Cablegate: Daewoosa Case Not Appropriate for 2004 Tip Report

Published: Wed 14 Apr 2004 10:39 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. State 27013; B. State 7869; C. Taylor-Moeling email
4-13-04; D. Hanoi 786; E. Hanoi 336; F. 02 Hanoi 1061
1. (U) Summary: The GVN cracked down hard on the Vietnamese
labor companies involved in the Daewoosa case, including
jail terms for some executives, who publicly acknowledged
their wrongdoing. Since that response to illegal
trafficking-related activity in Vietnam, the GVN has
reformed its labor export laws further, and enforces them
consistently. The Dawoosa case is not relevant to the
current situation in Vietnam and should be neither the basis
for a "watch list" designation nor mentioned in the report.
End summary.
2. (U) In response to ref C, Post conducted further research
into the two parastatal labor companies cited in the Kil Soo
Lee case, IMS and Travel Company 12. As Department has
noted, both are state-owned enterprises. IMS is under the
Ministry of Trade, and Travel Company 12 is under the
General Department of Tourism. (Note: all labor export
companies, state-owned or private, must operate according to
Vietnam's Enterprise Law. The "parent" ministries do not
have a role in designing strategy or in day-to-day
operations. End note.) According to the Ministry of Labor,
Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA), IMS continues to
operate. Travel Company 12, however, has had its license to
operate a labor export business suspended indefinitely.
Other businesses of this company still run normally.
3. (U) Ref c stated that abuses perpetrated by the two labor
export companies were "condoned and directly facilitated by
the GVN." Press reporting and Embassy reporting have noted
that individual executives associated with IMS were charged,
convicted, and punished for their activities related to the
Kil Soo Lee case. IMS' director, Le Cong Tam, received a
six-year sentence for his involvement in the case (later
reduced to three years on appeal). His chief accountant,
Dao Thi Hoai Thu, received a three-sentence. (ref F.)
According to contemporary press records, the chief
prosecutor of the Hanoi People's Procuracy argued in that
case that "IMS did not make adequate efforts to assess
Daewoosa and understand the living standards and system in
American Samoa before sending 50 workers there. . . a
reckless disregard for careful research led to the signing
of an unsecured labor contract with Daewoosa." The court,
which in Vietnam does not operate truly independently of the
government or Party, accepted this argument. The director
of TC12, Nguyen Van Khoa, was not charged with a crime but
was fired "as a result of the lack of responsibility for
taking timely protective actions for the laborers."
4. (U) According to Deputy Director of MOLISA's Department
of Overseas Labor Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, the executives of TC12
and IMS were not prosecuted under trafficking legislation
because Vietnamese laws on trafficking do not explicitly
refer to labor exploitation, but instead focus on
trafficking and trading in women and children. Current laws
also do not refer to labor export abuse as trafficking in
persons, but nonetheless criminalize it. (Note: expanding
the definition of trafficking in persons to cover men as
well as women and children is a recommendation in the
Ministry of Justice's recent assessment of Vietnamese laws
relating to TIP, reported in ref D. End note.) Ref E is a
discussion of the new Vietnamese labor code, which is
clearer (and stricter) than the laws under which the
executives from IMS were convicted and the head of TC12
5. (U) Specific changes in the Vietnamese labor code since
the Kil Soo Lee case provide more detail on the eligibility
conditions for the issuance of labor export licenses. In
addition, Circular 22 (providing guidelines on
implementation of provisions of the Government's Decree No.
81/2003/ND-CP dated 17 July 2003 on dispatching Vietnamese
workers to work abroad) stipulates details on punishment
measures for those labor export businesses that violate
Decree 81. According to Quynh, this circular is the most
detailed document to date on punishment measures. If
required, Post can provide a copy of these decrees.
6. (U) Comment: Post hopes that the above information is
useful to the Department in assessing the GVN's attitude
towards trafficking in persons through labor exploitation
and in the actions it has taken to punish the offenders and
curb future abuses. We believe that this case, in which the
relevant events occurred in 2000 and 2001, is inappropriate
for inclusion in a report that is (per ref B) intended to
cover developments from March 2003-March 2004. Far more
relevant to Vietnam's performance in the fight against
trafficking in persons is the concerted effort the GVN has
made during this timeframe to draft, publicize, and
implement new legislation and regulations to promote the
welfare and protection of its overseas workers and police
the system of recruiting and sending them. We note as well
that the GVN has made a very strong effort to put the new
legislation into action, which is both significant and
unusual in a system where implementation usually lags
7. (U) The conditions for Vietnamese workers at the time of
the 2004 TIP report's release are not similar to the
conditions for exported Vietnamese laborers at the time of
the events related to the Daewoosa case. Vietnam's new
labor code - which addresses specifically the issue of labor
export abuses and which establishes serious penalties for
the violation of worker rights or the exploitation of
Vietnamese workers, and which has already led to
strengthened enforcement of existing regulations and laws
with accompanying sanctions and criminal convictions for
businesses and individuals, along with major publicity to
maximize the deterrent effect - must be considered as a
"significant effort" to bring Vietnam into compliance with
minimum standards as set out in the TVPRA.
8. (U) Vietnam has a trafficking in persons problem, a
developing country's lack of resources, and an inadequate
legal code that is currently being reformed. Therefore,
post concurs with a recommendation that Vietnam be placed in
Tier 2 for the March 2003-March 2004 period. In general,
however, post assesses the GVN's efforts to overcome its
trafficking problem as significant on a number of different
levels. In particular, post believes that the GVN's work on
labor reform, specifically the reform of labor export
regulations, and its relatively unusual success in
implementing and enforcing these regulations, is a notable
achievement. The events of 2000-2001 as uncovered in the
Daewoosa case concluded in early 2003 are not relevant to
Vietnam's current TIP situation, not reflective of the
current status of Vietnamese law and practice, and therefore
not a reasonable trigger for a "watch list" (or, as
described in ref A, a "weak 2") designation. End comment.
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