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Cablegate: Senior Deputy and Ambassador Discuss Assembly's Evolving

VZCZCXRO0686
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1389/01 3541040
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191040Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8893
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5413

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001389

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV PHUM SOCI VM
SUBJECT: SENIOR DEPUTY AND AMBASSADOR DISCUSS ASSEMBLY'S EVOLVING
ROLE AND FOREIGN NGOS

1. (SBU) Summary: The President of the influential Vietnam Union of
Friendship Organizations Vu Xuan Hong insists that National Assembly
(NA) deputies should play a stronger "supervisory" role in Vietnam's
system and wants more international NGOs to work in the country. In
a December 11 conversation with the Ambassador, Hung -- who is also
a NA deputy -- said that while the NA is increasingly asserting
itself, deputies ought to exploit their right to call no confidence
votes on ministers. He predicted that the NA would not pass the Law
on Associations during its current term and lamented that some
representatives of international NGOs (INGO) do not fully list their
funding sources, causing delays in starting their work. He also
asserted that, despite central-level approval, local authorities
often put the brakes on INGOs carrying out their work; in these
cases, Hong recommends that INGOs simply move to a nearby district
or province so word can spread about the good work carried out and
trust can be developed. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Meeting with the Ambassador December 11, senior National
Assembly (NA) deputy and Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations
(VUFO) President Vu Xuan Hong asserted that NA deputies are
demanding more government accountability. The government is looking
at extending the length of NA sessions and increasing the number of
full-time deputies, he added. He would like to see the next NA,
elected in 2012, reach 50 percent full-time membership, he said.
(Note: Full-time deputies currently are about 35 percent of the
overall total of 493 deputies. An increase in full-time membership
would presumably strengthen the NA's role in Vietnam's policy
process. End Note).

3. (SBU) The NA needs to step up its "supervision" of GVN
operations, and deputies should start taking advantage of their
right to call no-confidence votes on ministers, Hong continued.
Although deputies have had this right for several years now, no
minister has ever faced such a vote, he stated. For a confidence
vote to go forward, 20 percent of NA deputies must agree first, Hong
explained. In terms of technical assistance to the NA, Hong stated
that the assembly needs help disseminating information, through a
library for example. He added that he would like to see NA members
study how other countries' parliaments carry out committee work.

4. (SBU) Responding to a question from the Ambassador, Hong
predicted that the long-delayed Law on Associations would not pass
during the current NA term. He said one of the main sticking points
is whether the Party's six mass organizations should be governed by
the law. He also alluded to worries by some Party stalwarts that
groups would use the law to carry out "unpatriotic activities." The
government faces tension between wanting to promote civil society on
the one hand and making sure groups do not harm the solidarity of
the nation on the other, Hong stated.

5. (SBU) Turning to international NGOs (INGOs), Hong declared that,
as a result of improvements in Vietnam's legal framework, the number
of INGOs in the country has almost doubled in ten years to about
700. (Note: VUFO is responsible for foreign economic, science and
cultural cooperation. It falls under the Party's Fatherland Front
umbrella and oversees the People's Aid Coordinating Committee
(PACCOM), which governs INGO operations in Vietnam. End Note).
Hong said he intends to introduce a Law on INGOs to the NA next
year. This law would open Vietnam's door even wider to
organizations seeking to assist Vietnam's social and economic
development, he claimed. The large and growing number of INGOs in
Vietnam is a "new issue for us but we are willing to learn from
others' experiences in dealing with them," he said.

6. (SBU) Hong lamented that some INGO representatives do not fully
understand regulations governing INGO operations. For example, some
INGO representatives seek to avoid paying income tax and submitting
annual reports on their activities, he said. (Note: the GVN is
reviewing proposals to exempt foreigners working at INGOs from
paying income taxes. One argument in favor of this is that more
money would be left for assistance and not consumed by taxes. End
Note).

7. (SBU) In addition, some INGOs do not fully list their funding
sources, causing delays in starting up their projects, he said. The
GVN wants more INGOs to work in Vietnam, Hong said, but he also
requested that the Ambassador "inform our friends that they must
follow Vietnam's laws and regulations."

8. (SBU) Vietnam does not have a long history with INGOs, Hong
continued, explaining that after Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia,
the few INGOs that were in Vietnam at the time left. For this
reason, local authorities in some areas still harbor suspicions
about INGOs. Hong stated that the central government often approves
INGOs operating in Vietnam, but then local authorities disapprove of
the activities of the INGOs. Hong recommends that in such cases,
INGOs should simply start work in nearby areas so people can see the
good work the INGO is doing and confidence can be enhanced.
9. (SBU) PACCOM Director General Nguyen Van Kien added that foreign
NGOs operate in all provinces in Vietnam and in a wide variety of
sectors. He pointed out that most of these INGOs work in poverty

HANOI 00001389 002 OF 002


alleviation. However, compared to neighboring countries such as
Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, the per capita assistance Vietnam gets
from INGOs is low, he stressed. As for American-based NGOs, they
represent about 43 percent of the total number of INGOs in Vietnam,
Kien said. However, he anticipated this number would rise as
Vietnam becomes more open to INGOs. He said Vietnam is especially
interested in American NGOs carrying out work on climate change in
the Mekong Delta.

10. (SBU) Biographic Notes:

Vu Xuan Hong has served as VUFO President since 2002 and as NA
deputy since 1997. From 2000 to 2002, Hong was Acting VUFO
President. A member of the NA Foreign Affairs Committee and
President of the Vietnam-U.S. Parliamentary Caucus, he represents
the northern province of Phu Tho. He studied international
relations at the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages and has a
Bachelor's Degree in Political Science. Born in Ninh Binh Province
in 1950, Hong is married and has two sons. He speaks English well.


MICHALAK

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