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Cablegate: National Assembly Opens Session As Peaceful Land Protests

VZCZCXRO7029
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #1276 2001753
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191753Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5859
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3382
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 001276

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH
NSC FOR KURT TONG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ECON PREL PGOV VM
SUBJECT: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OPENS SESSION AS PEACEFUL LAND PROTESTS
CONTINUE IN HANOI

1.(SBU) Summary: Vietnam's newly-elected National Assembly (NA)
opened its twelfth five-year session on July 19. The NA session is
expected to approve a variety of personnel changes and a
reorganization of the government, which would reduce the number of
ministries. Citizens protesting grievances - many related to land
grabs by local power holders - have chosen to highlight their
complaints by staging small demonstrations near the National
Assembly site or in front of government offices. Plainclothes and
uniformed security personnel were deployed at the unofficial
"protest square" near the Assembly building before the NA session
opened, but we have received no reports that demonstrators have been
forcibly dispersed and some protests continue here. Septel reports
that authorities have moved to break up similar, but larger,
protests in Ho Chi Minh City. End summary.

2.(SBU) With his diplomatic colleagues, the Ambassador attended the
opening of the 12th five-year session of the National Assembly on
the morning of July 19. This formal meeting featured predictably
long speeches by government leaders praising Vietnam's recent
accomplishments. While no new ground was broken in the opening
session, over the next week and a half the new NA is expected to
smoothly confirm the consolidation of some ministries and extensive
leadership changes. Press reports, including some in the official
media, indicate that additional deputy prime minister positions may
be created, while four ministries will be merged with others. Among
those rumored to be stepping down in the reshuffle is the Minister
of Justice. American-educated Minister of Education and Training
Nguyen Thien Nhan is expected to assume one of the new DPM
positions.

3.(SBU) In recent years, small numbers of disgruntled citizens,
usually from the same local area, have taken advantage of "political
events" such as the convening of NA meetings to stage protests in
Hanoi near the NA building or in front of the Ministry of Justice.
Government officials often tolerate these protests. Police were
present in greater numbers than usual in advance of the NA opening
this morning, but about 25 petitioners were gathered in a small
corner of the Mai Xuan Thuong park, Hanoi's unofficial "protest
square," this afternoon, accompanied by about 50-60 plainclothes and
uniformed police, who maintained full control of the area.

4.(SBU) Comment: The strong police presence in Hanoi's protest
square reflects the GVN's determination not to tolerate any
disruption to the NA session. Some determined protesters here have
nonetheless been able to stay on the streets, unlike the more
confrontational situation that has developed in Ho Chi Minh City.
Of course, the dynamics of each protest are different. Groups often
tend to be made up of "apolitical" elderly persons, and the
government often attempts to facilitate mediation efforts with
officials of their area of origin. The government watches closely
for signs that protesters are organizing broader-scale coalitions or
"plotting" to link with others. There are explicit indications that
Hanoi is leaning on provincial government officials to prevent and
resolve issues at the local level. As in the south of the country,
however, there are many incidents of citizens being dispossessed of
land as local power holders and corrupt officials move to gain
economic advantage. In a nation that lacks representative
mechanisms, many citizens are driven to action. Most know that,
while sending a grandmother to Hanoi may be allowed, more active,
coordinated efforts can land one in jail.

6.(U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Ho Chi Minh City.

MARINE

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