Capacity Building workshop on Human Trafficking in Thakhek District, Khamouan Province
The 35 participants included various government organizations and legal officials.
In recent years, the Government of Lao PDR has stepped up its efforts to combat human trafficking, an issue that has greatly affected the Southeast Asia region. Specifically, Lao PDR, together with UNODC and a number of development partners has strived to strengthen its ability to combat human trafficking. For this purpose UNODC commenced implementing the country project LAOX26 "Strengthening Criminal Justice Responses to Human Trafficking in Lao PDR" in March 2013, based on financial support from the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) of the US State Department. The project aims at (1) developing an anti-human trafficking law; (2) undertaking capacity-building of legal and law enforcement officials, and victim service providers; (3) increasing cross-border cooperation on human trafficking; (4) raising awareness on human trafficking; and (5) improving the capacity for victim referrals and access to legal assistance.
As part of the LAOX26 project activities, a capacity-building workshop on the law against human trafficking aimed at educating and raising awareness among legal and law enforcement officials and those who provide assistance to victims, was held in Thakhek District, Khamouan Province on May 22-24 2013. Thirty five participants (22 male, 13 female) including judges, lawyers, local police, local prosecutors and members of the International Division, Lao Women's Union, Lao Youth Movement and Lao Front for Reconstruction attended the three day workshop sponsored by the Lao Ministry of Justice, the United States Embassy in Laos and UNODC.
A trainee engaging in discussion with Mr. Somboun Vongphachanh from the Ministry of Justice.
Opening remarks were made by the Vice Minister of Justice, Mr. Boonsavath Boupha, Governor of Thakhek District, Mr. Phonma Phanthalangsy, Chief of the Political/Economic Section at the US Embassy in Laos, Ms. Tracy L. Taylor and UNODC Laos Crime Prevention Expert, Mr. Fumio Ito. The speakers warned about the dangers of human trafficking, the situation of human trafficking in Laos, their expectations for the workshop and what they wish for participants to gain from this workshop.
Each session of the workshop was led by trainers who are officials from the Ministry of Justice, Prosecutor's Office and National Police who have been selected and trained as part of the Core Trainers Group. The trainers covered a wide range of topics relevant to human trafficking on both an international and domestic level, including the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons,Especially Women and Children; Lao domestic laws on human trafficking; Identifying Victims; Government Policy on Human Trafficking; Investigation and Interviewing of Victims; Victim Assistance; and International Cooperation. On the third day, the trainees applied the information they learned during the workshop by analyzing three case studies and assessing whether each case was human trafficking. In aiming to increase the awareness and participation of the trainees, the trainers departed from the typical teaching style in Laos by actively engaging with the participants, soliciting their views on issues and asking for answers.
A number of trainees sang before sessions to boost the energy during the workshop.
Closing remarks were made by Mr. Fumio Ito of UNODC, Mr. Somboun Vongphachanh from the Ministry of Justice and Mr. Senghpet Khamsoukthavong, the Deputy District Governor of Thakhek District. The speakers expressed their appreciation towards all participating parties and their hope that the trainees will apply the information learned through the workshop to prevent incidents of human trafficking while also assisting victims of human trafficking.
Participants were enthusiastic and positive about the workshop. Those interviewed noted that the workshop was good because it increased familiarity with the laws, and for some participants, the workshop was the first time they were exposed to the issue of human trafficking. When asked about possible areas of improvement, participants were in agreement that there is need for further dissemination of information, with one participant saying "there should be additional workshops at local levels, especially border areas where human trafficking are most prevalent". Another participant said these workshops should be held regularly so as to sustain awareness amongst local officials and the local population.
UNODC is continuing its efforts to assist the Lao PDR in increasing its capacity to combat human trafficking at both national and local levels. UNODC has been implementing counter-human trafficking projects and interventions focusing on training and capacity-building of legal and law enforcement institutions and officials since 2006. Thus far, a core trainers group consisting of prosecutors, officials from the ministry of justice and police officers have been trained to conduct workshops at local levels throughout the nation. Assistance has been provided to the Government of the Lao PDR 's efforts to raise awareness among the local population on human trafficking and efforts are continuing to finalise a comprehensive anti-human trafficking law. In 2006 there were 0 convictions for human trafficking. In 2007 there were 3 convictions which has increased to 37 by 2012. With continued cooperation from the government of Lao PDR and the support of donors further strides in combatting human trafficking in the Lao PDR can be achieved.