They already have conducted two such
training courses. In 2010, the Border Guards also intend to
continue to raise awareness of trafficking at border areas through
outreach efforts in border communities, improve coordination with
counterparts in neighboring countries, and build additional TIP
shelters located at border "hot spots."

Situation on the Ground in Lang Son

7. (SBU) The account given by An tracks with impressions from a
December TIP-focused trip by Deputy PolChief to the northern border
provinces of Lang Son and Cao Bang. Border Guards officials, along
with representatives from MOLISA and the Women's Union, were eager
to discuss efforts to combat trafficking and confirmed that of the
two provinces, Lang Son sees more cases. Coordination with the
national-level Task Force 130 is very close, as is cooperation
cross-border with counterparts on the Chinese side. Officials in
both provinces contended that trafficking was overwhelmingly an
issue of sexual exploitation not labor, though they also included
child selling in their discussions. Officials discussed efforts,
led by the Women's union but coordinated with MPS and the Border
Guards, to send teams to villages and communes to discuss the
dangers of trafficking; they said that there were no problems
reaching remote areas populated by ethnic minority groups, adding
that the teams typically included people who were also members of
that group and could speak the local language. MOLISA confirmed
that they work closely with the Border Guards in processing victims
after they are identified and returned. The Cao Bang MOLISA
representative went to some length to discuss how TIP victims are
offered vocational training in agriculture, animal husbandry, and
household economics.

8. (SBU) Deputy PolChief also visited the TIP intake
center/shelter in Lang Son, located on the Border Guards' compound
near the border. The request was made the day of the visit,
without advance notice, but the local officials were keen to show
off the facility. There were currently no victims housed at the
center, but the facility appeared clean and orderly, if rudimentary
in keeping with the general economic conditions of the area. (Lang
Son and Cao Bang rank near the bottom of the Vietnam's Provincial
Competitiveness Index.) Near the shelter was a display featuring
photos of arrested smugglers, including several -- all women --
arraigned for human trafficking. The Cao Bang facility was located
in the Provincial capital and also functions as an orphanage and
retirement home, though it also provides shelter, medical
assistance, and counseling to TIP victims as needed. There were
currently no TIP victims at the facility, and the director said
that they typically receive fewer than ten a year; those that do
come to the facility usually stay for around three months. Echoing
comments by An, officials in both provinces reported that the

HANOI 00000068 003 OF 003

majority of TIP victims are from other provinces, and they usually
want to go home as soon as they can.

9. (SBU) Post's discussion with the Border Guards' Bui Quang An
was positive and open and tracks with the tenor of conversations in
Lang Son and Cao Bang. Officials in all three locations were
willing to "go off script" and provide their candid perspectives on
the trafficking situation in Vietnam. All were quite proud to
relate their educational outreach and prevention efforts,
improvements in cross-border coordination, and victim assistance
programs. Questions related to male and labor trafficking were met
with a certain amount of puzzlement, an indication both that it is
a less severe problem overall and that the Border Guards' attention
remains focused on women and children and cases of sex trafficking.
As reported previously (reftel 09 Hanoi 1436), national-level TIP
authorities appear to be making a conscious effort to address labor
trafficking and trafficking that involves male victims, but our
discussions here suggests that the definitional shift has not
registered throughout the GVN. Victim services continue to be an
area of weakness, though the Border Guards' interest in increasing
the number of temporary TIP shelters to ensure that victims receive
professional counseling and medical services is a welcome
development and worth exploring further. Funding, both domestic
and international, remains a significant challenge; however, as our
trip to Lang Son and Cao Bang demonstrate, a little can go a long

© Scoop Media

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