Cablegate: New Counternarcotics Decree: A Ray of Hope?

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





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: A new GVN decree may enhance international
counternarcotics cooperation and offer new hope for the long-
awaited conclusion of a US-Vietnam Counternarcotics
Agreement. END SUMMARY.


2. (U) On January 21, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai signed
a new decree directing the GVN to coordinate with other
countries in counternarcotics activities, including
training, information sharing, and law enforcement.
According to media reports, PM Khai specifically directed
relevant ministries and other concerned agencies to enhance
their efforts in entering into bilateral and multilateral
counternarcotics agreements.

3. (U) The decree (at least the excerpts that the GVN has
thus far publicized) is well caveated by usual language on
the need to "respect Vietnam's independence, sovereignty,
territorial integrity, and traditional customs." In
addition, the decree noted that cooperation "must be based
on the laws of Vietnam."


4. (SBU) Bui Quan Minh, Senior Officer of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs' Department of International Organizations
Department (MFA/IO -- the USG's designated point of contact
for negotiating the long-delayed counternarcotics
agreement), told poloff on January 27 that the decree was an
"encouraging step" for enhancing international cooperation.
He warned, however, that "we will have to proceed cautiously
to ensure full compliance with Vietnam's laws and


5. (SBU) Dr. Doris Buddenberg, UN Office of Drug Control
(UNODC) Representative, predicted privately that the decree
would lead to a stronger role for the GVN's Standing Office
of Drug Control (SODC) as the GVN's focal point for
interacting with foreign entities on counternarcotics.
(Note: SODC is roughly equivalent to the USG's Office of
National Drug Control Policy. End note.) Dr. Buddenberg
opined that this increased centralization could be "a good
thing," compared to the previous arrangement whereby several
ministries had their own channels for international
cooperation. Dr. Buddenberg expressed doubt, however, that
the decree would have a "major impact" on USG efforts to
conclude the bilateral counternarcotics agreement, since
that "is firmly in the hands of MFA/IO." While UNODC is
reserving final judgment until the full text is made public,
Dr. Buddenberg commented that the decree, while "helpful,"
appeared "heavily weighed down" with qualifiers that would
"probably" limit its potential effectiveness.


6. (U) According to SODC Director Colonel Bui Xuan Bien,
the decree represents one of the "concrete steps" required
under the GVN's "comprehensive" counternarcotics law that
was passed in 2000. He cited an earlier decree that
designated the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social
Affairs as the GVN ministry responsible for drug treatment
as another "concrete" GVN action to implement the drug law.
Colonel Bien said that other decrees will follow as part of
the GVN's commitment to move from the general policies
described in the drug law to more specific implementation
activities. Colonel Bien declined to predict how
specifically the new decree would enhance SODC's role, but
claimed that SODC "has always supported and will continue to
support" improved international and regional
counternarcotics cooperation. "Vietnam cannot fight drugs
alone," he admitted. Colonel Bien opined that the decree
"is likely to help push forward" the bilateral
counternarcotics agreement with the U.S., but noted that
negotiations are "out of SODC's purview," since the GVN had
designated overall negotiating responsibility to MFA/IO.


7. (U) The decree is at the minimum a welcome step in the
right policy direction, even if caveated with Vietnam's
normal defensive principles. While Embassy does not believe
that its entry into force will lead to any immediate
breakthroughs in our efforts over the CNA, its existence
nonetheless offers a new peg on which to urge the MFA/IO to
get off the stick and intensify efforts to convince other
ministries (i.e., Finance) to agree to the standard USG
draft text, and finally turn these long-standing
negotiations into a win/win situation for both the GVN and

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