Vitasoy Recorded a Consistent Business Growth with Acceleration across Categories and Geographies

HONG KONG, June 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — 

Year ended  31st March

2014

HK$ Mn

 

2013

HK$ Mn

(restated)

Change

%

Turnover

4,494

4,051

11

Gross profit

2,175

1,925

13

EBITDA

653

618

6

Profit before taxation

457

423

8

Profit after taxation

341

334

2

Profit attributable to equity 
      shareholders of the Company

307

301

2

Basic earnings per ordinary share
     
(HK cents)

29.8

29.4

1

Interim dividend per share
     
(HK cents)

3.2

3.2

0

Final dividend per share (HK cents)

17.0

16.6

2

Dividend per share (HK cents)

20.2

19.8

2

Vitasoy International Holdings Limited (“VIHL” or “the Group”) (SEHK Code: 0345), a Hong Kong-based manufacturer, marketer and distributor of non-carbonated beverages and food, today announced its audited annual results for the year ended 31stMarch 2014.

During the year, VIHL recorded a consistent strong growth of 11% in net sales to HK$4,494 million and achieved acceleration across core categories and markets. The gross margin increased 13% to HK$2,175 million, while profit attributable to equity shareholders improved by 2% to HK$307 million. The Group maintained its gross profit margin at last year’s level of 48% attributed by the use of tactful pricing strategy and improved manufacturing efficiency.

“We forged ahead our business with strong execution focusing on core brands and key products despite a slower macroeconomic growth and rising commodity and labour costs. During the year, we focused our investment and innovation in our core categories of Soy/Plant Milk, Tofu and Tea and introduced more nutritional products to appeal to consumer needs. In terms of geographical development, our Mainland China business has accelerated gradually, while Hong Kong and Australia continued to sustain their performance and local leadership position. The North American have successfully restored profitability and Singapore operations maintained the business growth,” said Mr. Winston Yau-lai Lo, Executive Chairman of VIHL.

Basic earnings per ordinary share were HK$29.8 cents for the period. The Board of Directors of VIHL proposed the payment of a final dividend of HK$17.0 cents per ordinary share (FY2012/13: HK$16.6 cents per ordinary share) for the year ended 31stMarch 2014. Together with the interim dividend of HK$3.2 cents per ordinary share, the total dividend per ordinary share amounted to HK$20.2 cents (FY2012/13: HK$19.8 cents per ordinary share).

Business Review

Hong Kong Consistent growth driven by focusing on core categories and in-store execution

The Hong Kong operation reported a 6% sales growth to HK$1,899 million. The Group’s efforts in growing its soy milk and ready-to-drink tea categories have resulted in a stronger market leadership position. VITASOY CALCI-PLUS have reported the strongest sales growth within soy category, whilst SANSUI achieving the leadership position in the fresh soy drink segment. In the last financial year, Vitasoy Hong Kong’s operating profit grew by 9% to HK$348 million.

In terms of new product and packaging, the Hong Kong operation has recently launched a new PET packaging for VITASOY soymilk and an innovative VITA Hong Kong Style Milk Tea to expand the Tea offerings.

The operating profit of Vitaland Group, a subsidiary of VIHL in school tuck shop business, has grown profitably, primarily driven by its dedicated efforts in driving new school accounts and school renewals, improved product mix and better planning labour and raw materials.

Mr. Roberto Guidetti, VIHL Group Chief Executive Officer, said, “We will keep strengthening our leadership position of our core brands across channels and packaging formats. Packaging innovation, brand execution and distribution expansion are crucial to further drive the growth of our core categories.”

Mainland China — Acceleration via innovation, execution and expansion

The Mainland China business maintained its strong growth momentum in the midst of a challenging operating environment and reported a 28% increase in net sales revenue to HK$1,505 million and 19% growth in operating profit to HK$145 million respectively. The “Go Deep, Go Wide” strategy has driven the Group’s growth in business and making inroads into new territories, such as Jiangsu, Anhui, Hebei, Wuhan and Fujian.

During the year, Vitasoy China focused on unifying the VITASOY regional programs into a national one and rolled out a new communication campaign emphasising the product’s unique functional benefits. In addition, a brand restage program which used new packaging graphics harmonizing with Hong Kong’s VITASOY brand equities has increased the brand awareness in Mainland China.

On the product front, the operation’s renewed execution and expansion of VITA Lemon Tea has resulted in the strong growth beyond the previous Guangdong borders and successfully adding a new revenue stream for VIHL.

“We will continue to accelerate business growth using our proven business model in Mainland China and focus on delivering a sustainable performance. We will also strengthen our execution, expansion and innovation in order to drive growth and build brand visibility, and raise the operational capabilities of our production bases,” said Mr. Guidetti.

Australia and New Zealand — Solid growth behind VITASOY restage, offset by weakened Australia dollar

Vitasoy Australia reported a 7% increase in sales revenue and 9% increase in operating profit in Australian dollar respectively. However, as impacted by currency depreciation, the operation recorded a decrease of 5% to HK$492 million in revenue and a drop of 1% to HK$87 million in operating profit.

During the year under review, the operation restaged its core Organic VITASOY range by leveraging the Australian grown whole bean proposition. Launch of new product packaging and an integrated TV campaign has helped the brand securing its number 1 position in the Soymilk market.  In addition, the VITASOY Oatmilk range has also been leading the market share in the category. Vitasoy has introduced a new “Organic” variant of CAFE for BARISTAS in the premium cafe market.

“Looking ahead, we will continue to bring innovative products, focus on the execution in grocery channels and drive the growth in coffee channels,” Mr. Guidetti added.

North America — Sustaining top line growth whilst restoring profitability

Vitasoy USA recorded a 6% increase in net sales revenue to HK$513 million and reported an operating profit of HK$7 million, mainly attributed by the volume growth and improved manufacturing and logistic efficiency.

During the year, the operation restaged NASOYA Tofu and launched a new packaging design. Vitasoy USA has secured a strong year of solid sales growth across all business channels and expanded the leading market position in both the US Tofu and Asian Pasta categories.

Mr. Guidetti said, “With our improved business base, we will continue to improve profitability of our North American business. We will increase our efforts in launching new value-added products in both Asian and mainstream markets and consumer communication campaigns. We will also continue our focus on further optimizing the manufacturing efficiency and reducing operating costs.”

Singapore — Maintaining leadership, strengthening operations and increasing profitability

Unicurd, the Group’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Singapore, reported a 2% growth in net sales revenue to HK$85 million and 14% increase in operating profit to HK$8 million, attributed by a profitable product and channel mix as well as higher manufacturing efficiency. Unicurd will continue scaling up, adding important innovations and expanding the VITASOY franchise to drive business acceleration.

Outlook

Mr. Winston Lo, Executive Chairman of VIHL, concluded, “Our growth in FY2013/2014 has given us a strong and solid base for future development. We are confident that our growth will continue to benefit from the tailwinds of healthy trend and the demand for nutritious foods, despite a mixed global macroeconomic outlook. In the coming year, we will focus on our cores, which comprise our commitment to product quality, brand equity, our expanded infrastructure, and the readiness and competence of our people, through execution, expansion and innovation, to secure a long term success.”  

International SOS provides advice for a healthy Ramadan

BEIJING, June 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/  International SOS is providing travellers and expatriates with seven key tips for staying healthy during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan.

Dr Salwan Ibrahim, Deputy Regional Medical Director for the Middle East Region at International SOS, said:

“The holy month of Ramadan is an important time for Muslims worldwide. It is a time of reflection, devotion to God and self-control. From a medical point of view it is important to stay healthy during this period. That means staying hydrated, eating wisely, and making sure to take sufficient rest.”

Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramadan. This year the holy month falls during the hot season in the Middle East and North Africa and during the time of year with the longest hours of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.

Dr Ibrahim said:

“The main risks of fasting are low blood sugar and dehydration, and with Ramadan falling during the height of summer, it’s important that people are particularly aware of the risks this year. Fasters should adopt routines gradually and be moderate in their eating and drinking habits during the hours of darkness. Business travellers and expatriates should consider the advice regardless of whether they are working in one fixed location or if they are on the move”

International SOS’ seven tips for the Holy Month are:

  1. Eat moderately at Iftar – When breaking the fast it is important to avoid large intakes of sugar and fatty foods, which can disturb the metabolism and cause dizziness, headaches and fatigue. Break the fast with dates and yoghurt, water and fruit juice and then wait 10 minutes before consuming a sensible portion of further food, which should be rich in minerals.
  2. Make sure to eat Suhour – With sunrise occurring early in the Northern Hemisphere on the year’s longest days, there is a temptation to sleep or simply drink water rather than rising to eat a proper Suhour. International SOS’ doctors advise that it is better always to eat Suhour, and to choose complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread, barley and lentils to provide energy throughout the day of fasting ahead.
  3. Get sufficient sleep – The holy month of Ramadan is a time of increased prayer and gatherings of family and friends. Frequently this can mean less opportunity to sleep during the night. Fasters should make sure to get eight hours of sleep in every 24 hour period, even if this is split into several separate periods of rest.
  4. Adapt your exercise routine – It is still possible to follow weight loss and exercise routines during the Holy Month of Ramadan. However, exercise plans should be moderated to allow for the change in eating patterns. Fasters should concentrate on lighter exercises, such as brisk walking, and pay particular attention to the time of day they choose to take exercise; International SOS recommends waiting 2-3 hours after breaking fast before a work-out.
  5. Managing medication and chronic illness – Fasters with chronic health conditions should consult a doctor for advice on how fasting may affect their health. As a general rule, medication usually taken at breakfast can be taken at Iftar, whilst medications usually taken at dinner can be taken at Suhour. Diabetics should consult a physician for advice on how they can continue to take Insulin and should monitor blood sugar carefully around mealtimes.
  6. Plan workload carefully – Although in many countries work hours are reduced during Ramadan, it is advisable to plan workloads to minimise fatigue. Work that requires heavy concentration should be carried out in the early morning hours. Where possible, working fasters should work at intervals throughout the day to avoid unnecessary strain rather than attempting one long work period.
  7. Be extra cautious on the road – Low blood sugar from fasting can seriously affect fasters’ capabilities and concentration behind the wheel. In many Muslim countries, traffic will be heavy in the hour before sunset, as people return home to break the fast. Traffic accidents tend to peak at this time. Avoid road travel later in the day whenever possible and exercise extra caution if travel is required. This may include choosing to travel with a passenger who can help keep the driver alert. It is always better to take regular breaks rather than continuing to drive for long periods of time whilst drowsy or otherwise impaired.

Walmart to Sponsor Food Fraud Prevention Online Course In China

BEIJING, June 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Walmart has agreed to sponsor the translation of a Food Fraud Prevention online course to the Mandarin language. The course was developed by Dr. John Spink, Professor at Michigan State University (MSU) and Director of the University’s Food Fraud Initiative. Dr. Spink, a recognized expert in this area, has joined Walmart in their efforts to help customers, regulators, suppliers and retailers increase public awareness of food fraud prevention in China and prevent food fraud through joint efforts in the market.

MSU’s first Food Fraud Prevention Overview was originally conducted in May of 2013 and it has only been offered in English. Since its debut, the massive open online course (MOOC) has seen over 800 participants from 48 countries take in the free course. Following the first MOOC, there has been great interest in follow-up courses and translation into other languages. The Walmart sponsorship of the first language translation of the MOOC into Mandarin is a critical next step in protecting against food fraud and improving the global food supply chain.

This two-week MOOC is offered free to anyone, anywhere, who has Internet access. The first Mandarin version of the two-week course will be offered in two sections, on August 5 and August 12. It is especially targeted to be a tool to help food companies in China further strengthen their food fraud prevention and surveillance programs.

Participants of the MOOC will gain important insights into the reasons food fraud continues to be a major issue in the global supply chain. The course will draw on a wide range of current experience and expertise, infusing many real-world applications and problem-solving exercises that will provide a framework for success in the future.

Frank Yiannas, Vice President of Food Safety for Walmart said, “At Walmart, we take the issue of food fraud very seriously. Because prevention of food fraud is a shared responsibility and education is a key to deterrence, Walmart is delighted to be able to help Michigan State University make the course more broadly available to regulatory officials, industry professionals, consumers and other stakeholders in China.”  

Dr. Spink said, “We are grateful for forwardthinking companies like Walmart who are working, and investing in, improving the safety of the world’s foods.” He elaborated that, “When we rapidly expand the education and awareness building at this early stage in the development of the science, we can more efficiently establish a starting point and trajectory of our actions.”

“Food fraud has been recognized as a common challenge not only for retailers but also the whole supply chain, Walmart China Chief Compliance Office Paul Gallemore said. “As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart intends to leverage global food safety expertise and best practices to help our suppliers address the problem together in order to provide even greater assurance of food product quality, authenticity and safety to our customers.”

The retailer recently announced they are continuing to invest heavily in food safety for China with their total investment for 2013, 2014 and 2015 reaching 300 million Yuan. A portion of this investment has been heavily focused on supplier training and management. Walmart is helping suppliers understand and comply not only with China’s regulations, but the company’s extensive and rigorous food safety policies. Meanwhile, the company will perform additional testing and tougher standards for suppliers in 2014, increasing DNA testing on meat products by 100 percent and facility audits and inspections of primary producers by more than 30 percent from 2013. Walmart China has also taken a zero-tolerance policy on food fraud.

The 8th Edition of the International Debt Collection Handbook Now Includes Chile, Ukraine and South Africa

AMSTERDAM, June 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Today Atradius Collections releases the new edition of the International Debt Collection Handbook explaining the different stages of amicable settlement, financial regulations around collections, legal proceedings and insolvency procedures. The handbook is useful for credit managers confronted with the diversity and complexity of country-specific debt collections, now covering 38 countries, including Chile, Ukraine and South Africa. 

International debt collection and country-specific legal systems create challenges that affect every business. The International Debt Collection Handbook has proven to be an invaluable, highly demanded product for decision-makers in the collections and credit management industry. It gives readers an overview of foreign debt collection practices at country level. Rudi De Greve, Global Operations Director at Atradius Collections, explains: “The amicable collection route should always be the preferred option, however, taking legal actions is sometimes required. In either case, the key is to respect local ethics and the law. Only with local expertise can businesses ensure they are following a professional and successful approach.”

With insolvency levels peaking in many countries, selecting the right approach to debt collection has become an even more important factor for maintaining cash flow. Moreover, payment delays are common and insolvency risks remain high, both negatively impacting cash flow. A complex payment procedure in many cases results in foreign payment delays.

As a global market player, Atradius Collections acknowledges the importance of understanding local needs and being able to operationalize at a local level as the key to successful debt collection. Therefore Atradius Collections is planning on expanding its geographical reach into new markets, strengthening its global market position.

About the International Debt Collection Handbook 

Since its launch in 2008, the International Debt Collections Handbook has undergone constant update and expansion to provide decision makers with the most recent information. Rudi De Greve, Global Operations Director at Atradius Collections: “The handbook consists of information gathered by local experienced collectors and lawyers, making it a trusted international debt collections navigator.”

The full International Debt Collection Handbook is available for download at http://www.atradiuscollections.com/global/updates-publications/international-debt-collections-handbook.html

About Atradius Collections 

Atradius Collections, a business unit of Atradius Group, provides efficient, quick and flexible solutions to recovering domestic and international trade debts. With 20 offices and an extensive network of collections specialists and lawyers worldwide, Atradius Collections serves more than 14,500 customers. Over 85 years of global credit management industry experience uniquely positions Atradius Collections as a worldwide leader in business-to-business trade invoice collections services. Please visit http://www.atradiuscollections.com for more information.

Further information:
Iris Graatsma
Iris.Graatsma@atradius.com
Telephone: +31-20-553-3139
http://www.atradiuscollections.com
http://www.linkedin.com/company/atradius-collections
http://www.twitter.com/AtradiusCollect

Press Releases: Remarks on the Trafficking in Persons Report 2014

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thank you, operator. I’m Jeff Rathke, director of the Press Office here at the State Department. And today we’re doing a call with Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who is Ambassador-At-Large to Combat Trafficking in Persons. So today’s call will be on the record, but it will be embargoed until the end of Secretary Kerry’s rollout event.

So Ambassador CdeBaca has been in this position for a number of years; he doesn’t really need any introduction to most of you. So I will just turn it over to him and ask him to give us introduction to this year’s report, and then we’ll take some questions afterwards. So please, Ambassador.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thanks, Jeff. Hello, everybody, and welcome. As Jeff said, Secretary Kerry will be unveiling the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. This, of course, is a congressionally mandated report that has us look at the governments around the world and what they are doing to combat trafficking in persons – modern slavery – through the lens of what we call the 3P paradigm of prevention, protection, and prosecution. And in fact, I think as you see the embargoed copy of the report that I think many of you have, you’ll notice that each of the narratives of what’s happening in the countries actually are laid out in that fashion so that you can kind of see exactly how it is that we are analyzing the countries, and frankly, what the evidence is for the eventual ranking.

The rankings – the – it’s a four-tiered ranking system, and so – because it was made by us in the United States by our Congress, it has three tiers for its four-tier ranking. Let me explain what that means. We have Tier One, which is a country that’s actually meeting the minimum standards of fighting human trafficking. And those minimum standards are set out in our trafficking law of 2000, but really track the international standards and best practices that we see around the world. A Tier Two country is one that is not meeting those goals but is striving to do so and has results that you can point to to show that it’s doing a decent job, but could definitely improve.

A Tier Two Watch List – and this is how we get four tiers out of a one, two, and three. The Tier Two Watch List is kind of like a C minus or something like that in the American grading system. It’s warning the countries that are on the Watch List that they are in danger of falling to Tier Three. And one of the biggest categories for that is if what the country is doing is simply in the form of promises of future action. Again, we look for results. And if we can’t show the results on the ground, the actual outcomes, et cetera, then that does not bode well when we’re doing the analysis. And then finally Tier Three, which is a country that is not responding sufficiently to its trafficking problem, isn’t taking those affirmative steps forward, and we’re not – excuse me – seeing the progress that we need to see, especially in light of their particular trafficking problem.

So that’s a quick tour through the tier rankings, and I think that a lot of folks are very interested in that, much like horserace coverage of elections. But I want to talk a few of the top lines as well, as far as what are we seeing in the global fight against modern slavery this year. Very quick review of what we’re talking about when we talk about human trafficking, the definition – this is a umbrella term that the United States Government considers to cover all of the activities involved in reducing someone to or holding them in a condition of compelled service. So there’s nothing in there about moving them across international borders. There’s nothing in there that limits it simply to women or girls. There’s nothing in there that limits it to only in other countries. And there’s nothing in there that limits it only to prostitution or the sex industry as opposed to other forms of trafficking.

So each year for every one of these countries, we’re looking at what are they doing for all of the populations that are victimized by trafficking: How are they helping them? Are they prosecuting the perpetrators and bringing them to justice? And are they working to prevent? And when I say “they,” I mean all of the governments that we look at.

And one of those governments is the United States. The United States has been included in the trafficking report since 2010. The State Department began to rank ourselves in that report for two reasons. First of all, I think that there was a sense during the Obama Administration that it was simply a matter of fairness to all of the other countries; if we’re going to hold them to these minimum standards, that we needed to hold ourselves to them as well. But then also the notion of as a diagnostic tool. If these 11 minimum standards that you’re supposed to look at to see whether you’re doing a decent job on fighting trafficking – if those are truly to be a good diagnostic, then we owed it to ourselves to apply that diagnostic and to see where we could be doing better as the United States.

As far as that’s concerned, I want to just make the point that I think many of you may have already heard me or the Secretary say, which is that no country is doing a perfect job on the fight against human trafficking, and that includes the United States. We are all in this together, because we’re seeing people around the world – whether it’s in agriculture or whether it’s in mining, whether it’s in manufacturing, whether it’s in the sex industry, whether it’s as domestic servants – that when you have unscrupulous and cruel bosses and vulnerable people, you have a recipe for human trafficking. And that’s as true here even in the Washington, D.C. area and the suburbs, as it is in countries around the world.

So I’d certainly, although I think that we’ll probably be looking at some of the other countries, I’d certainly recommend to you all the U.S. narrative as well so you can see what the U.S. Government is doing but also what’s happening out in our communities across the United States, whether it’s to Native American girls, whether it’s to vulnerable men and women because of a disability or a drug addiction, or whether it’s to the young men and women, boys, and girls, who fall prey to the blandishments of pimps who offer a better life and opportunity.

Let me take it a little bit more international though. This year, we see of the 188 countries that are on the report, we see some movement up and down. There’s, I think, some real progress stars, I guess, for lack of a better word, some countries out there that have – that we’ve seen some real progress on. For instance, both Chile and Switzerland are moving up to Tier One on the report this year. Switzerland because they took aggressive steps to close some legal loopholes that actually inadvertently made it legal for people to have children in prostitution. Chad has really stepped up on victim identification and demobilization of child soldiers. We’ve seen the first convictions in the Bahamas and Aruba – small countries, small island countries that, frankly, five years ago would’ve said that they didn’t have any human trafficking. But they’ve realized that it’s something that they have to look for. And once they’ve looked for it, they’ve found it and been able to free some of its victims.

We’ve seen the first government-run shelter being opened by the Government of Jordan. The – a new law recently passed in Haiti – the first time now in 215 or so years in which it is now a crime to enslave someone in Haiti, a law much-awaited in South Africa that we hope will be a good tool in that which is very much the destination country for the southern tier countries in Africa. And even a country that has historically not been a leader on human rights issues, Sudan, the enactment of a modern human trafficking law that’s really the culmination of that government’s coming out and wanting to be able to have those modern tools so that they can help their own citizens and others who might be enslaved and exploited.

There are also downgrades, and I think that that’s something that we see every year – countries that are perhaps taking the foot off the gas pedal a little bit or aren’t doing the kind of work that we would see under the law. And I think one of the things that’s, of course, since the 2008 reauthorization that is of particular note under the U.S. law is what we call the auto-downgrade provisions of the law. This came into effect fully last year for the first time. The law in 2008 basically said that countries cannot be on that Tier Two Watch List that I described a minute ago for too many years in a row, because there was a concern, frankly, on the part of Congress that strategic countries and other countries were being given a bit of a pass and not being taken down to Tier Three but holding steady on Tier Two Watch Lists almost, it seemed to Congress I think, interminably.

And so they put a time limitation on that and – by which time a government has to either improve or will be dropped down to Tier Three on the report. There were seven such countries this year that were in that situation no longer eligible for a waiver in the U.S. national interest. And those were Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad, Malaysia, the Maldives, Thailand, and Venezuela. And what we’ve seen is the two – excuse me, three – of those Tier Two Watch Lists auto-downgrade countries were no longer eligible, and we concluded that there hadn’t been the type of sufficient progress to justify an upgrade. And those were Thailand, Malaysia, and Venezuela. And so each of those countries has now been placed on Tier Three in the report.

In the other countries – Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad, and the Maldives – in each of those countries we see fresh activity. We see new commitments to doing work. We see this notion of cases being done in the first place or victims being helped in new ways. And it’s certainly something that is welcome. And frankly, these are countries who may not have, if it weren’t for the pressure of the auto-downgrade and the good work of our men and women out at our embassies in those countries and others to work with them, might not have been able to make that journey.

I want to say two things about sectoral issues that we’ve been identifying that may be news to some. I think that many people may be aware of some of the abuses that we’ve been recognizing in the last few years in the fishing industry. And in fact we’ve seen the fishing sector now – 51 of the narratives in the TIP report this year are identifying abuses in the fishing industry. And that’s both men that are enslaved out on the boats out at sea and folks in the seafood packing huts and things like that.

But we’ve also seen forced labor in mining noted in the narratives of 46 countries and zero prosecutions or convictions around the world. So we’re very much looking for countries to step up on the mining sector, and that’s everything from things that we might call conflict minerals in Africa or conflict diamonds in North Africa, Northwest Africa, or what we see with the gold mining sector, for instance, in Peru and other places.

And sadly, just as we’ve seen in the fishing industry or the logging industry, there are follow-on effects of a subsidiary sex trafficking that happens – basically men who are enslaved in these camps, held in debt bondage through the old company store scheme, they then bring the women in to serve them as well. So whether it’s in Guyana, Peru, or other places like that, you end up seeing sex trafficking related to the mining sector. And we want to commend Senegal for being the only country in the world this last year who actually achieved a conviction of folks for holding girls in sex trafficking in that mining sector.

Lastly, just want to also point out that there is the child soldiers and Child Soldier Prevention Act list, which is part of the trafficking report each year. And this year one of the countries on that was removed, and that is Chad, as I mentioned earlier, who’s, I think, coming at this with a real energy now. And we hope that we’ll continue to see that on their part.

So I think perhaps we should turn it over and do some questions. Jeff, I’ll leave it back to you.

MR. RATHKE: Thanks very much, Ambassador. Operator, could you please inform everyone or remind them how to register – intend to ask a question?

OPERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to ask a question, please press * then 1 on your touchtone phone. You will hear a tone indicating you have been placed in a queue, and you may remove yourself from queue at any time by pressing the # key. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, please press *1 at this time. And a moment here for the first question.

MR. RATHKE: All right. That’s great. We’re ready to go to the first question then, so could you please call the first question, operator?

OPERATOR: Our first question comes from the line of Dana Hughes at ABC News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this. I have a question about what role you see governance or the breakdown of governance in these rankings. For example, Thailand’s been downgraded and they had a coup. Chad is really increasing its governance. Do you see a direct correlation?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, it’s interesting, because the Thailand narrative and the Thailand ranking is based on everything that happened from April 1st, 2013 through March 31st, 2014. And so the coup that you mentioned didn’t happen within that time period. Obviously, there was some fraying around the edges within the Royal Thai Government, and yet the committed folks within the government who were trying to work on this within their own agencies, the – some folks at the Royal Thai Police and folks in the ministry of health and social development – they continued to go out and try to fight trafficking because it was something that they had that personal commitment to.

What we see that’s, I think, perhaps somewhat relevant to that in the Thailand situation that’s very much part of the – kind of permeates the narrative is the anchor on those good efforts of those good people that public corruption and complicity on the part of government officials then places around those who would try to do better. So I think that that kind of corruption and its effect on governance directly undercuts the good work of the folks who are trying to get everything right.

It’s interesting because I think that what we see is this is a rule of law problem. It’s a human rights problem as well. But there are a number of countries in which the government functions at a very high level that human trafficking victims simply aren’t on the radar. And I think that that’s reflected kind of throughout the report that rule of law only is going to work for trafficking victims if governments affirmatively try to bring it to bear on the plight of these vulnerable communities.

So while some of those kind of looking at instability and looking at general governance issues, there often seems to be some correlation. I think that we’ve also seen a lot of human trafficking in cases that are – in countries that are viewed as being governed well and that do well on indices, whether it’s Freedom House or otherwise.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, thanks. Could we move on to the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Okay, our next question comes from the line of Jo Biddle at AFP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello, good afternoon. Thank you very much. I wanted to ask you about sanctions. I know that there’s a possibility that downgrades can be accompanied by sanctions if the President so decides. And last year we saw Russia and China both downgraded into Tier Three. Were there any sanctions that were accompanied with that, and do you anticipate that with these new downgrades of Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela that there could be sanctions forthcoming if they do not get their act together?

And I had a follow-up – a different question as well, but perhaps I’ll just ask that one first.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Of course. The sanctions determination is something that we’ll be turning to at this point. There are not just those three countries that are on Tier Three. In fact, there are 23 countries on Tier Three this year. But I think that what we look at each year is, first of all, we have to see what is it that the sanctions analysis has to look at. And first stop is to actually look at what foreign assistance we have because that’s really what we’re talking about. The sanctions here is whether or not the United States will continue to provide foreign assistance. So the first thing that we always have to look at is what is being provided to those particular governments and then also to look to see to what degree we’re providing aid that goes directly to helping fix the thing that we’re trying to solve. So you certainly wouldn’t want to halt the – any assistance that’s going specifically to increasing the capacity of our partners in those governments to fight human trafficking or to help its victims.

So those are some of the things that we’ll take into account as we work with the White House and as we give our recommendations to the President. At the end of the day, this is his decision. And last year, the three auto-downgrade countries that you mentioned – China, Russia, and Uzbekistan – the President decided that it was in the U.S. national interest and would promote the purposes of the trafficking law to waive sanctions against them as well as several other countries. And those are countries that we, again, are very much wanting to and feel we can engage with in order to move forward.

Last year, full sanctions were applied against Cuba, Iran, and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and partial sanctions were applied against the DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you very much. And I wondered if I could ask about – I had another question. I wondered if I could ask about the situation in the United States. You give the United States a Tier One ranking, but I believe there have been some issues with money, funds running out for shelters for survivors, and there’s also an issue of, particularly in the sex trafficking, with children being treated as criminals rather than being treated as victims and ending up in front of courts or in cells instead of in – or in police cells rather than in shelters. I did note in the report that you say that there’s much more to be done still in the United States. What are you recommending specifically for the United States in terms of improving your own balance sheet?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Yeah. I mean, I think that to the notion of the funding issues, clearly a lot of social service providers, not just in the trafficking arena but others as well, that were depending upon per capita type of reimbursements from the United States Government, didn’t necessarily get those as quickly as they could have last year. We had a number of things, including the near – the government shutdown and the sequester and other things like that.

Our funding stream that HHS – the Department of Health and Human Services – does is actually – it is a per capita reimbursement. It’s not a kind of one-time grant at the beginning of the year that then the nongovernmental can draw down on. And one of the reasons for that is that there are thousands and thousands of service providers across the United States who may encounter a trafficking victim, and it may be that that’s not their fulltime job, so they wouldn’t be writing a grant specifically for that.

My understanding is that those reimbursements were able to continue and that folks have been backfilled for any monies that they spent on behalf of the trafficking victims. But I think it does show that there’s a need for better thought to be put in.

And that was one of the reasons why, on the plus side of the column this year, we announced in January at the White House the first-ever victim services strategy for the United States, which was brought together by the President’s interagency task force to actually look at this action plan. And we’re very proud of the fact that that was brought in with close consultation with survivors of trafficking, so that we could hear what it was that they had been through, what they saw as the shortcomings.

One of the things, frankly, that we’re having to deal with is a bunch of legacy systems. The child protective services systems in all of the states, each grew up independently and they grew up at a time before the Trafficking Victims Protection Act started looking at child prostitutes, for instance, as victims rather than as criminals. So going back to each state now and trying to get it so that they can make it very clear that these are not delinquent children but dependent children under each of the state laws and making sure that the child protective services understands that these are not criminals but victims is unpacking a multi-billion dollar effort across 57 states and territories as well as at the federal level.

So I think that, in looking at that and looking at the problems of the foster care system, et cetera, we’ve started to see not only the Administration but Congress focusing on that. But at the end of the day, all of the money that’s been appropriated for human trafficking work and all of the legislative fixes to some of those programs are just a drop in the bucket compared to the enormous child protective services structures that we need to turn around to recognize the trafficking victims in their midst.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thanks. Next question please.

OPERATOR: Next question comes from the line of Luis Alonso at AP. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. Many thanks for doing this. I have two questions as well, if I may. The first one is I couldn’t find a regional summary of the report, so I would like to ask if you could please give – provide us with a comment on the Western Hemisphere, how – what the general trend, how many countries were downgraded – how many countries were downgraded, is it improvement or not compared to last year?

And my second question is, given – related to the unaccompanied minors that are coming through the south border from Central America, is – we all know that the United States has put all those kids into removal proceedings right now. If a big number of them end up being deported and go – sent back to their countries where there is extraordinary violence and many presence of human trafficking, do you foresee that the United States could drop the Tier One position because of this element of the unaccompanied minor who comes into America? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, let me answer that backwards with the second question first. I think that one of the things that we’re doing is that we are working with the governments in the region to try to improve not only the situation so that families don’t feel that they have to get their children out of harm’s way, whether it’s with gangs or otherwise, but also so that those children can be reunited with their families back home.

The law in question, of the unaccompanied alien minors, is looking to protect them, and which is one of the reasons why the Department of Health and Human Services is involved, unlike with adults who would be interdicted at the border. And in fact, one of the things that is done as part of the unaccounted – unaccompanied alien minor screening is to see whether or not those children were victims of trafficking in that situation. And as with all folks who come before the immigration judges and go through the system, we hope that that kind of screening would be able to help us find the people who need the particular services that trafficking victims so desperately need, and to be able to get them those services.

As far as the hemisphere as a whole, I think that is some movement up, there is some movement down within the hemisphere. Perhaps the most notable downgrade in the hemisphere is not the Venezuelan story from Tier Two Watch List down to Tier Three, but rather the downgrade of Colombia, a country that’s been on Tier One for many consecutive years. I think that what it stands for is the notion that Tier One is not a reprieve, it’s a responsibility, and the responsibility to continue to investigate cases, to continue to seek out good victim care interventions, and to look at all forms of trafficking. The Colombians were focused so much on international sex trafficking of Colombians and transnational cases that cases of Colombians at home and others, whether it was in the mining sector, whether it was in the sex or domestic servants, simply weren’t registering. And as a result, we now see them on Tier Two.

So the movement on the one hand of Chile up to Tier One because of the new law that they passed a few years ago and their very aggressive stance in enforcing that new law unfortunately then is kind of paired with the Colombian situation, where a bit of stagnation cannot keep a country on the highest level.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thanks. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of (inaudible) at US News and World. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about Thailand’s downgrade, specifically the government’s shortcomings, considering all the media reports this last year or so discussing their human trafficking problem and why the government has failed to really address it.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, as I said earlier – and I want to make it very clear that we know and we have worked with some very good actors in the Thai Government who are kind of on the front lines who are trying very hard to make a difference over there. But the widespread official complicity in human trafficking that continues to hinder their performance against sex trafficking and forced labor, the government as a whole did not demonstrate serious efforts to address that. It made few efforts to address forced labor and debt bondage among the most vulnerable communities – the foreign migrant workers, including in the fishing industry.

And even though we saw this notion of some better data collection and some – an uptick in investigations by the royal Thai police, those didn’t necessarily translate over into completed convictions. You’ll see in the report, for instance, a situation where some Burmese members of a conspiracy were arrested and ended up being sentenced to 30 years in prison for their role in trafficking men in the fish industry, and yet the Thai co-conspirator, who held 14 men in confinement as part of the slavery scheme, he ended up only getting three months as an alien smuggling conviction.

And so we’re looking at each of the cases that we know about. We’re looking at the situations on the ground to see – is this something that the bosses in the brothels and the bosses in the fishing packing sheds and things can simply brush off as business as usual? Is it something that they can bribe their way out of? Or is it something that has real teeth going forward? And we look forward to working with the Thais in the coming year to not only provide that real teeth, but hopefully achieve some real results.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thank you. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: All right. Our next question comes from Josh Stilts at Intrafish Media. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks again for hosting this. You said earlier that there were some 53 countries that have shown instances of slave labor or human trafficking in the fishing and seafood industries. Beyond Thailand, what other instances are you guys seeing?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I think it’s actually 51. Sorry if —

QUESTION: Fifty-one, sure.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: — I misspoke. Well, we’ve seen, as far as a country that’s acting, the Indonesians have actually arrested some folks and there’s prosecutions going there. But there are some very nontraditional places. There – I don’t think a lot of people think of South Africa necessarily in this context, and yet the South Africans suddenly found themselves with a boatload of fishermen with – who had been basically shanghaied from Cambodia. We’ve seen in the Caribbean, in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, situations where this has been discovered on the boats; Costa Rica on the west coast, finding Chinese fishermen in these dire straits; African men and African children on boats in the gulf off of the Green Coast and everything kind of ranging down from Liberia all the way down to Nigeria.

And I think that that’s one of the things that the more we look at this, the more we find this in surprising places. There were reports this last year by Stella Maris, the apostolate of the sea, which is the Vatican’s kind of specialized unit of – I call them the sea priests, who go out on the boats to try to mission to the fishermen. And at a conference that the Pope hosted in – earlier this year with those priests, suddenly there were reports coming out from the fishery in Scotland of abuses up there.

So I think it’s something that we’re hearing about. We’re hearing about it on inland fisheries such as Lake Victoria and Lake Volta, but we’re also hearing about it in the Baltics and in, as I said, places as unusual as Scotland or South Africa.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thanks. Next question please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Maya Rhodan from the TIME magazine. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks again for the call. I have a question about the LGBT community and how – can you just speak to how instances of trafficking that involve LGBT people were factored into any of the rankings or if there are any countries where this is a particular issue or if there’s still more digging around that needs to be done on that?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I’m very glad you raised that. It is something that we’re seeing more of. I think that it’s something that, because it’s been so taboo for a lot of countries to even admit that these communities are part of the social fabric, much less worthy of protection, that in some ways we’re just kind of opening the bidding on this issue. I think a lot of folks are aware of and know of issues of survival sex of the homeless kids who are in many ways trying to put together their own families and their own communities. But I think a lot of folks, whether it’s in the public health arenas or even in the LGBT activist communities, have tended to look at that and not see the pimps and the controllers that sometimes are behind that.

And we’re seeing in a number of countries around the world – I remember last year, when I was in Kenya, for instance, the interplay, the horrible interplay between on the one hand the effects of terrorism in the northeast and even in Somalia, with families trying to get their kids out of that area so that their sons don’t have to be fighters for Shabaab, and then they end up in sex trafficking down on the coast in the tourist zones. And I think it’s one of those things where, because of attitudes against the LGBT community, a lot of folks that were even working or willing to talk about other forms of trafficking were having a very hard time even wanting to admit that those young boys might have been in human trafficking situations.

And this happens in the United States. There was a case, I think it was last year, in the Atlanta area where a man was convicted for human trafficking of a teenaged American kid who, frankly, he lured in because of that kid’s loneliness and seeking to have some meaning as he struggled with his own sexuality.

So it’s something that we’re going to be looking at a lot more carefully. It’s like the fishing issues a few years ago, where we had just started to hear it, and then now that we’re looking for it, we’re seeing it in a lot of different places. I think that we’re going to be seeing more coverage of this in the coming years. And we’ve started having conversations with some of the key players in the United States, like the Human Rights Campaign and others, so that we can bring to bear the folks who are working in the affected communities.

MR. RATHKE: All right. I see – I think we have three questions remaining, so we will go through those, and then we will wrap up from here. So, operator, could you call the next question?

OPERATOR: All right. The next question comes from Jeanine Stewart at Undercurrent News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you for having this, first of all. So first off, I’m wondering two things. How much has human – has the human trafficking problem grown in the fishing industry in 2013 over 2012? I’m just curious, is this a growing problem or is this just something that we’ve become more aware of with Thailand in the spotlight over it? And also, how much certainty is there in the investigation? Can you reveal anything about how they were conducted or how sure the State Department is that Thailand’s officials were complicit in some of the human trafficking that occurred? Because I – since I know that the Thai Government has said that’s not true. So how do we weed through the “he said, she said” on that one?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I think that what we’ve seen in – as far as complicity in Thailand is whether – it’s not just in fishing but in a number of different sectors, the very reputable researchers, whether it’s your Human Rights Watches, whether it’s Transparency and some of the other indices looking at corruption as an issue. But specifically, there’s I think been some very good reporting even by the media as opposed to by academic researchers or others as to the involvement of Thai officials. And that’s something that’s reflected in the narrative.

One of the things that’s also reflected in the narrative is then how the parts of the Royal Thai Government have responded to that type of reporting by journalists being charged with criminal defamation —

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: — journalists and the folks who are willing to reprint articles even being charged. So that notion of not only is there, we think, good and solid reporting by a number of different actors, whether it’s, again, activists, academics, or journalists, but also the work that’s being done increasingly now by the food industry itself. And we very much encourage the seafood industry to start looking at these supply chain issues. We know that they can trace their product from the store shelf all the way back to the particular boat. We’ve seen the bar codes on the tubs, the plastic tubs of shrimp in the packing shed that are required that if there’s a health outbreak, they can take it all the way back to the particular shed, take it all the way back to the particular boat.

So since we know that the shrimp and the fish is traceable in those instances, we think also that what the particular captains and what the labor brokers that are working with them are doing needs to be something that comes under the microscope for the companies and their consumers as well.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, our penultimate question please, operator.

OPERATOR: All right. Our next question comes from Dmitri Zlodorev from ITAR-TASS. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hello. My name is Dmitri Zlodorev. I am from ITAR-TASS news wire service of Russia. You placed Russia to the third group, and how you would characterize the U.S.-Russian cooperation in this area? And am I right that right now you are not plan to impose sanctions against Russia? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thank you, Dmitri. We can’t speak to sanctions at this point in time. It’s something that the White House will be looking at for all of the countries on Tier Three, and so I can’t speculate as to what would happen on that. I think we had talked about that a little bit earlier as far as last year was concerned.

But your question as far as what kind of cooperation between the United States and Russia on this, we’ve had a – I think a good dialogue over the years on human trafficking with our Russian counterparts. And we’re looking forward to what we hope will be some efforts in the coming year. We know that the government submitted an anti-trafficking action plan to the National Security Council and at this point has not heard back. We think that that certainly would be a very good step, to have a public and transparent anti-trafficking action plan. And it would be a sign of political will on the part of the Russian Federation.

One thing that I would like to say as far as U.S.-Russian cooperation is that we have been able to continue to work together over the last year to announce a trafficking shelter in St. Petersburg with space contributed by the municipality – so Russian government funding – and support from the United States Embassy in Moscow. Now that shelter is only going to be able to hold and serve eight trafficking victims, and the scope of trafficking in Russia that’s pointed out in the report, with the migrant foreign workers and others, is many, many more than that. But we do feel that it’s a good step and that we hope that working together, the Russian Government and the United States Government and the Red Cross partners will be able to provide a better life to the women who are able to avail themselves of that shelter.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, thank you. Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Teresa Busa from EFE. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I wanted to ask you about the specific case of Venezuela. I wonder if you could comment on that: how bad the situation is and what are the most worrying trends, and how is the U.S.-Venezuela cooperation in this area?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Indeed. Well, thank you for your question. I think that we were – a few years ago, as you know, Venezuela was brought up off of Tier Three in recognition of a number of cases that they were investigating and what looked like a commitment to working jointly between the police and the health service. And unfortunately, this last year we just haven’t really been able to see those same type of efforts. There’s a little bit of awareness raising and tourism training, but unlike most of the countries in the world, there’s not an interagency coordinating council that’s been brought together around the issue. There’s not an action plan or even a draft action plan. There’s no formal mechanism to identify the victims, and there’s no shelters that are designated for trafficking victims. In many ways, it seems that all of the victim care in Venezuela is being done by the nongovernmental organizations or by the international organizations.

And so we call on Venezuela to step up and to be involved in the victim care. And there’s so little public data on law enforcement that it does not appear that there were any reported convictions in 2013, as opposed to in 2012, where at least we were able to identify one person convicted of sex trafficking.

So as with all of these countries, we very much want to continue to be able to work together on this. This is a shared problem. It affects Venezuela, it affects the United States, and it affects the Western Hemisphere. And so we’ll be looking for ways in which we can continue to try to engage with the Venezuelans.

MR. RATHKE: Operator, we would have time for one final question, if there are any in the queue.

OPERATOR: All right. We did have one final question from Matthew Russell Lee at Inner City Press. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Sure. Thanks a lot, and thanks for taking the question. I was looking at Myanmar – Burma – and also at Sri Lanka. And in both cases, it seems to say – the report seems to say that that government is either, in the case of Burma, directly involved in trafficking in coercion; or in the case of Sri Lanka, suspected of complicity in it. So in those two cases, I wondered as the U.S. sort of re-engages with Myanmar or Burma, how does this issue get raised and how is it going to be resolved? And the same in the case of Sri Lanka where there’s this human rights inquiry. Is this – what can be done in terms of actual government complicity in trafficking?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, it’s interesting. Let me start with Burma. We – this is one of the first things that we re-engaged on. I was in Burma within I think about three weeks or a month after Secretary Clinton took her first historic trip there, and when I met with Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the things that was very interesting to me was that she recommended to me that I needed to talk to her jailor. And I asked her, “What do you mean?” And she said, “The guy from the secret police who was assigned to me to be my warden all of these years would bring me articles on human trafficking off of the Internet, and we would talk into the night about how we would work together to help end human trafficking and slavery for our people if things ever changed.” A lot of people forget that she spent her Nobel Prize money while she was in prison. She sent it World Vision, an NGO, to provide food and shelter for about 200 Burmese trafficking victims in Thailand. The first place that she went after she was able to travel was to the shrimp-packing sheds in Thailand where so many Burmese are affected by this crime.

So it was interesting to see not only her, but then eventually what came true is the new head of the anti-trafficking unit – the central body against trafficking in persons for the Burmese Government in the new era – is the very person who she recommended to me that we should work with. He’s written a book on trafficking; he’s gone to other parts of the region. I think there’s a real desire on the part of the Burmese Government to engage and to bring on some of these modern approaches.

And to that end, they even passed a law abolishing the 1907 Villages and Towns Act, which is what gave them the legal ability to enslave their own people. So the notion of giving that up as part of the process of opening up to the outside world. I think that, as with every country, there’s a long way to go, and we’ll continue to work with them. We have an established and formal dialogue with them that was agreed to by both presidents during President Obama’s visit a year and a half ago, and it’s something that I’ve been to Burma for that dialogue and will be, I think, going again in the fall for the second round of that. So we’re – in that situation, I think that we’ve got a formal way to work with them.

Sri Lanka on the other hand, I think that that’s a bit of a work in progress. We don’t see – first of all, we’re not digging out of the years of exclusion from the international community that we had seen with the Burmese Government, but we’ve got this notion of three years in a row the trafficking statute that they have, which is a pretty good one – it prohibits all forms of trafficking, which not every SAARC country, not every country in the region has laws that prevent forced labor as well as sex trafficking – and yet three years in a row without any convictions, no services really for male trafficking victims, sex trafficking victims punished, and the folks who come home from overseas, no real way to screen for or help them the way that other source countries like the Indonesians and the Filipinos have.

So I think that there’s a long way to go, but they have this inter-ministerial structure that they have now adopted, and I think that for us both here in Washington and at the Embassy in Colombo it provides us some interlocutors who we hope that we’ll be able to work with going forward.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on Burma. Do you see this issue of the Rohingyas, is it – does it make them susceptible to trafficking, this kind of stateless status? And how – do you have more – do you see this – do you see it through the light of trafficking, or is it a separate issue?

AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Well, I think that we see with any displaced and vulnerable communities that are suffering from social exclusion, and I think that the plight of the Rohingyas has pretty been – has been pretty well documented. That is the type of population in which we often see in this type of situation.

Now, I mean, obviously, we remain concerned about all of the humanitarian issues that are around the Rohingya and other vulnerable ethnic and religious communities. We actually shed some – a little bit of light on this both in the Burma narrative but also, frankly, in the Thai narrative as we’re looking at the exploitation and even alleged sale of Rohingya refugees once they get to their destinations as they’re moving for all these different reasons.

QUESTION: Thanks a lot.

MR. RATHKE: Okay, thank you very much, participants. That’s the end of our question period. Want to thank Ambassador CdeBaca once again and thank you for your questions. A reminder this call is on the record but it is embargoed until the end of the Secretary – Secretary Kerry’s rollout event. Thanks once again, and we’re signing off here.

IOM Asia Regional Director Assesses Cambodia Border Response as Movements Approach 180,000

Cambodia – Some 180,000 undocumented Cambodian migrants are estimated to have crossed back into their country from Thailand in an exodus which started ten days ago and is only now showing signs of slowing.

Another 10,000 migrants are expected to make the crossing today at the Poi Pet border post, as IOM continues to work alongside the Cambodian government to provide transport to prevent a dangerous bottleneck of returning migrant workers.

While the reasons for the mass movement are unclear, it appears that most of the undocumented Cambodian migrants believed to have been in Thailand are now back in their homeland. But IOM cautions that earlier estimates of the number of Cambodians in Thailand may not be accurate.

Conditions at the border are basic, but there is no indication that the humanitarian situation is giving any cause for alarm, thanks to an efficient transport pipeline that continues to function from early morning until late at night.

IOM Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Andrew Bruce visited Poi Pet yesterday to assess the IOM-led humanitarian operation, which is supplementing the Cambodian government’s own efforts.

IOM has been hiring coaches to provide free transport back to their home provinces for the most vulnerable migrants, mainly women travelling with children. Males, who make up more than 60 per cent of the caseload, are being asked to travel in military trucks. So far, IOM has directly assisted almost 6,000 of the most urgent cases.

“While it appears that we are now past the peak migrant flows, now we are taking nothing for granted and we will stay here, funds permitting, until there is no longer a need for our services,” said Mr Bruce. “This rapid movement of people is unprecedented in this region in recent years, outside of conflict and natural disasters.”

IOM’s intervention is being undertaken by a small team of international and Cambodian staff in Poi Pet, backed up by the national office in the capital Phnom Penh and the regional office in Bangkok, Thailand.

A medical doctor has joined the team from IOM’s office in Myanmar. She is ensuring that all migrants under IOM’s care are fit to travel, and is also offering advice and support to local medical staff.

“While IOM is leading the response to this migration crisis we are extremely grateful to our partners in the UN Country Teams in Cambodia, as well as NGOs and local individuals who are providing various types of assistance to migrants on the border,” said Bruce.

“Naturally we are also thankful for the financial support we have received from donors. This situation could have quickly become life-threatening, had we not acted swiftly and decisively.”

For more information please contact:

In Phnom Penh:

Leul Mekonnen, Email: lmekonnen@iom.int – Tel.  +855 12 900 131

In Poi Pet:

Brett Dickson, Email: bdickson@iom.int – Tel. +855 12 222 132

Joe Lowry, Email: jlowry@iom.int – Tel. +66 81 870 8081

See also @IOMasiapacific on Twitter and IOM on Facebook.

Top of the Morning: Scores of World Cup Fans Killed in Shebab Attack

Al Shebab strikes again. “At least 50 people were killed when gunmen in two minibuses sped into a town on Kenya’s coast, shooting soccer fans watching a World Cup match in a television hall and targeting two hotels, a police post and a bank, officials and witnesses said on Monday. Police said Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamist group was most likely to blame for Sunday night’s assault on the town of Mpeketoni, which lies on the Indian Ocean coastline that runs north from Kenya’s main port of Mombasa to the Somali border. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vsM8gz)

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Africa

At least two people were killed and 15 prisoners escaped after a suspected Islamist militant detainee shot his way out of the main jail in Mali’s capital Bamako on Monday, a government official said. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1nLAvOx)

Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets on Sunday in Niger’s capital Niamey to demand that authorities respect civil liberties, following the arrest of several of their number last month. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vsMJPm)

The daughter of Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi said there can be no national political dialogue in Sudan when everything people say is criminalized and there is lack of press and religious freedom. (VOA http://bit.ly/1qksTpn)

Civilians displaced by brutal fighting in South Sudan are ignoring calls from government officials to return to their homes, preferring the safety of squalid UN bases to the risk that conflict could again engulf towns already devastated in the six-month conflict. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1qktqYp)

The recent successful holding of legislative and presidential elections has raised hopes that Guinea-Bissau can move closer to the end of a two-year political crisis marked by international isolation and a devastating economic decline. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1vsOPPb)

Concern is mounting that British aid money may be funding police who are using rape as a tool of state-sanctioned torture against women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1qkv3W2)

MENA

The United States has ruled out co-ordinated military action with Iran as one of the options being considered to thwart radical Islamic extremists in Iraq as Sunni Muslim fighters seized another Iraqi city. (Irish Times http://bit.ly/1nLAmuw)

Once again Israelis are gripped by the horror of their young people being abducted, apparently by Palestinian extremists, and the army is pulling out all the stops to retrieve them. (Globe and Mail http://bit.ly/1nLArhL)

Asia

More than 60,000 people have fled North Waziristan Agency to safer parts of Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan as Pakistan’s military launches an offensive in the region. Most of the people fleeing are children, and mental health experts are concerned that they will not have access to proper trauma care. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1vt89f8)

Thailand’s military government ended a rice price-support scheme, put in place under the former civilian government, as investigations continue into widespread corruption and losses of billions of dollars from the program. (VOA http://bit.ly/1qktiYK)

Authorities in southern Sri Lanka say three people have died in clashes between Buddhists and Muslims. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vsO0WC)

A low level of knowledge about sexual abuse is leaving Cambodia’s children vulnerable to harm, and a new report shows that despite sex education initiatives in recent years, a poor understanding by parents and children of what sexual abuse is, persists. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1vsRmJ3)

Thailand’s junta denied on Monday that they were pursuing a “sweep and clean” policy of driving illegal foreign workers out of the country. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1vsTdh7)

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said it is up to the will of the people of her country if she becomes their president, reacting Monday to a vote against changing a constitutional clause that bars her from the office. (AP http://yhoo.it/1qkvQWV)

The Americas

The US Supreme Court has turned away Argentina’s appeal of lower court rulings ordering it to pay more than $1.3 billion to hedge funds that hold some of the country’s defaulted bonds. (AP http://yhoo.it/1vsWLzM)

Opinion/Blogs

Mark speaks with former US Ambassador to the UN Tom Pickering about the faltering Israel-Palestine peace process, his role in shaping US policy during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and an awkward phone call with President-elect George H.W. Bush, who tapped him to serve as US Ambassador to the UN during the run-up to the Gulf War. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1nfGEAO)

Zimbabwe Registrar General’s Claim That Contraception Causes Cancer Is Misleading and Alarmist (AfricaCheck http://bit.ly/1iBvBzb)

Are Impact Evaluations Enough?  The Social Observatory Approach to Doing-by-Learning (Development Impact http://bit.ly/1i12QRk)

Are we measuring the right things? The latest multidimensional poverty index is launched today – what do you think? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1nfGCJ8)

Brazil’s World Cup: The Good, Bad & Unequal (World Policy Institute http://bit.ly/1nfHX2z)

Please Do Not Teach This Woman to Fish (FP http://atfp.co/1i17a3c)

Quantitative versus qualitative measurement, the contest (Chris Blattman http://bit.ly/1i17Sxn)

Understanding food security through a gendered lens (IDS http://bit.ly/1kYaKL7)

Research/Reports

Aid insiders fret that major NGOs have become too big and have lost the flexibility and responsiveness they once had. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1qktQ0W)

Economic inequality is now center stage in the global debate, and the World Economic Forum asserts that this issue is the single biggest risk facing the planet. (CNN http://cnn.it/1vsRxEg)

Financial Times Lists Winners of Inaugural Innovative Lawyers Awards in Asia-Pacific

HONG KONG, June 17, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The Financial Times today announces the winners of the inaugural FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers programme, in partnership with RSG Consulting, a specialist legal research and strategy agency, and sponsored by Integreon, a leading global provider of outsourced legal, document, research and business support. The event builds on the success of the long-running Innovative Lawyers awards in the U.S. and Europe which annually recognise the most entrepreneurial lawyers, law firms, and legal departments.

Photo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140616/118646

The top honours were awarded to William Liu (Linklaters), named Most Innovative Lawyer; King & Wood Mallesons, named Most Innovative Asia-Pacific Law Firm; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, named Most Innovative International Law Firm; and Tencent, named Most Innovative In-House Legal Team. The ceremony was hosted in Hong Kong.

The FT Innovative Lawyers Programme is based on a rigorous research process that includes expert analysis, market surveys and hundreds of interviews with legal professionals. The awards cover legal professionals and departments across Australia, mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

“Our congratulations to all of the 2014 winners and nominees from this year’s FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers Awards,” said Robert Gogel, CEO of Integreon. “Innovation has long-been a focus of Integreon as we seek to delight our law firm and corporate clients by transforming how legal services are delivered. Our partnership with the FT and RSG aligns well with our focus on innovation by encouraging innovative practices among our colleagues, partners and others across the global legal community.”

“We’re delighted to introduce the FT’s well established Innovative Lawyers report to one of the most dynamic legal environments in the world,” said David Pilling, Asia managing editor of the FT. “As the region’s business practices change to adapt to a shifting landscape, the role of lawyers and legal frameworks must equally evolve. This report celebrates the best of these strategies.”

The complete list of 2014 award winners includes:

  • Legal Innovation in Finance (Real Estate): Kim & Chang
  • Innovation in Corporate Law (International): Slaughter and May
  • Innovation in Corporate Law (Asia-Pacific):
    Joint Winners: AZB & Partners; Bae, Kim and Lee
  • Legal Innovation in TMT: Sullivan & Cromwell
  • Innovation in Finance Law (Asia-Pacific): King & Wood Mallesons
  • Innovation in Finance Law (International):
    Joint Winners: Linklaters; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  • Legal Innovation in an IPO: Davis Polk & Wardwell
  • Innovation in Corporate Strategy (Asia-Pacific): ZICOlaw
  • Innovation in International Strategy: Allen & Overy
  • Most Innovative ASEAN Law Firm: WongPartnership
  • Most Innovative Australian Law Firm: Gilbert + Tobin
  • Most Innovative Indian Law Firm: Nishith Desai Associates
  • Most Innovative Lawyer: William Liu, Linklaters
  • Most Innovative In-house Legal Team: Tencent
  • Most Innovative Law Firm (Asia-Pacific): King & Wood Mallesons
  • Most Innovative Law Firm (International): Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

The themes and winners from this year’s programme are also summarized in the FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers 2014 report. The FT’s U.S. and European reports and awards are scheduled for late 2014.

About the Financial Times:

The Financial Times, one of the world’s leading business news organisations, is recognised internationally for its authority, integrity and accuracy. Providing essential news, comment, data and analysis for the global business community, the FT has a combined paid print and digital circulation of 665,000 (Deloitte assured, Q1, 2014). Mobile is an increasingly important channel for the FT, driving 60 per cent of subscriber consumption, 45 per cent of total traffic and 20 per cent of new digital subscriptions. FT education products now serve 37 of the world’s top 50 business schools.

About RSG Consulting:

RSG was founded in 2001 to give strategy and innovation consulting advice to the international legal profession. Its evidence-based approach includes creating unique thought-leadership projects for clients and independent studies into the future of law and emerging legal markets. The company specializes in rating and ranking lawyers, and its assessment methodologies have wide application particularly in helping law firms differentiate themselves. RSG also runs the Innovative GC Club, an independent forum for in-house lawyers to exchange ideas. It has partnered with the FT on the Innovative Lawyers programme since its inception in 2005.

About Integreon:

Integreon is a trusted, global provider of award-winning legal, document, research and business support solutions to leading law firms, corporate legal departments, financial institutions and professional services firms. Around the globe, Integreon’s 2,200 Associates support more than 250 clients in areas such as market and competitive intelligence, discovery, legal process outsourcing (LPO), operating model transformation and back office redesign. Integreon also excels in business support services such as IT, document processing, finance and HR. With our unrivaled outsourcing experience and industry-leading onshore and offshore capabilities, clients increasingly rely on Integreon to provide value-added solutions and meet their needs in a demanding business environment. Integreon has won more than 40 industry awards over the past five years and supports its global client base from 12 delivery centres across the US, UK, India, Philippines, South Africa and China.

For more information about Integreon’s extensive range of services, please visit www.Integreon.com and follow Integreon on Twitter: @Integreon.

Logo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130423/NY99594LOGO