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Cablegate: Vietnam Rethinks Questionable Revisions to Law On Drug

VZCZCXRO9560
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0533/01 1281006
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071006Z MAY 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7757
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4679
RUEHAB/AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN 0028
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 0046
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0041
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 0032
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0410
RUEHOR/AMEMBASSY GABORONE 0032
RUEHGE/AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 0018
RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE 0015
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 0029
RUEHLGB/AMEMBASSY KIGALI 0042
RUEHLG/AMEMBASSY LILONGWE 0006
RUEHLS/AMEMBASSY LUSAKA 0024
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0042
RUEHTO/AMEMBASSY MAPUTO 0024
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH 3744
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE 0025
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 0068
RUEHWD/AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK 0024
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 000533

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AMEMBASSIES PASS TO PEPFAR COORDINATORS, ESTH, AND HEALTH ATTACHES
STATE FOR OGAC (AMBASSADOR DYBUL AND JHOLLOWAY)
HHS/OSSI/DSI PASS TO HHS/OGHA (WSTIEGER, LVALDEZ, CHICKEY,
CMCCLEAN), NIH/FIC (RGLASS), SAMHSA (WCLARK/JSTEIN), AND FDA
(MPLAISIER/BCOREY)
USAID FOR ANE (CJENNINGS, MWARD) AND GH (KYAMASHITA, KHILL)
BANGKOK FOR USAID/RDM/A (OCARDUNER, CBOWES)
CDC FOR COGH (SBLOUT), CCID (MCOHEN), and GAP (DBIRX, RJSIMONDS)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PROP SOCI TBIO EAID SNAR KHIV VM
SUBJECT: VIETNAM RETHINKS QUESTIONABLE REVISIONS TO LAW ON DRUG
PREVENTION AND CONTROL

REF: A. Hanoi 406 B. Hanoi 1082 (2007) C. Hanoi 508

1. (SBU) Summary: Initial drafts of a revised Vietnamese Law on Drug
Prevention and Control (LDPC) contained several elements of concern
to Vietnam's international donors. In particular, the draft law
would have: (a) mandated that injecting-drug users (IDU) be detained
for five years; (b) contained inconsistencies with the HIV Law; and,
(c) failed to balance the criminal enforcement of drug control with
the health aspects of harm reduction (ref A). These changes created
possible discrepancies with Vietnamese obligations under
international agreements. Despite late notification, advocacy led
by the United Nations, with participation from the United States and
other donors, has caused the GVN to revisit these provisions. This
experience demonstrates both the need for, Vietnam's openness to,
and the effectiveness of international engagement with Vietnam. We
will continue to engage our Vietnamese colleagues to improve this
legislation. End Summary.

Internationals Unite to Provide Rapid Input
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) In February 2008, we learned that the National Assembly
(NA) had tasked the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) to chair a
drafting committee to create a revised LDPC by a deadline of March
19. The NA reportedly requested quick action in order to authorize
national application of the use of five-year administrative
detentions into "06" centers before temporary permission for
five-year detention expires in August 2008. To date, Ho Chi Minh
City (HCMC) has made use of the temporary provision. The existing
LPDC provides for a two-year maximum in government-run IDU
rehabilitation centers. Although the MPS committee invited the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to provide
assistance, the timeline seemed to limit the opportunity to do so.
The Ambassadors' Informal HIV Coordination Group reviewed the issue
and quickly sent a letter on March 11 to Deputy Prime Minister
Truong Vinh Trong, Chairman of the National Committee for AIDS,
Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control, to advocate for
critical modifications and to slow the process. The donors
emphasized that "HIV harm reduction can only be successful with
strong multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial collaboration, and drug
treatment is a key element of this response."

Problems with Proposed Legislation
----------------------------------

3. (SBU) The U.S. PEPFAR team and its international partners
contributed to the overall analysis of the law, concluding that
portions of the draft law contradicted language in other Vietnamese
statutes (e.g., Law on HIV Prevention and Control, No. 64/2006/QH11
and associated implementing decree, No. 108/2007ND-CP of 26 June
2007) and in regional and international conventions to which Vietnam
is a party. Other language ran counter to mainstream usage for HIV
and drug control policies around the world. For example, the new
LPDC would require peer-outreach workers to report known drug use
among HIV-infected clients. Moreover, we determined that the
provision in the draft law to permit public security officers to use
firearms against HIV-infected individuals if the officers felt
"threatened with exposure," may conflict with international

HANOI 00000533 002 OF 003


convention (e.g. with Principle 9 of the United Nations' Basic
Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement
Officials).

4. (SBU) Traditionally, the Government of Vietnam (GVN) has treated
illicit drug use as a "social evil" with a focus on crime and
trafficking prevention. Consequently, the draft LPDC addressed
demand and supply reduction, but did not adequately address harm
reduction and drug treatment. Although some elements of the MPS and
the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), which
manages the relatively popular "06" centers, support the institution
of five-year administrative detentions, the centers have not proven
effective at prevention or rehabilitation. Instead, they may be
vehicles for the spread of HIV among detainees. To avoid a growing
HIV epidemic, Vietnam needs to balance the control of illicit drug
activities with the reduction of drug-related harm (Ref B).
Further, drafts lacked explicit support for community-based
comprehensive prevention programs, including methadone-assisted
therapy.

5. (SBU) Finally, the hurried nature of the process did not allow
enough time for expert input and full consideration of possible
impacts. Similar exercises previously undertaken within Vietnam and
in other countries normally require eight to ten months. To ensure
adequate time for discussion, technical assistance, and the
achievement of consensus on these sensitive issues, the PEPFAR team
and other international organizations recommended the draft LDPC be
submitted for discussion in the October 2008 session of the National
Assembly instead of the May session.

International Response and U.S. Advocacy
----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Ambassador Michalak, with support from the PEPFAR Team,
spoke in favor of a coordinated donor and UN agency approach at the
March 6, 2008 meeting of the Ambassadors Informal HIV Coordination
Group. In follow-up the March 11 letter, which the group quickly
sent to Deputy Prime Minister Trong, Ambassador Michalak reaffirmed
U.S. concerns in an April 29 meeting with him. During his April
visit to Vietnam, Secretary Leavitt raised HIV/AIDS legislation in
discussions with Minister of Health Nguyen Hoc Trieu and Prime
Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and advocated that the new law permit
medication-assisted therapy in the context of overall national HIV
efforts (Ref C). (Note: After three years of U.S. Government
advocacy, on April 24, 2008 the first Vietnamese patients began
methadone maintenance therapy in Haiphong, through PEPFAR-supported
clinics).

Success: The GVN Re-Thinks Some Provisions
------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Advocacy from the international community has led to some
apparent successes. According to UNAIDS, these interventions, along
with growing concern from several members of the NA, caused the GVN
to eliminate the proposal to extend administrative detentions and to
work towards harmonizing the draft legislation with international
conventions (referring to the possible removal of the "open fire"
clause for security officers due to human rights considerations).


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