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Lao PDR Ready for Assessment of Anti-Human Trafficking Law and Further Development of Legal Framework with Support by UNODC and the United States

Vientiane (Lao PDR), 10 May 2012 - Because of its location in the centre of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region and socio-economic vulnerability, Lao PDR has seen its people susceptible to threats of human trafficking.  The Government of Lao PDR has been committed to fight against trafficking in human beings.  The Country ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the TIP Protocol) in 2003.  To date, both Government and civil society organizations made tremendous efforts to prevent human trafficking, as well as protect and support returning victims in rehabilitation and reintegration to society.  The Government agencies have made coordinated efforts to strengthen their capacity to prosecute traffickers.

The National Assembly now plans to draft a comprehensive anti-human trafficking law as an effective tool for prevention, prosecution and protection.  In this connection, ministries and mass organizations concerned plan to assess current anti-human trafficking legislation and practices to prepare for development of a new law.

UNODC is currently implementing the LAOX26 Project: Strengthening Criminal Justice Responses to Human Trafficking in Lao PDR.  The Project is fully supported by the Government of the United States of America.  The Project intends to strengthen a national legal framework to prevent and combat human trafficking, and protect victims, as one of its outcomes.  To achieve the outcome, the Project plans to assist the Government in drafting a comprehensive anti-human trafficking law, decrees and application guidelines for field level practitioners.  As a preliminary step toward development of such a legal framework, the Project has offered to the Government assistance in the assessment of current legislation.

On 29 and 30 March 2012, the Lao PDR Government organized the Workshop on the Assessment of National Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation, supported by UNODC and the U.S. Government through the LAOX26 Project.  The Workshop intended to provide an opportunity for both Lao Government officials to learn best practices in other countries and for development partners to learn a standard legislative process of Lao PDR and the Government's plan to assess current law.  More than 80 participants from the Government, mass organizations, civil society organizations, embassies and UN organizations attended the Workshop.

In his opening remark, H.E. Prof. Davone Vangvichit, President of the Law Committee of the National Assembly, welcomed the Government's initiative to plan the assessment of law and UNODC support to the initiative, because the National Assembly plans to discuss a new comprehensive law on human trafficking in 2014 as its 5-year action plan.  Mr. Fumio Ito, Officer-in-Charge, UNODC Lao PDR Country Office, also appreciated in his remark the Government's initiative and emphasized significance of the workshop as an opportunity to learn best practices.

Pol. Col. Kiengkham Inphengthavong, the Head of the Secretariat of the National Steering Committee on Human Trafficking, reported current situations of human trafficking in Lao PDR.  Based on recent years' statistics, Pol. Col. Kiengkham depicted typical socio-economic profiles of victims as young people, a vast majority of whom are women, with limited education pushed for better employment because of poverty, and called for strengthening of prevention, protection and prosecution in fight against human trafficking.

Ms. Thoummaly Vongphachanh, Director General of the Counseling and Protection Center for Women and Children, the Lao Women's Union, briefed participants on the Government plan of assessment of current anti-human trafficking law and development of a new comprehensive law.  While the Government have yet to decide on a clear timeline for assessment, according to Ms. Thoummaly, the Government has come up with a clear view of what to be done in the upcoming assessment.

Knowledge and experiences brought to the Workshop by experts from UNODC and other UN agencies were appreciated by the participants.  UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) provided a critical review of the new Vietnamese anti-human trafficking law and its development process.  UNIAP pointed out several major issues in which the Vietnamese law would need further revisions or development to be fully in line with requirements of the UN Convention and Protocol.  UNODC regional project CHILDHOOD, an AusAID initiative which aims at combating the sexual exploitation of children, also shared experiences in its recent review of national law on sexual exploitation of children and follow-up consultation in other countries in the region.

Ms. Riikka Puttonen, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, Organized Crime and Illicit Trafficking Branch, UNODC Headquarters, briefed on issues in the UNODC Model Law on Human Trafficking and UNODC's previous assistance to Member States in assessing and developing national law through case studies and discussion.  International experts and Lao Government officials specialized in human trafficking actively exchanged views and experiences.  The workshop received very positive feedback from its participants.  It succeeded in getting a wide scope of stakeholders on board the upcoming process toward assessment of current laws and development of a comprehensive new anti-human trafficking law.