Vietnam criticizes US human trafficking report

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But country still has a long way to go to fix the persistent problem

A female worker in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam has dispelled a US report putting it on the human trafficking watch list, but official figures show that the country still has a lot to do to protect its vulnerable women from smuggling rings.

Vietnam has dismissed a US government report putting it on a human-trafficking watch list as government officials said the country was taking great strides to stamp out this "dangerous crime."

The US Department of State report, released on June 14, "contains political characteristics and unjust comments that fail to reflect the real situation in Vietnam", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said in a statement on June 16.

The US's 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report listed Vietnam and its neighbors Thailand and Singapore as countries that failed to prevent women from being forced into prostitution.

But Nga confirmed that Vietnam has always considered the trafficking of humans, particularly women and children, a dangerous crime that undermines human rights and social development.

With a government action plan implemented since 2004 to deal with the problem, Vietnam's efforts in the anti-trafficking campaign have delivered solid results and garnered recognition by the international community, Nga said.

Turning the tables

For the first time, the US included itself in the report. It ranked itself in compliance.

But the report has opened much room for debate as experts pointed to human-trafficking prevention policies of the US itself.

"The section of the Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 on the United States clearly indicates that the US is [also] a source country and a destination country of trafficking in persons," said Prof. Carl Thayer of the Australian Defense Force Academy.

The Singapore's Foreign Ministry also reacted indignantly to the report and turned the issue on its head.

"How, for example, can the US rank itself in Tier One when it is well known that the US has been unable to stem a flood of illegal workers, many of whom are trafficked by organized criminal gangs?" AFP quoted a statement released on June 15 by the ministry.

"It has not been able to cope adequately with the problem and that is among the reasons why immigration is such a hot political issue in the US," the statement said.

"The US should perhaps examine its own record more carefully before presuming to pronounce on other countries. Then its reports may be more credible."

Deep-seated issue

Vietnamese official statistics show that Vietnamese women and children have continued to fall prey to human-trafficking rings.

The Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs said in a report in June that from 2005 until May this year, 3,190 women and children have been repatriated to Vietnam after being sold to foreign countries by trafficking rings.

Surveys conducted by the Vietnam Women's Union indicated that most the victims sold to China were subjected to drudgery, sex abuse, and forced prostitution. Many of them have returned to Vietnam with psychological disorders, sexually transmitted or acute diseases, or infertility, the union said.

Another study conducted by NGO ActionAid in 2008 confirmed the seriousness of the problem.

Outcomes of the surveys, conducted in eight communes/wards and four districts/cities in Dien Bien and Cao Bang provinces in the northern mountainous region, the northern port city of Hai Phong, and Vinh Long in the Mekong Delta, showed that trafficking of women and children took place in all surveyed areas.

There is a number of reasons for the problem but from the perspective of women, the biggest issues are economic difficulties and dissatisfaction with their lives, the survey said.

The survey pointed out that women who were susceptible to trafficking rings wanted to have better jobs and happy marriages, but lack the knowledge to prevent trafficking. They hope to get rid of life's difficulties with foreign marriages that might help them pay off debts. But they don't have plans for a sustainable marriage, the survey said.

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