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Cablegate: Vietnam -- Peasant Demonstrations at Party Hq Symbolize Continuing Disputes Over Use Decisions and Compensation

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


2000HANOI02441 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ2151

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------------------9B3D0D 061011Z /38
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1252
INFO ASEAN COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AMEMBASSY SEOUL
AMEMBASSY TOKYO
AMEMBASSY PARIS
AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
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CDR JTF-FA HONOLULU HI
DIA WASHDC
JICPAC HONOLULU HI
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
USDA WASHDC

UNCLASSIFIED

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HANOI 002441

SIPDIS

STATE ALSO FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL AND INR/B
STATE FOR USAID
USDA FOR FAS/FAA
SECDEF ALSO FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN
NSC FOR GENE CHRISTY
CINCPAC ALSO FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM SOCI EAGR VM DPOL
SUBJECT: VIETNAM -- PEASANT DEMONSTRATIONS AT PARTY HQ SYMBOLIZE CONTINUING DISPUTES OVER USE DECISIONS AND COMPENSATION

REFS: (A) FBIS SEP200010030000071
(B) HCMC 1526
(C) HANOI 0496

1. SUMMARY: IN A RECENT PROTEST AGAINST UNRESOLVED
LAND DISPUTES, 100 FARMERS FROM THREE PROVINCES CAMPED
OUT OVERNIGHT IN FRONT OF PARTY HEADQUARTERS AND THE
PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE IN HANOI. THEIR DEMONSTRATION,
WHICH RECEIVED CONSIDERABLE ATTENTION IN THE VIETNAMESE
MEDIA, WAS ONE MORE SIGN THAT THE NEW COMPLAINTS LAW
MECHANISM AND "GRASS ROOTS DEMOCRACY" PROGRAMS ENACTED
TO COPE WITH RURAL LAND DISPUTES AND CORRUPTION ISSUES
IN THE WAKE OF THE 1997 THAI BINH INCIDENTS HAVE NOT
BEEN ENTIRELY SUCCESSFUL. IN RECENT MONTHS, THE GVN
HAS SENT HIGH LEVEL WORKING GROUPS TO SPEED UP
RESOLUTION OF DISPUTES IN NUMEROUS PROVINCES.
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 02441 01 OF 04 061011Z
VIETNAMESE MEDIA HAVE BEEN DEVOTING INCREASING
ATTENTION TO THE PROBLEM. BUT THE WORKING GROUPS
APPEAR NOT TO HAVE FULLY SATISFIED PEASANT DEMANDS.
MOREOVER, THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DOES NOT SEEM LIKELY TO
PASS NEEDED AMENDMENTS TO THE COMPLAINTS LAW BEFORE
NEXT YEAR'S PARTY CONGRESS AT THE EARLIEST. END
SUMMARY.

FARMERS CAMP OUT AT PARTY HEADQUARTERS
--------------------------------------

2. ON OCTOBER 18, A GROUP OF ABOUT 100 FARMERS FROM THE
PROVINCES OF NAM DINH, THAI BINH, AND QUANG NINH SET UP
TENTS OUTSIDE COMMUNIST PARTY OF VIETNAM (CPV)
HEADQUARTERS AND THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER.
FRUSTRATED BY GOVERNMENT FAILURE TO RESOLVE TO THEIR
SATISFACTION COMPLAINTS OVER LAND DISPUTES, THE FARMERS
WERE DEMONSTRATING AGAINST CORRUPT LOCAL OFFICIALS WHO
THEY BELIEVE ARE AT FAULT. RESPONDING TO A REPORTER'S
QUESTION ABOUT THE CAMP OUT, MFA SPOKESPERSON PHAN THUY
THANH SAID THE PROTEST TOOK PLACE AFTER LOCAL
INSPECTION TEAMS HAD ALREADY REVIEWED THE FARMERS'
COMPLAINTS AND PROPOSED DISCIPLINARY MEASURES AGAINST
THE LOCAL OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE. THE NEXT DAY, AFTER
THE GVN HAD (IN THANH'S WORDS) "PROMPTLY INSTRUCTED
COMPETENT BODIES TO TAKE CARE OF THE MATTER," THE GROUP
DISPERSED. THANH SAID THAT THE STATE INSPECTOR GENERAL
AND A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE HAD
BEEN SENT TO MEET WITH THEM.

3. SIMILARLY, ABOUT 150 PERSONS, COMPRISING SEVEN
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 02441 01 OF 04 061011Z
SEPARATE GROUPS OF FARMERS FROM MEKONG DELTA PROVINCES
AND DISTRICTS OF HCMC, HAVE BEEN CAMPED OUT IN FRONT OF
A GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATIVE AFFAIRS BUILDING THERE FOR
NEARLY THREE MONTHS. OFFICIALS HAVE ACCEPTED THEIR
WRITTEN PETITIONS, BUT IT IS UNCLEAR WHAT TYPE OF
DIALOGUE, IF ANY, IS TAKING PLACE BETWEEN THESE GROUPS
OF DEMONSTRATORS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS. POLICE HAVE
ERECTED BARRICADES TO KEEP THEM OFF THE SIDEWALK
DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE GOVERNMENT BUILDING, BUT HAVE
ALLOWED THEM TO REMAIN ON THE SIDEWALK ACROSS THE
STREET. THE POLICE HAVE BEEN "POLITE," ACCORDING TO
ONE OF THE DEMONSTRATORS WHO SPOKE WITH CONGENOFF REF
B.

THE NEW COMPLAINTS LAW IS NOT WORKING
-------------------------------------

4. THE PROTEST AND THE PUBLIC ATTENTION IT RECEIVED ARE
ONE MORE SIGN THAT THE COMPLAINTS LAW AND "GRASSROOTS
DEMOCRACY" PROGRAMS CREATED AFTER THE 1997 THAI BINH
DEMONSTRATIONS (REF C) HAVE FAILED TO ADEQUATELY
ADDRESS RURAL DISCONTENT WITH GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION AND
INEFFICIENCY. IN PART, THIS MAY BE BECAUSE PASSAGE OF
THE LAW RAISED EXPECTATIONS. SIZEABLE NUMBERS OF
VIETNAMESE FARMERS TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE COMPLAINTS LAW
AFTER ITS PASSAGE LAST YEAR TO REPORT CORRUPTION AND
COMPLAIN ABOUT COMPENSATION ON LAND ISSUES HANDLED BY
LOCAL OFFICIALS. THE OCTOBER 18 HANOI DEMONSTRATION
WAS NOTEWORTHY BECAUSE, UNLIKE SOME PREVIOUS
DEMONSTRATIONS HERE, FARMERS FROM SEVERAL DIFFERENT
PROVINCES JOINED FORCES.

A FEARFUL GVN TRIES TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM QUICKLY
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. THE GOVERNMENT'S DECISION TO UILIZE HIGH-LEVEL
TEAMS LIKELY REFLECTS A CONCERNTHAT LOCAL OFFICIALS
ARE NOT GOING TO BE IMPARTIL IN REVIEWING THEIR OWN
LOCAL DECISIONS. IN SEPEMBER, PRIME MINISTER PHAN VAN
KHAI SENT FIVE WOKING GROUPS, EACH LED BY A DIFFERENT
CABINET MEMBER, TO THIRTEEN PROVINCES AND CITIES TO
ADDRESS LOCAL DISCONTENT, A SIGN OF HOW SERIOUSLY THE
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 02441 02 OF 04 061011Z
GVN TAKES THE ISSUE. THEY WERE SENT TO THE FIFTEEN
PROVINCES WITH THE LARGEST NUMBER OF UNSETTLED PUBLIC
COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS CASES. (REF A). THIS WAS
IN ADDITION TO A SPECIAL TASK FORCE FORMED EARLIER IN
THE YEAR TO DEAL WITH THE GROWING PROBLEM OF
DEMONSTRATORS GATHERING OUTSIDE THE HOMES OF VIETNAMESE
LEADERS TO LODGE COMPLAINTS. ACCORDING TO MASS-
CIRCULATION CPV-AFFILIATED DAILY "NHAN DAN" ("THE
PEOPLE") OCTOBER 25, KHAI SUBSEQUENTLY DECIDED TO
DELEGATE YET ANOTHER INTER-AGENCY WORK GROUP, THIS ONE
LED BY INDUSTRY MINISTER DANG VU CHU, TO SPEED UP THE
SETTLEMENT OF PUBLIC COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS IN
THREE MEKONG DELTA PROVINCES.

6. THESE VARIOUS WORKING GROUPS SEEM TO HAVE BEEN
GRANTED MAJOR DECISION-MAKING POWERS. VICE DIRECTOR OF
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE LE NGOC TOAN QUOTED PARTY
CHIEF LE KHA PHIEU SEPTEMBER 6 AS SAYING THAT HEADS OF
THE WORKING GROUPS COULD MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE
PRIME MINISTER TO TEMPORARILY WITHDRAW PROVINCIAL
LEADERS FROM THEIR POSTS. ACCORDING TO STATE GENERAL
INSPECTOR TA HUU THANH, THE HEADS OF THE WORKING GROUPS
HAVE THE FINAL SAY IN CASE DISCREPANCIES ARISING
BETWEEN THEM AND THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES DURING THEIR
REVIEW.

7. A SIDE EFFECT OF THE HIGH LEVEL WORKING GROUPS IS
THAT SOME LOCAL POPULATIONS LOOK TO THEM FOR DECISIONS
WHICH WOULD ORDINARILY BE MADE BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES.
SOME NATIONAL LEVEL LEADERS SEE THIS AS A PROBLEM.
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY VICE CHAIRMAN MAI PHUC LAM HAS SAID
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 02441 02 OF 04 061011Z
THAT "MANY PEOPLE THINK THAT THE GOVERNMENT'S WORKING
GROUPS CAN REPLACE LOCAL AUTHORITIES IN DEALING WITH
DENUNCIATIONS AND COMPLAINTS TO SOLVE EVERY PROBLEM.
THIS WILL CREATE A PRECEDENT SO THAT PEOPLE WILL
CONTINUE TO SUBMIT THEIR COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS
TO THE PARTY AND THE GOVERNMENT WHENEVER THEY ARE NOT
SATISFIED WITH THE SOLUTIONS OF THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES."
HEALTH MINISTER DO NGUYEN PHUONG, WHO HEADS ONE OF THE
WORKING GROUPS, NOTED THAT "IN ALL THE PROVINCES OUR
GROUP HAS WORKED IN, PEOPLE NOW EXPECT THE GOVERNMENT
TO SEND SPECIAL WORKING GROUPS ONCE A YEAR." OBVIOUSLY
THESE NATIONAL OFFICIALS BELIEVE THE LOCAL SYSTEMS NEED
TO BE STRENGTHENED TO GIVE THE PEOPLE CONFIDENCE IN
DECISIONS AT THAT LEVEL.

WORKING GROUPS GET RESULTS IN THE SOUTH
---------------------------------------

8. THE INCREASED NATIONAL ATTENTION THE GVN IS
DEVOTING TO THE ISSUE OF LOCAL LEVEL CORRUPTION AND
MISMANAGEMENT HAS GOTTEN SOME RESULTS. HCMC PEOPLE'S
COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN VO VIET THANH OCTOBER 24 TOOK THE
HIGHLY UNUSUAL STEP OF MAKING A PUBLIC APOLOGY TO
FORMER RESIDENTS OF TWO MUNICIPAL DISTRICTS. HE SAID
AUTHORITIES IN THESE TWO DISTRICTS HAD BEEN WRONG IN
THE PAST TO INAPPROPRIATELY CLEAR LAND AND PROVIDE
INADEQUATE COMPENSATION. THANH PROMISED THAT
APPROPRIATE COMPENSATION WOULD BE GIVEN TO THOSE
AFFECTED AND THAT OFFENDING OFFICIALS WOULD BE
DISCIPLINED. HE ALSO SAID HE WOULD SUBMIT HIS
RESIGNATION IF THE COMPLAINTS WERE NOT SETTLED BY THE
END OF NOVEMBER. HCMC AND SOUTHERN PROVINCIAL
NEWSPAPERS HAVE ALSO COVERED THE WORK OF THE WORKING
GROUPS WITH INTEREST. ON OCTOBER 31, STATE GENERAL
INSPECTOR THANH RECOMMENDED THE HEAD OF BA RIA-VUNG TAU
PROVINCIAL PEOPLE'S PROCURACY BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE
BECAUSE OF INAPPROPRIATE LAND CLEARANCE ACTIVITIES HE
PRESIDED OVER IN HIS FORMER POSITION OF DISTRICT
PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN. THE NOVEMBER 1 EDITION OF
HCMC-BASED "THANH NHIEN" ("YOUTH") DAILY REPORTED IN
DETAIL THE SUB-WORKING GROUPS ACTIVITIES LEADING TO
THIS RECOMMENDATION.
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 02441 03 OF 04 061011Z

NEWSPAPERS VENTURING TO COMMENT
-------------------------------

9. VIETNAMESE MEDIA HAVE PROVIDED SIGNIFICANT COVERAGE
TO THE FACTS SURROUNDING RECENT DISCONTENT WITHOUT
EDITORIAL COMMENT. HANOI'S "LAO DONG" ("LABOR") AND
HCMC "TUOI TRE" ("YOUTH") HAVE BEEN IN THE FOREFRONT,
CARRYING INTERVIEWS WITH DEPUTY PM NGUYEN CONG TAN, WHO
OVERSEES THE WORKING GROUPS, AND STATE INSPECTOR
GENERAL THANH.

10. TAN TOLD "LAO DONG" OCTOBER 13 THAT "THE CURRENT
SITUATION REGARDING THE LARGE NUMBER OF NEW AND
UNSETTLED CASES OF SERIOUS PUBLIC COMPLAINTS AND
DENUNCIATIONS IS UNACCEPTABLE." THE PROBLEM HAS
EXISTED FOR SOME TIME, HE SAID, ANGERING THE COMMON
PEOPLE. "IF IT CONTINUES, IT COULD SPREAD TO OTHER
SOUND ACTIVITIES OF SOCIETY". TAN ALSO SAID THAT MOST
OF THE PUBLIC COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS ARE IN THE
FIELD OF LAND AND HOUSING MANAGEMENT, INCLUDING
COMPENSATION FOR LAND CLEARANCE.

NEW LAWS ALONE ARE NOT SUFFICIENT
---------------------------------

11. VIETNAMESE OBSERVERS SPECULATE THAT THE REASON FOR
THE GROWING NUMBER OF PUBLIC COMPLAINTS AND
DENUNCIATIONS IS THE CONTINUING LACK OF AN EFFICIENT
MECHANISM FOR HANDLING THEM. AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL,
THERE IS A TENDENCY FOR PUBLIC COMPLAINTS, ESPECIALLY
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 02441 03 OF 04 061011Z
THOSE REGARDING LAND DISPUTES AND CORRUPTION, TO BE
DEALT WITH "DISCREETLY," ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS,
RATHER THAN OUT IN THE OPEN. THIS HAS LEFT LOCAL
RESIDENTS ANGRY OVER WHAT THEY SEE AS A LACK OF
TRANSPARENCY. THEY CHARGE THAT LOCAL OFFICIALS OFTEN
CHOOSE QUIETLY TO SUPPRESS COMPLAINTS RATHER THAN
OPENLY DISCUSS THE CONCERNS OF COMPLAINANTS.

12. THE COMPLAINTS LAW CALLS FOR EXPEDITIOUS HANDLING
OF COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS WITH AUTOMATIC TIME
LIMITS WITHIN WHICH LOCAL OFFICIALS MUST TAKE ACTION.
DISSATISFIED FARMERS AND OTHERS CHARGE THAT LOCAL
AUTHORITIES AND THEIR HIGH-LEVEL SUPERIORS TEND TO
CIRCUMVENT THIS REQUIREMENT FOR TIMELY ADJUDICATIONS BY
HAVING HIGH-LEVEL OFFICIALS REFER COMPLAINTS BACK TO
LOCAL AUTHORITIES FOR MORE INFORMATION. THEY SAY THAT
IT IS ALL A BUREAUCRATIC SHELL GAME WHOSE OBJECTIVE IS
TO KEEP THE COMPLAINTS OUT OF SIGHT AND OUT OF MIND
INDEFINITELY. THE RESULT HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT
INCREASE IN PUBLIC DISTRUST.

FLAWS IN THE EXISTING LAW UNLIKELY TO BE AMENDED
--------------------------------------------- ---

13. ONE MAJOR FLAW IN THE MUCH-DEBATED LAW ON
COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS, ADOPTED BY THE NATIONAL
ASSEMBLY NOVEMBER 23, 1998, IS THAT IT DOES NOT ALLOW
ANONYMOUS PLAINTIFFS. AT THE TIME, THE MEMBER OF THE
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY STANDING COMMITTEE WHO IS CHARGED
WITH HANDLING THE COMPLAINTS ISSUE, NGUYEN THI HOAI
THU, A PROMINENT NATIONAL VOICE FOR ENACTMENT OF THE
LAW, PUT THE BEST FACE ON THINGS PUBLICLY. SHE TOLD AN
INTERVIEWER FOR "TUOI TRE" THAT DESPITE ITS
SHORTCOMINGS, THE NEW LAW "RAISES PEOPLE'S HOPES,
ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE EVER-INCREASING NUMBER OF PUBLIC
COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS, WHICH REPRESENTS A
GENUINELY SERIOUS PROBLEM FOR THE COUNTRY." THU HAS
PUSHED FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF A PERMANENT ASSEMBLY
COMMITTEE ON COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS SINCE 1997,
BUT DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOREIGN
AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT NGUYEN CHI DUNG TOLD US THAT "HER
CURRENT PROPOSAL IS LIKELY TO DIE A PREMATURE DEATH."
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 02441 04 OF 04 061011Z
OPPONENTS, HE SAID, WILL SUPPORT THE BILL IN PRINCIPLE
BUT CITE FINANCIAL REASONS TO OPPOSE PASSAGE AT THE
MOMENT.

14. COMMENT: SINCE THE COMPLAINTS LAW WENT INTO EFFECT
IN JANUARY 1999, NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED IN THE WAY LOCAL
GVN AND CPV OFFICIALS HANDLE DISPUTES. THE OLD
PROBLEMS OF GRASSROOTS CORRUPTION AND INEFFICIENCY
PERSIST. IF TEETH ARE NOT ADDED TO ENFORCEMENT OF THE
LAW, THERE WILL BE AN INCREASING LEVEL OF DISCONTENT
AMONG PEASANTS, JUST WHAT THE CPV AND GVN MOST FEAR.
VIETNAM'S LEADERS HAVE YET TO MAKE MUCH PROGRESS ON
THIS OR RELATED REFORMS, INCLUDING SUCH ADMINISTRATIVE
REFORMS AS STREAMLINING THE OPERATIONS OF COURTS AND
THE NATIONAL PROSECUTORIAL APPARATUS. BUT WITH
PROVINCIAL AND NATIONAL PARTY CONGRESSES ABOUT TO
BEGIN, AND A MOOD OF UNCERTAINTY AT ALL LEVELS OF
GOVERNMENT, WE EXPECT FEW DRAMATIC ADVANCES IN THE NEAR
FUTURE. SENDING OUT WORKING GROUPS SEEMS A STOPGAP
MEASURE WHICH EVEN NATIONAL LEADERS SEE AS DISRUPTIVE
TO THE IDEA OF CREATING A RESPONSIBLE AND RESPONSIVE
LOCAL SYSTEM. WE EXPECT THEM TO DO LITTLE MORE THAN
PUT A LID ON IN SOME AREAS MOST AFFECTED BY DISCONTENT.

PETERSON

UNCLASSIFIED

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