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Cablegate: Vietnam's New Law On Residence - Old Wine in a New Bottle?

VZCZCXRO6111
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0505 0741031
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 151031Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4914
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 2766
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 000505

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PHUM ECON PREL VM
SUBJECT: Vietnam's New Law on Residence - Old Wine in a New Bottle?

Ref: 06 Hanoi 3012

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Vietnam's newly revised Law on Residence, due to take
effect on July 1, 2007, loosens many regulations governing "ho
khau," a cumbersome residency registration requirement in existence
for many years. Without ho khau in a particular locality, it is
often difficult for individuals and families to purchase property
and receive public services such as healthcare and education.
Getting around this residency requirement has been a long-standing
catalyst for official corruption. While many welcome the new law
for its simplified procedures and reduced paperwork requirements,
depending on how the new law is implemented, the ho khau system
could nevertheless remain open to abuse and a source of corruption.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) There are currently over 380 sets of government regulations
related to or contingent on ho khau, and those who are unable to
receive ho khau for a particular locality are unable to buy a home
or piece of land per GVN law. In addition, one's access to public
education and healthcare benefits can also be limited. In many
cases, children of families without ho khau are forced to attend and
pay for private schools instead of public schools or, to a lesser
degree, may not attend school at all. That said, individuals with
means or connections are often able to get around the ho khau
requirements through bribery, favors or other methods.

3. (SBU) The new Law on Residence -- one aim of which was to
mitigate, if not remove, an everyday catalyst for official
corruption -- was hotly contested, particularly by the Ministry of
Public Security, which argued that the GVN's existing system for
controlling the movement of people remains a necessity. The
National Assembly ultimately approved the new law on November 29,
2006 (reftel). It includes six chapters of text with 42 articles
that confirm the principle of freedom of residence within Vietnam
(similarly guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution). The Law also
simplifies several administrative procedures regarding residency
management.

4. (SBU) Under the new Law, registration of ho khau by individuals
originally from the provinces, but now living and working in big
cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is expected to be much
more streamlined. One new provision is that "citizens who have a
legal place of residence in a centrally governed city for at least
one year, or who have been transferred/recruited to work in
State-owned organizations/agencies and who have a legal place of
residence" can register ho khau. For localities other than
centrally governed cities, the only requirement is "having a legal
place of residence." Explaining the term "legal place of
residence," Deputy Minister of Public Security Dang Van Hieu said at
a recent public forum this means "a house hired or leased with a
written document." Some observers have noted that this requirement
will continue to make it possible for the authorities to deny ho
khau to certain individuals by pressuring landlords not to issue the
requisite "written document."

5. (SBU) Some National Assembly delegates have expressed concern
that the new law will not really change anything, noting that abuse
of the ho khau system, and its "bribery culture," will likely
continue. To fix this, they have proposed that the Office of the
Government direct competent agencies to study, correct or abandon
irrelevant regulations related to ho khau to ensure that people's
rights and interests are protected.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) In general, with the new law's provision targeting citizens
who have had "a legal place of residence for at least one year," the
chances for Vietnamese citizens to obtain ho khau in major cities
have improved. Depending on how it is implemented, however, the law
could still serve as a GVN check on migration, a possible obstacle
to securing public education, healthcare and home ownership and a
catalyst for official corruption.

MARINE

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