The end of 2009 caps an amazing final quarter for BABSEA CLE’s Laos project. BABSEA CLE has worked diligently to build a sustainable partnership network and has continued to provide essential operational support for National University’s Faculty of Law and Political Science’s Clinical Legal Education program. In September BABSEA CLE brought on board well-qualified Lao team members,
BABSEA CLE Supports UNODC Project R76 Vientiane, Lao PDR: Lessons in Human Trafficking and Personal Survival
The journey to Laos from Thailand was a haze of perpetual motion and slightly controlled chaos. As well, a good introductory lesson to the process of international trafficking.
The first step in our journey was the dreaded night bus. Well over a dozen dutiful BABSEA CLE interns boarded the bus in Chiang Mai with all of our possessions and fourteen or so identical boxes (without distinguishing marks) full of clinical legal education material. We were what are known as mules in the trade of trafficking—the low-end stooges of any international organization tasked with doing the dirty work of transporting contraband that is frowned upon by the authorities. Yeah, that’s right. The ones that get busted—it’s rarely the heads (Bruce/Wendy) of the organization. Our task was to get the goods across the border and disseminated to our colleagues on the other side. Some of it was slated to be carried across yet another border in our plan to get the goods to all BABSEA CLE partners throughout the region.
Last week I took a large step towards having more in common with my Lao colleagues. While I tried to speak their language, and eat their food, I still felt a gap between us. We have shared many cultural experiences, but our work has been a bit segregated.
Mike Liu, Simon Latham, and I traveled to Salavan Province in southern Laos to visit two villages as part of our work on land legal issues with Village Focus International (VFI). We left by pickup with the three of us in the back seat of the extended cab, while two VFI employees, Viseth and Kasone, drove.