HANOI, February 22, 2023 – U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper visited Lào Cai City and Sa Pa February 21-22, 2023, where he met with local leaders, NGO representatives, and frontline workers to discuss efforts to combat trafficking in persons in the province. In a meeting with Chair of Lào Cai provincial People’s Committee Trịnh Xuân Trường, Ambassador Knapper discussed the 10 year anniversary of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership – including U.S.-supported counter-trafficking in persons (TIP) programming, the steps the province has taken to combat TIP, and provincial officials’ approach to sustainable economic development. “Countering human trafficking is a priority for the U.S. government and I want to thank you for our excellent cooperation here, including on several counter-trafficking projects in Lào Cai supported by the U.S. Embassy,” the Ambassador stated during the meeting. Both sides also discussed ways to increase bilateral cooperation on a range of issue including environmental sustainability, ensuring equal access to economic opportunities, increasing access to routine immunizations and other health initiatives, and expanding English language programming.
Ambassador Knapper met with frontline workers to discuss the training they’ve received from USAID’s Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) project. The project, implemented by FHI 360, has trained 50 social workers, representatives from the Women’s Union, members of the border guard, and other frontline workers in Lào Cai on best practices in receiving and supporting trafficking survivors. The Ambassador congratulated officials on completing their provincial coordination framework with EpiC’s support. This framework will improve coordination among Lào Cai’s main departments that provide support to trafficking survivors and will help ensure access to services.
Ambassador Knapper learned firsthand about the challenges facing trafficking survivors once they return to their communities. He visited Compassion House in Lào Cai City, a government-owned shelter for trafficking survivors run by the NGO Pacific Links Foundation. He spoke with shelter staff and representatives from the Department of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs about the vital services they provide to trafficking survivors, including health screening, counseling, vocational training, life skills training, and job placement. Shelter staff described how the profile of trafficking survivors changed during the pandemic and what they expect to see following the reopening of the border with China. Pacific Links also conducts awareness-raising and outreach events on the risks of trafficking for students in Lào Cai; Ambassador Knapper attended one of these events at Kim Đồng Junior Secondary School in Sa Pa. Following the event, Ambassador Knapper met with teachers and members of the school administration. The Ambassador also visited Ethos Spirit in Sa Pa, a social enterprise that works with Hmong, Dao, and other ethnic minority communities in the highlands to provide experiential tours for travelers seeking authentic cultural exchanges. The Ambassador heard from Ethos about the economic opportunities they offer that help reduce the risk of trafficking in those communities.
To conclude his visit, Ambassador Knapper toured Hoàng Liên National Park and met with park officials, who described the work they are doing to protect the park’s fragile ecosystem, which includes many endemic and endangered plant species. The U.S. Embassy, through USAID, has funded many projects on forest management, biodiversity, and conservation across the nation, including in Lào Cai province, to help Vietnam reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to impacts of climate change. To reduce pressure on the forests in Hoàng Liên National Park, USAID’s Sustainable Forest Management project is working to create sustainable livelihoods for communities living in its buffer zones to increase their incomes and reduce their dependence on forests. Ambassador Knapper also met with officials from Sa Pa Township to discuss their approach to promoting sustainable tourism, adding that he looks forward to increased expanded cooperation as more American tourists visit Vietnam, especially Sa Pa.