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Cablegate: Vietnam's Nascent Environmental Police Department Lacks

VZCZCXRO7934
RR RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHHI #1706/01 2691557
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261557Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6420
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3739
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 5983
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC
RUEANAT/NASA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 001706

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, OES AND INL
DEPT PASS USAID TO LAC/RSD, LAC/SAM, G/ENV, PPC/ENV
AGRICULTURE FOR FOREST SERVICE: LMAHEW
AGRICULTURE FOR ARS/INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH: GFLANLEY
INTERIOR FOR DIR INT AFFAIRS: KWASHBURN
INTERIOR FOR FWS: TRILEY
INTERIOR FOR NPS: JPUTNAM
INTERIOR PASS USGS FOR INTERNATIONAL: JWEAVER
JUSTICE FOR ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES: JWEBB
EPA FOR INTERNATIONAL: MKASMAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAGR EAID TBIO ECON SOCI VM
SUBJECT: VIETNAM'S NASCENT ENVIRONMENTAL POLICE DEPARTMENT LACKS
CAPACITY TO FULFILL MANDATE

REF: BRASILIA 1803

HANOI 00001706 001.2 OF 003


1. 1. (U) Summary: Vietnam's new Environmental Police Department
(EPD) reflects increasing awareness at high levels in the Government
of Vietnam (GVN) of the environmental impacts of economic growth.
The EPD has a broad mandate to target environmental violations
throughout the country. However, limited resources and limited
understanding of environmental enforcement procedures constrain its
effectiveness. EPD officials eagerly seek USG guidance and possible
support. We recommend environmental law enforcement training for
the EPD modeled on ongoing USG training efforts around the world.
End Summary.

Environmental Police Department (EPD)
-------------------------------------

2. (SBU) In a recent meeting with ESTHOff, Colonel Luong Minh Thao,
Deputy Director of the Vietnam EPD in the Ministry of Security,
reviewed the structure of the EPD and its recent participation in
investigations and prosecutions for improper disposal of hospital
waste and illegal wildlife trading. The EPD came into being on
November 29, 2006, pursuant to a decision by the Minister of Public
Security. Prior to that, EPD functions were part of the Economic
Police Department. All EPD staff have been recruited from other
investigatory forces and trained in environmental protection. On
September 17, 2007, the Ministry decided to create EPDs in all 64
provinces, with the same duties and responsibilities as the national
EPD. Currently, the EPD has over 100 staff members with plans to
soon increase to 200. By 2010, provincial EPDs are expected to each
include 30-70 staff, bringing total forces to over 3,000.

GVN Concerned About Pressures of Economic Development
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (SBU) According to Thao, the Minister of Public Security created
the EPD in response to general concerns about the impact of economic
development and societal change and not due to any specific
pollution incidents. Rapid population growth, industrial
development, traffic increases, and societal changes are putting new
pressures on the environment. While Thao stated that the GVN did
not believe that local environmental threats were very serious when
compared to other countries or to potential pollution in the future,
the GVN wants to move proactively to prevent possible impacts of
pollution on the environment.

EPD Responsibilities
--------------------

4. (SBU) The GVN has tasked the EPD with investigating and
detecting violations of Vietnamese and international environmental
laws and preventing and fighting environmental crimes.
Specifically, the Criminal Law of 1999 contains one article (Chapter
17), that covers environmental violations. Vietnamese law also
requires the preparation of an environmental impact assessment (EIA)
prior to the construction of a new facility/enterprise. EPD works
with other environmental authorities to ensure entities construct
facilities consistent with properly-prepared EIAs. EPD also
monitors industrial facilities and other entities, such as
hospitals, for compliance with regulations on waste management and
disposal and emissions of pollutants.

Environmental Enforcement Coordination
--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The GVN created an environmental evaluation center to help
coordinate environmental enforcement activities and the Ministry of
Public Security issued guidance to harmonize enforcement efforts.
However, according to Thao, coordination among relevant agencies
remains informal, and may involve a simple telephone call letting
another agency know of a potential problem. EPD works closely with
five separate environmental protection forces in the Ministry of

HANOI 00001706 002.2 OF 003


Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), as well as with
functional sections in the Departments of Health and Industry.
During site investigations, EPD staff cooperates with the Vietnam
Environmental Protection Agency (VEPA) under MONRE. When
investigating violations of wildlife conservation provisions or
forestry laws, the EPD works closely with the Forest Protection
Department (under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development).

Investigations
--------------

6. (SBU) The EPD typically learns of possible violations from local
citizens, cooperative agencies, or from undercover investigations.
Though EPD does not have the capacity to take and analyze samples of
materials suspected of violating regulations, other partner agencies
perform this function. The EPD recently teamed with MONRE to
investigate 50 factories at an industrial zone and discovered that
several did not properly treat wastewater. In cooperation with
VEPA, the EPD discovered that contractors at Hanoi-area hospitals
were selling medical waste for recycling into consumer items. EPD
also participated in the recent operation that netted the remains of
four endangered tigers and numerous bears.

Punishments
-----------

7. (SBU) According to Thao, investigations uncover 2 types of
violations, serious and minor. Minor violations typically result in
small administrative fines or efforts to educate violators. Serious
violations may constitute criminal infractions. In the recent
industrial zone investigation, minor violators only faced
administrative fines. However, the EPD recommended that the GVN
suspend permission to operate for two serious violators. The GVN
will prosecute criminal violations in the courts, which Thao
asserted have the capacity to handle environmental cases. At the
same time, Thao conceded that the judiciary has little experience as
most violations tracked by the EPD were not serious. Vietnam does
not have a specific court for environmental issues.

Request for U.S. Assistance
---------------------------

8. (SBU) Thao and his staff acknowledged that the EPD had little
understanding of investigatory practices and procedures specific to
environmental issues and inquired about the structure and procedures
of the U.S. environmental regulatory system. Col. Thao requested
assistance to train his staff on basic investigatory principles and
in helping Vietnam to develop the necessary regulatory and
enforcement regime to protect the environment. He noted that he had
previously received counter-narcotics training and wondered if such
training could be modified for environmental protection.

Comment
-------

9. (U) Vietnam is starting to recognize the need to balance
economic growth with environmental protection, but has little
practical knowledge of how to do so. An effective environmental
regulatory system, with competent enforcement agencies, will promote
responsible industrialization, buttress ongoing USG efforts to
enhance public health, protect fragile and unique ecosystems, and
reassure foreign (including U.S.) investors concerned with vague
regulations and haphazard enforcement. Within the constraints of our
ability to help, we recommend that the USG consider providing the
requested assistance. EPD officers would benefit from related
training at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok or
from in country presentations by U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency or Department of Justice experts like those noted in reftel.
Such training would dovetail with similar training provided to MONRE
environmental inspectors through the USAID-supported Asian

HANOI 00001706 003.2 OF 003


Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network.

Michalak

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