U.S.

-Laos Security Relations: Cooperation on Transnational Threats

Carlyle A Thayer C. V. Starr Distinguished Visiting Professor School of Advanced International Studies Johns Hopkins University

Paper to conference on United States-Lao PDR Relations: The Road Ahead, sponsored by The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies Johns Hopkins University

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C. January 27-28, 2005

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U.S.-Laos Security Relations: Cooperation on Transnational Threats
Carlyle A. Thayer*

Background Laos is the only Indochinese country that has maintained unbroken diplomatic relations with the United States from the 1950s to the present. This period encompasses the First and Second Indochinese Wars (1946-54 and 1964-75). Also, bilateral relations have not been constrained, as in the case of Vietnam, by a U.S. embargo. Until 2004, however, Laos was in the anomalous position of not having Normal Trade Relations (NTR) status and its exports to the United States were subject to the highest tariff rates. The United States first opened a Legation in Vientiane in 1950.1 Relations deteriorated after 1975 when the communist Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) gained power. Both the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Information Agency (USIA)

*C. V. Starr Distinguished Visiting Professor of Southeast Asian Studies, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. E-mail: carlthayer05aus@yahoo.com. Professor Thayer is currently on leave from University College, The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. 1Phanthong Phommahaxay, Lao Ambassador to the United States, gives 1952 as the date when diplomatic relations were first established; letter to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Trade, Ways and Means Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, April 9, 2003.

3 withdrew and diplomatic representation was reduced to the level of chargé d’affaires. The U.S. had no military attaché in Laos. At this time, the U.S. treated all departing Laotians as political refugees entitled to asylum in the United States. An estimated half a million Lao, Hmong, Khmu, Yao and others live in the United States. Diplomatic relations improved in the early 1980s. The U.S. began to provide humanitarian aid. Full diplomatic relations were restored in 1992 with the reciprocal appointment of ambassadors. In February 2001, Laos received Admiral Dennis Blair, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. Admiral Blair held discussions with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Somsavat Lengasvad. In 1997, Laos and the U.S. initialed a Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) but the agreement was not signed until September 2003. Under U.S. law a grant of Normal Trade Relations status was necessary to ratify this agreement. During this period Lao goods were subject to the highest U.S. tariffs. In 2003, Laos exported $4 million in goods to the United States, mainly apparel, wood products and coffee. That same year, Laos imported $4.6 million worth of merchandise from the U.S. In 2003, Laos and the U.S. signed an agreement to ensure that their respective citizens are subject to international criminal jurisdiction consistent with each nation’s national laws and international commitments.

4 In October 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives approved NTR status for Laos, the Senate followed suit in November. On 3rd December President George W. Bush signed the bill into law.2 Bilateral trade is currently valued at $10 million.3 U.S. investments in Laos totaled $1.5 billion in 2004 making the U.S. Laos’ second largest investor after Thailand. For purposes of this paper security cooperation is defined in the broadest sense of the term to include transnational threats as well as human security issues. The next section will provide an overview of U.S. assistance to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (LPDR). The paper then focuses on the five major areas of security cooperation: (1) recovery of the remains of Americans missing-in-action (MIA) during the Second Indochina War; (2) clearance and disposal of unexploded ordnance (UXO); (3) counter-narcotics; (4) counter-terrorism; and (5) trafficking in persons. It should be noted that Laos is one of the world’s less developed countries. It ranks 135th on the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index. Subsistence agriculture accounts for half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and involves over eighty percent of the work force. Manufacturing accounts for only 18% of GDP. These factors severely
trade relations status for Laos was included in the Miscellaneous Trade and Technical Corrections Act of 2004 (H.R. 1046) which was passed by Congress on November 19, 2004. The Senate separately passed a resolution condemning Laos’ human rights record. The Standing Committee of the Lao National Assembly approved the trade agreement in late December 2004; Vietnam News Agency, “Lao National Assembly approves trade pact with US,” December 28, 2004. 3United State Embassy Laos, “US Congress Approves Law to Normalize Trade Relations with Laos,” November 19, 2004; Radio Australia, “US to resume normal trade relations with Laos,” December 9, 2004.
2Normal

5 constrain the Lao government’s capacity and ability to address the multiple and often interrelated security issues addressed in this paper. Overview of U.S. Assistance to the LPDR U.S. foreign assistance to Laos is very modest and is channeled through nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and not the LPDR government. Fourteen U.S. NGOs currently operate in the LPDR. U.S. assistance covers a wide range of activities including the five major areas of security cooperation noted above (a joint program to account for Americans MIAs, clearance and disposal of UXO and land mines, counter-narcotics, and trafficking in persons). In addition, the United States provides assistance for rural community development including public health (HIV-AIDS prevention and malaria eradication), mother and childcare, education, road construction and agriculture (rice cultivation and the development of the silk sector). Total U.S. assistance to Laos in Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 was $3.5 million plus an additional half a million dollars in the Leahy War Victims Funds for landmine education.4 Since 1991, the U.S. military has played a major role in the provision of humanitarian assistance to Laos. That year U.S. Army civil affairs personnel built a rural school. In 1996, the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion established a Civil Affairs Liaison Team (CALT) at the U.S. Embassy to help coordinate humanitarian assistance projects. That year the U.S. Navy Seabees and CALT installed water

total cost of all U.S.-financed programs in Laos, including MIA recovery, amounts to approximately $10 million per year.

4The

6 irrigation pumps for rice cultivation in Savannakhet province. Between July and August 1996, three humanitarian assistance teams were dispatched to Phounsavan provincial hospital to deliver $1 million in medical equipment ranging from surgical staples to large power generators. These teams set up the medical and surgical equipment and demonstrated its use to Lao medical personnel In 1997, the U.S. provided $1.3 million in military humanitarian assistance to Laos mainly directed at rural community development. In July, Civil Affairs Tactical Support Team 21 deployed to Laos to hand over 50,000 sandbags for flood control and 121,000 sandbags for UXO disposal. Team 21 also provided oversight for warranty work on nine schools that U.S. civil affairs teams had built since 1991, and constructed a tenth school. In addition, U.S. military personnel assisted in renovating and upgrading the Xepone District Hospital so it could better deal with victims of unexploded ordnance. In October 1997, a U.S. Pacific Command team of medical technicians and doctors demonstrated the use of donated surgical, dental, and x-ray equipment as well as hygiene procedures and equipment maintenance. A notable feature of U.S. humanitarian assistance programs is the involvement of NGOs. For example, CALT worked with NGOs in donating medical equipment to small health clinics in northern Laos and planning future upgrades. U.S. military engineers worked with the United Nations World Food Program and various NGOs to assist a Hmong village in Borikhamxia province to prepare

7 their land for rice cultivation. Finally, CALT worked with various NGOs to take over their projects upon completion. By 2003, the U.S. assistance program to Laos totaled $5.8 million. This was administered through NGOs and not the LPDR. Aid was targeted at ethnic minorities and aimed at reducing deforestation and providing an alternate to opium production. Silk production was introduced among the poorest villages of northern Laos among the Hmong, Tai Daeng, Tai Dam and other ethnic minority communities. In addition to the U.S. military, other agencies of the U.S. government provide assistance to Laos. In 1992 both USAID and the United States Information Service (USIS) resumed operations in Laos. USAID contributed $1.3 million to a prosthetics project, while the USIS supported English-language teaching and cultural and educational exchanges.5 The U.S. Embassy awarded the International Republican Institute four small democracy grants to assist Lao organizations to conduct workshops and training dedicated to developing democratic institutions and free enterprise. The U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Office has conducted a training program for Lao journalists on how to conduct research on the Internet. The Public Affairs Office also ran another course for TV producers that focused on news programming. Lao officials participate in the

5In

1993 the U.S. awarded Laos two Fulbright grants.

8 State Department’s International Visitor Program. For example, Lao provincial governors have observed local government in action in the United States. The following sections reviews security cooperation in two distinct areas: issues arising from the legacy of war (MIAs and UXO) and transnational security challenges (counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and trafficking in persons). Security Cooperation: The Legacy of War • Recovery of American MIA Remains

The principle yardstick for improving U.S.-Lao bilateral relations has rested on progress in accounting for and recovering the remains of more than 500 missing Americans during the Vietnam War. In 1985, Laos permitted searches of known wartime crash sites through the joint Laos-U.S. POW/MIA Working Group. Since 1985, the two sides have conducted ninety rounds of searches that resulted in the repatriation of 198 sets of remains to the United States.6 In 1992, the U.S. officially established the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTFFA).7 The JTF-FA operates four geographically separate detachments in the region. Detachment Three was set up in January 1992 and located within the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane. It mission is to provide command, control, and logistics support to conduct field operations. Detachment Three maintains a forward operating station in Savannakhet province to assist in site excavations.

News Agency, “Laos-US POW/MIA group ends fourth round of search,: August 5, 2004. 7On October 1, 2003 this became the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC).

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9 In January 1993, the United States Senate Select Committee on Prisoner of War/MIA Affairs concluded that Lao authorities had not shared all the information in their possession. U.S. government sources note that Lao cooperation on MIA matters improved subsequently. Lao and American officials conduct five field activities each fiscal year. For example, in FY 2000 the JTF-FA conducted five joint field activities in Laos of about thirty days in duration. Seven U.S. remains were returned to the U.S. as a result. Another five joint field activities were carried out in Laos in FY 2001 resulting in the repatriation of 10 sets of remains. In 2003, the U.S. and Laos made “remarkable progress” on MIA accounting as a result of five joint field activities in which 13 sets of remains were recovered. The U.S. Senate, in a resolution passed at the time NTR status for Laos was approved, noted that Laos has cooperated with the United States in “accounting for American servicemen and civilians still missing from the Vietnam war.” • Unexploded Ordnance and Land Mine Clearance

During the Second Indochina War (1964-73) two to two and a half million tons of ordnance was dropped on Laos of which an estimated one-third failed to explode. Over ten million unexploded pieces of ordnance, including bomblets, lie scattered over the countryside. This has left Laos with an extreme unexploded ordnance problem. Over half the country is affected by UXO. The most seriously affected provinces include Savannakhet, Saravane, Khammouane, Huoaphan and Xieng Khouang.

10 Each year an estimated 150-200 Laotians are killed or seriously maimed by UXO explosions. For example, in 2000, 2001 and 2002 there were 102, 122 and 99 UXO/land mine casualties, respectively. The figure for 2002 includes 24 fatalities. Nearly half of all UXO/land mine casualties were children under eight years of age. In 1995 the LPDR requested U.S. assistance in clearing UXO and land mines in northern Laos. That same year the United Nations Development Fund set up a Trust Fund to finance a nationwide program of UXO/mine clearance. The U.S. contributes to both the Lao Trust Fund ($1 million in 2002) and the Leahy War Victim Fund ($1.3 million). The United States is the largest donor to mine action programs in Laos. Over $14 million has been provided by the Department of Defense and USAID for humanitarian demining, mine awareness and victims’ assistance programs. In late 2004 the U.S. Congress approved a $2.5 million assistance package to Laos for its UXO clearance programs in 2005 (a rise from $1.3 million in 2003). As with other U.S. humanitarian assistance programs, the U.S. military plays a major role in UXO/mine clearance. In June 1996, for example, U.S. Special Operations Forces carried out a humanitarian training mission in Laos designed to develop a self-sufficient local capability to conduct demining and UXO clearance operations. Their efforts focused on “training the trainer” in UXO

11 clearance and community awareness programs.8 The UXO clearance training involves land navigation, radio procedures, demolition, minefield operations and driver training. In 1996-97 the U.S. helped establish Unexploded Ordnance Laos (UXO Laos), a government body. The U.S. also supports the Nam Suang UXO Training Center. By the end of 1999, the U.S. military had trained 815 Lao personnel and created a self-sustaining capacity. The U.S. currently funds mine/UXO awareness activities in eight provinces, mine-UXO clearance programs in seven others, and created rapid response teams in the five remaining provinces. In 2002 a funding crisis led to a significant drop in clearance operations and resulted in the forced lay-off of nearly one half of UXO Laos’s staff (from 1,130 to 503). UXO clearance operations have since resumed and staff rehired. In March 2003, the LPDR drafted a Strategic Plan for Unexploded Ordnance, 2003-2013 with targets set for roving clearance teams, and agricultural and socioeconomic development. Laos does not produce anti-personnel landmines. Its Strategic Plan includes the objective of accession to the Mine Ban Treaty. Up until recently the lack of funds has curtailed Lao participation in international efforts to ban land mines. Although Laos attended the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2001 as an observer, it did not participate in the fourth meeting in 2002 or any inter-sessional meetings in 2003. Laos has also

community awareness program is a seven week course that includes developing, field testing and disseminating media products in Xieng Khouang province.

8The

12 been absent from every mine ban resolution put to the United Nations General Assembly since 1996.

13 Security Cooperation: Transnational Security Issues • Counter-Narcotics

The LPDR is the world’s third largest producer of opium after Afghanistan and Myanmar. The LPDR has established its own national committee on narcotics and it has adopted a strategic plan to eliminate opium production by 2005.9 The strategic plan also includes measures to improve law enforcement in dealing with this problem. Counter narcotics activities are perhaps the second priority in U.S.-Laos security cooperation (after MIA accounting). The United States has become Laos’ strategic partner in implementing a multi-million dollar crop substitution/integrated rural development program that aims to eradicate opium production and trade in northern Laos. U.S. assistance also includes building up law enforcement capacity and the treatment of opium addicts. But counter narcotics is also an irritant in the bilateral relationship reportedly because of U.S. perceptions that some LPDR officials might be involved in opium trafficking. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency nevertheless has worked with the LPDR to maintain its eligibility as a recipient of U.S. aid despite deficiencies and difficulties on the Lao side. In 1990, the U.S. and Laos inaugurated an economic aid project valued at $8.7 million to assist hill tribes in crop substitution. This program is aimed at ethnic

9Vietnam

News Agency, “Laos poised to uproot opium poppy plants,” January 20, 2005. The Lao Ambassador to the United States has stated that his government’s aim is to eliminate opium production in 2006.

14 minorities such as the Hmong, Khmu, Mien, Akha, and is designed to convince them to give up opium production by supplementing their incomes with viable alternatives. U.S. military Civil Affairs Liaison Teams have assisted in relocating Hmong where, for the first time, they have access to public service and lowland markets. The Lao-American Project in Phongsali province provides alternate village development activities such as tea production and handicrafts in lieu of opium growing. The Lao-American Project has also funded primary and secondary schools in Sampanxai town. In 2003 a new Lao-American Project was launched in Luang Prabang province and involves teaching embroidery in order to provide employment and income to village women. Additionally, the project involves encouraging local participation in project planning in public health activities (clean water and toilets). Laotian officials have also participated in U.S.sponsored narcotics training programs. In 1993, Laos received a national interest certification on the issue of cooperation in counter-narcotics. In November 2004, the U.S. Embassy’s Narcotics Affairs Office sponsored a nine-day “train the trainers” program for health professionals in drug counseling services. The Lao trainers will then impart their knowledge to district and provincial counterparts.10 According to U.S. Ambassador Douglas Hartwick, “Our anti-narcotics work is helping some of Laos’ poorest regions and
10This

program was run in conjunction with the Lao Ministry of Health, the Lao National Commission on Drug Control and Supervision and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

15 poorest ethnic groups gain market access to more developed parts of the country and should help them stop growing opium and switch to alternative cash crops.”11 But, as the Ambassador noted, establishing alternative sources of income is proving very difficult. As a result of Laos’ counter-narcotics efforts, opium cultivation has dropped dramatically. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, opium production in Laos fell by nearly two-thirds in 2004.12 Cultivation on poppy farms declined from 12,000 hectares in 2003 to 6,6000 hectares in 2004 or 45%. The total area devoted to growing opium poppy in Laos fell 75% since 1998. The number of households cultivating opium declined by 43% in 2004. There are an estimated 26,000 opium addicts in Laos and as opium production has fallen increased attention is being given to treating drug addiction and assisting recovering addicts. Phongsali, Oudomxai, Huoaphan and Luang Prabang provinces are credited with detoxifying 2,000 addicts in 2004. Later in the year the U.S. and United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime provided funds and medicines for drug control to the LPDR Ministry of Health and the four provincial committees to detoxify an additional 500 opium addicts. Despite these positive accomplishments, the lack of LPDR capacity remains an impediment to further progress. As noted by Ambassador Hartwick, “law

11Douglas

A. Hartwick, “Public Remarks Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington,” January 25-26, 2004. Hartwick was replaced as U.S. Ambassador by Patricia M. Haslach in late 2004. 12Reuters, “Laos opium production drops sharply in 2004 – UN,” July 9, 2004. Opium production fell 64% from 43 metric tones.

16 enforcement against drug traffickers is still woefully ineffective. Lao authorities… have to make a greater effort, including improving cooperation with the U.S. law enforcement professionals eager to help, it they are going to win the war against drugs.”13 • Countering International Terrorism

The LPDR is beset with a number of domestic challenges to regime security.14 Since 2000, Vientiane (and other provincial towns) has experienced over a dozen public bombing incidents by unidentified parties.15 In July 2000, armed rebels based in Thailand attacked Lao customs officers at a border post.16 Other rebels have periodically attacked passenger buses and cars, market places and bus stations. A long-simmering insurgency by Hmong has resurfaced. Other attacks targeted government officials; three were killed in 2003. The U.S. government has branded some of these as terrorist acts. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, for example, wrote to his Laotian counterpart to express sadness and sympathy at the loss of innocent lives and expressed the desire to work together to counterterrorism.17

Douglas A. Hartwick, “Public Remarks Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington,” January 25-26, 2004. 14Carlyle A. Thayer, “Laos in 2002: Regime Maintenance Through Political Stability,” Asian Survey, 43(1), January/February 2003, 120-126. 15In September 2003, Lao courts sentenced two active-duty soldiers to life imprisonment for orchestrating a series of bombings in Vientiane in 2000 and 2002. 16Laos is presently seeking the extradition from Thailand of 17 Lao citizens suspected of involvement in this incident. 17Cited in Douglas A. Hartwick, “U.S.-Lao Relations in 2004 – The Course Ahead,” Vientiane, January 26, 2004.

13Ambassador

17 There was a marked deterioration in internal security in 2003.18 Between February and April, armed attacks on buses and other vehicles on Route 13 (Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang) and Route 7 (junction of Route 13 to Phonsavan) resulted in at least twelve deaths. By August 2003, a total of seven ambushes took place on inter-provincial buses and other vehicles in which over forty persons were killed (including two Swiss nationals) and seventy injured. In the period from February 2003 to November 2004, Laos again experienced a number of public bombings. Between late 2003 and early 2004, several small-scale clashes took place between insurgents and Lao security forces along the Route 13 corridor.19 Foreign observers attributed many of these incidents to Hmong insurgents whose numbers were estimated between one thousand to several thousand.20 At least 700 Hmong insurgents are located in remote areas of the Saisomboun Special Zone.21 There was a local uprising in Houaphanh province in August 2003. As a result, the Lao security forces22 stepped up their efforts to eliminate

18Carlyle

A. Thayer, “Laos,” in Russell Heng Hiang Khng and Denis Hew, eds., Regional Outlook: Southeast Asia 2004-2005. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004. 18-21 and Carlyle A. Thayer, “Laos in 2003: Counter-Revolution Fails to Ignite,” Asian Survey, 44(1), January/February 2004. 110-114.

Department of State, office of the Spokesman, Public Announcement – Laos, December 14, 2004. 20Thomas Lum, Laos: Background and U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, November 22, 2004. 21U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, Washington, D.C., February 25, 2004. 22In addition to the Ministry of Public Security, the Lao People’s Army (LPA) has domestic security responsibilities that include counter terrorism and counter insurgency. The LPA controls village-based militia responsible for maintaining public order and reporting “undesirable elements” to the police.

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18 anti-government insurgents. Lao counter-insurgency tactics were denounced by international human rights groups as “war crimes,” while anti-communist Lao exiles employed such emotive terms as “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing.” Both the “Free Democratic People’s Government of Laos” and the “Committee for Independence and Democracy in Laos” have claimed responsibility for some of these incidents. In light of the Bush Administration’s commitment to the war against terrorism, it was not surprising that U.S. Ambassador Hartwick pointedly noted, “[the] United States does not support efforts by any private citizen to overthrow or bring down the Lao government.”23 Also, given the domestic sensitivity of this issue in the United States, the U.S. government has pressed for a humanitarian and a peaceful resolution of this issue.24 According to Ambassador Hartwick, “My government and the international community stand ready to assist in resolving this complicated issue if requested by the concerned parties.”25 In early 2004, there were indications that the LPDR was “quietly making a greater effort to promote an amnesty program for those [insurgent] groups willing to give up arms and resettle, although still without the assistance and

23Ambassador Douglas A. Hartwick, “Public Remarks Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington,” January 25-26, 2003. 24U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: the U.S. Record 2003-2004,” 2004. 25Ambassador Douglas A. Hartwick, “U.S.-Lao Relations in 2004 – The Course Ahead,” Vientiane, January 26, 2004.

19 oversight of the international community.”26 At the same time the U.S. government received reports that hundreds of individuals had accepted the Lao government’s offer of amnesty. In aftermath of 9-11 the President of Laos, Khamtai Siphandone, condemned the terrorist attacks on the United States. The LPDR also has taken steps to protect American citizens and their interests and property in Laos. According to Ambassador Hartwick, “Laos and the United States share common goals with regard to international threats to peace and security. We oppose terrorism in all its forms.”27 The LPDR has responded to U.S. requests for support and cooperation in counter-terrorism. In 2003, Laos deepened its counter terrorism cooperation with the U.S. The United States not only trained Lao customs and law enforcement officials but offered assistance to enable Lao authorities to monitor financial transactions. Laos has contributed to efforts to tighten international financial flows that could aid terrorists. The Bank of Laos has cooperated in searching government and commercial bank holdings for possible terrorist assets.28 The LPDR has issued freeze orders on assets of organizations and individuals named on U.S. lists. The United States has offered to help Laos accede to international conventions. For example, Laos is a party to seven of the twelve international conventions and
26U.S.

Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: the U.S. Record 2003-2004,” 2004. 27Douglas A. Hartwick, “U.S.-Lao Relations in 2004 – The Course Ahead,” Vientiane, January 26, 2004. 28This section draws on U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003, April 29, 2004.

20 protocols relating to terrorism; but it is not a state party to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. The LPDR’s implementation of multilateral agreements is hampered by weak enforcement procedures and the government’s lack of control of some areas outside the capital. Laos does not have specific anti-terrorism laws. The Office of the Prosecutor General plans to amend existing criminal law to make more explicit terrorism-related crimes. The Bank of Laos has not taken steps to report on government compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 or to require the freezing of assets of individuals and entities associated with Osama bin Laden, members of al-Qaida, and members of the Taliban included on the UNSCR 1267 Sanctions Committee’s consolidated list.29 As a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Laos subscribes to that organization’s anti-terrorism policies including a joint declaration between ASEAN and the United States on counter-terrorism. U.S. officials have acknowledged that Laos has contributed to ASEAN’s efforts to reduce Southeast Asia’s vulnerability to terrorism. • Trafficking in Persons

Laos is a source for persons trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation mainly to neighboring Thailand. To a lesser extent Laos serves as a transit point

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Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003, April 29, 2004.

21 and country of destination for people traffickers. Due to a lack of resources, the LPDR does not fund any anti-trafficking measures. The LPDR has been placed on the Tier 2 Watch List because it is not making sufficient effort to prosecute traffickers and provide adequate protection to victims. According to official U.S. assessments, the LPDR does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons but “it is making significant efforts to do so despite considerable resource constraints.”30 Laos lacks a specific anti-trafficking law and generally prosecutes traffickers under laws dealing with kidnapping and prostitution. In 2003, the LPDR took steps to combat trafficking but its efforts to prosecute remained “weak and uncoordinated.”31 There were only three prosecutions for trafficking in 2003, for example. Not only are Laos judicial and law enforcements institutions “extremely weak,” but corruption is widespread.32 Some local government officials allegedly profit from trafficking. It is reported that in some cases the victims are subject to fines for violating immigration laws. An inter-ministerial committee was reported to be drafting an anti-Trafficking in Persons law to be presented to the National Assembly.33

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Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report – Laos. Washington, D.C., June 14, 2004. 31U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report – Laos. Washington, D.C., June 14, 2004. 32U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003, April 29, 2004. 33U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report – Laos. Washington, D.C., June 14, 2004. the draft law was due to be submitted in September 2004 but its present status is unclear.

22 The United States provides assistance to Lao border areas where trafficking in persons is prevalent. In 2003 the U.S. provided more than $250,000 for antitrafficking activities carried out by NGOs. These projects focused on public education and alternative vocational training for those most vulnerable to trafficking.34 Conclusion In 2004, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Laos, Douglas Hartwick, outlined the course ahead in U.S.-Lao relations. He stated, “building stronger U.S.-Lao relations in 2004 will require genuine progress in three main areas: addressing long-standing human rights concerns, establishing normal trade relations between our two countries, and working more closely together on common threats and concerns – bilateral and international – where out two countries’ compelling interests are clear and pressing.”35 The issue of NTR implementation was discussed in a previous session,36 while the issue of human rights concerns will no doubt be addressed in the session immediately following. This paper has identified five major areas of security cooperation between the United States and Laos. These five areas encompass two sets of separate issues: dealing with the legacy of war (MIAs and UXO) and meeting the challenge
34U.S.

Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: the U.S. Record 2003-2004,” 2004. 35Douglas A. Hartwick, “U.S.-Lao Relations in 2004 – The Course Ahead,” Vientiane, January 26, 2004. 36U.S. officials have expressed the belief that NTR status will help stimulate the private sector by creating jobs, encouraging entrepreneurship, help Laos meet international standards, provide technology transfers, strengthen good governance and the role of law, and thus contribute to reducing trafficking in persons.

23 poised by transnational security threats (illegal narcotics trade, war on terrorism and trafficking in people). The United States has placed priority on recovery of MIA remains and counter-narcotics cooperation. The U.S. has provided modest assistance to address these and newly emerging transnational security challenges such as counter-terrorism and curtailing the trafficking in people.37 Laos will not be able to successfully address these newly emerging transnational security challenges without continued U.S. assistance targeted at improving its capacity in governance and law enforcement in these priority areas. This paper has identified the resolution of the Hmong insurgency as one key issue that could emerge as an irritant in the bilateral relationship unless it is resolved peacefully and humanely. Failure to resolve this issue could spill over and negatively affect security cooperation in other areas. Bibliography Blair, Dennis C., “Statement by Admiral Dennis C. Blair Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command Before the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. House of Representatives On U.S. Pacific Command Posture,” Washington, D.C., March 20, 2002. ______, “Statement of Admiral Dennis C. Blair, U.S. Navy Commander in Chief U.S. Pacific Command Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. Pacific Command Posture,” March 5, 2002. ______, “Statement of Admiral Dennis C. Blair, U.S. Navy Commander in Chief U.S. Pacific Command Before the Senate Armed Services Committee on fiscal Year 2002 Posture Statement,” March 27, 2001. Carr, Matthew T., “Demining in Laos,” Asia Pacific Defense Forum, Spring 1997. http://forum-apan-info.net/Fall_97/Laos_r.html.
37No

doubt U.S. attention will be increasingly be focused on curbing the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV-AIDs and malaria.

24 Clemmons, Philip, “Humanitarian Assistance to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic,” Asia Pacific Defense Forum, Summer 1998. http://forum-apaninfo.net/Summer_98/LAOS_r.html. Fund for Reconciliation and Development, “Fact Sheet on Laos,” February 2004. Gresser, Edward, “NTR and Trade Normalization: and U.S.-Lao Trade,” May 22, 2002. Hartwick, Douglas A., “U.S.-Lao Relations in 2004 – The Course Ahead,” Vientiane, January 26, 2004. ______, “Public Remarks Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington,” January 25-26, 2004. Human Rights Watch, “Lao People’s Democratic Republic,” August 2003. Lao Human Rights Council, Inc., “United Nations and Laos,” Press Release, March 28, 2004. Lum, Thomas, Laos: Background and U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, November 22, 2004. Moorehead, Kela, “The U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program: Engagement in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand,” Focus, n.d. http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/5.1/Focus/Kela_Moorehead/morehead/html. Thayer, Carlyle A., “Laos,” in Russell Heng Hiang Khng and Denis Hew, eds., Regional Outlook: Southeast Asia 2004-2005. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004. 18-21. ______, “Laos in 2003: Counter-Revolution Fails to Ignite,” Asian Survey, 44(1), January/February 2004. 110-114. ______, “Laos in 2002: Regime Maintenance Through Political Stability,” Asian Survey, 43(1), January/February 2003, 120-126. ______, “Laos in 1999: Economic Woes Drive Foreign Policy,” Asian Survey, 40(1), January/February 2000, 43-48. ______, “Laos in 1998: Continuity Under New Leadership,” Asian Survey, 39(1), January-February 1999, 38-42. ______, “Indochina,” in Gary Klintworth, ed., Asia-Pacific Security: Less Uncertainty and New Opportunities? New York: St. Martin’s, 1996. 132-147. ______, “Strategic Outlook in Indochina,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter 1996 Annual Reference Edition, xxii, 1/2, January-February 1996. 12-13. ______, Beyond Indochina, Adelphi Paper 297 London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1995.

25 ______, “Indochina,” in Ramesh Thakur and Carlyle A. Thayer, eds., Reshaping Regional Relations: Asia-Pacific and the Former Soviet Union Boulder, San Francisco and Oxford: Westview Press, 1993, 201–222. ______, “The Soviet Union and Indochina,” in Roger E. Kanet, Deborah Nutter Miner, and Tamara J. Resler, eds., Soviet Foreign Policy in Transition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 236-255. ______, “Indochina,” in Desmond Ball and Cathy Downes, eds., Security and Defence: Pacific and Global Perspectives. Sydney, Wellington, Boston, and London: Allen and Unwin, 1990. 398-411. ______, “Laos in 1983: Pragmatism in the Transition to Socialism,” Asian Survey, 24(1), January 1984, 49-59. ______, “Laos in 1982: The Third Congress of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party,” Asian Survey, 23(1), January 1983, 84-93. ______, “Laos and Vietnam: The Anatomy of a ‘Special Relationship’,” in Martin Stuart-Fox, ed., Contemporary Laos: Studies in the Politics and Society of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982. 245-273. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook 2004, Laos, internet edition, updated November 30, 2004. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, Washington, D.C., February 25, 2004. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, International Religious Freedom Report 2004, Laos, September 15, 2004. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: the U.S. Record 2003-2004,” 2004. U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003, April 29, 2004. U.S. Department of State, Office of the Spokesman, “Public Announcement Laos,” December 14, 2004. U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report – Laos. Washington, D.C., June 14, 2004. U.S. Embassy, Vientiane, Laos. http://vientiane.usembassy.gov/ U.S. Pacific Command, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. http://www.pacom.mil/

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