Cablegate: Vfm Hung Letter Regarding Dissident Pham Hong Son And

DE RUEHHI #1164/01 2840953
O 100953Z OCT 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) In an official letter dated October 6, VFM Doan Xuan Hung
denied the Ambassador's request that well-known internet dissident
Dr. Pham Hong Son be allowed to travel to the United States.
According to Hung, Dr. Son, who was awarded a NED Reagan-Fascell
Fellowship, does not qualify for a passport under Vietnamese law due
to his continued administrative detention. The letter also
dismissed a separate request from the Embassy that several
high-profile dissidents be given amnesty, stating that completion of
one third of a prisoner's sentence meets only one of many
requirements. (Note: Embassy sources indicate that there will be no
general amnesty this year. End note.)

2. (SBU) The original of the letter is in Vietnamese with an
unofficial English translation also provided.

Begin text of letter:

(Unofficial translation)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Hanoi, October 6, 2008

Mr. Michael Michalak
Ambassador of the United States to Vietnam

Dear Mr. Michalak,

I would like to express to Your Excellency my thanks for your high
appreciation with regards to our Vietnam-U.S. Human Rights Dialogue
that was held in Hanoi recently. I do share with you the belief
that our dialogue has been fruitful, much contributing to the
promotion of the mutual understanding and cooperative relationship
between our two countries. I also would like to take note of and
reaffirm the importance of our continuing work on human rights
issues of mutual concern as mentioned in the letter of Your
Excellency to Standing Vice Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh dated
12th August 2008. This shall correspond to our dialogues which
embody the spirit of frankness, openness, equality and good will.
On its part, Vietnam so far has made its best efforts to cooperate
with the United States in issues of the latter's concern. At the
same time, we take note of the appreciation expressed by the Unites
(sic) States for the efforts of the State of Vietnam to promote and
protect the human rights of Vietnamese people.

In response to the issues Your Excellency raised in the two letters
mentioned above, I would like to convey to Your Excellency the
following points:

Firstly, regarding the particular case of Mr. Pham Hong Son and the
request to allow him to travel to the United States to participate
in the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Reagan-Fascell
Fellowship, after consultation with relevant agencies we got the
information that Pham Hong Son is a Vietnamese citizen who in August
2003 was sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment for acts of violation of
the law of Vietnam and 3 years' probation pursuant to articles 38
and 92 of the Penal Code. Thanks to the humanitarian and lenient
policy of the State of Vietnam, Pham Hong Son was granted amnesty
before completion of his prison term on the occasion of the National
Day of 2nd September 2006. However, Pham Hong Son remains obliged
to execute the subsequent probation term (counted from September
2006) in accordance with the Court's verdict.

Pursuant to the relevant regulations of the Vietnamese Penal Code
and especially the guidelines for the execution of sentences related
to ban of residence and probation, Pham Hong Son is not allowed to
leave his residence but instead subjected to supervision by the
local authority where he resides. As of October 2008, Pham Hong Son
has not yet finished his probation term, thus any permit for him to
leave the country, for whatever purpose, shall imply an offence of
the Court's verdict as well as of relevant regulations of the
Vietnamese law. All the rights and duties of Pham Hong Son as a
Vietnamese citizen, however, will be restored following the
completion of his probation term.

Secondly, with regards to the amnesty applied to inmates who serve a
specific sentence of imprisonment pursuant to the Court's verdict
and especially those who have outstanding performance, it is part of
the humanitarian and lenient policy of the State of Vietnam. The
grant of amnesty must be decided in conformity with relevant laws,
most notably the provisions of the Law on Amnesty approved by the
National Assembly of Vietnam in 2007 (which came into effect on the
1st March 2008), and the performance of each inmate, whose
completion of one third of his/her sentence only meets one of the
requirements. The 14 cases of prisoners mentioned in your letter,
therefore, should also follow the same procedures, in accordance
with Vietnamese law and international law.

HANOI 00001164 002 OF 002

Finally, concerning the cases of 07 individuals who are supposed to
"have been held for six months without formal charges", the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs is now in contact with relevant agencies for
verification and later will provide the U.S. Embassy with further
information. However, the temporary detention of an individual is
always duly carried out in accordance with the regulations of the
Code of Criminal Procedures.

I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to Your Excellency the
assurances of my highest consideration.

Yours sincerely,
Doan Xuan Hung
Vice Foreign Minister

End text of letter.


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