Cablegate: More Sentences for Public Protests

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

REF: A. FBIS JPP20030113000060 B. HANOI 031
- C. 02 Hanoi 2713 D. Hanoi 0175

1. (U) An official of the Nam Dinh Provincial People's
Court confirmed to emboff on January 28 the substance of
media reports (ref a) about the sentencing on December 18 of
ten people involved in public protests in Hong Thuan commune
of Giao Thuy district in that province. He also confirmed
that sentences ranged between eighteen months and five

2. (U) According to the official, protests over local
corruption and agricultural land use taxes dated back at
least to June 2000, when some local residents -- including
local Communist Party officials -- first allegedly
"sabotaged" official meetings set up to handle public
complaints. Some residents also apparently "illegally
detained" the local chief of personnel and chief of the
district office for up to a week. Other local residents
then tried to "sabotage" May 2002 National Assembly
elections, he claimed.

3. (U) The court official noted that local and provincial
officials had attempted to resolve complaints by "firing" or
transferring some of the officials accused of corruption,
but local residents continued to "cause public disorder" by
attempting to hand deliver complaints to more senior CPV and
GVN officials. The organizers were arrested in May 2002, he

4. (U) Minister of Government Office Doan Manh Giao told
the press on January 11 that the GVN would soon issue a new
decree to deal with citizens "abusing democracy" to "cause
social unrest" or "undermine social stability." He
predicted, however, that it would take a "long time" to
draft a law on "this sensitive issue" and noted that the
eventual decree would not only "stipulate what, how and
where demonstrators are allowed to protest" but also provide
clearer fines and punishment. He admitted the "more and
more people" were using complaints and petitions to incite
people to protest.

5. (U) Comment: Similar to protests over land use and
local corruption that have led to a string of sentences in
near-by Hatay province (refs b and c), the Nam Dinh case
again demonstrates both local ire over incompetent and/or
corrupt officials as well as the continued sensitivity of
land issues, both of which were major themes of the most
recent CPV Central Committee plenum (ref d). The protests
are also clear indications that the law on denunciations and
complaints is not working very well (the 2002 revised
version may help improve this process eventually -- septel),
that Vietnamese are still willing to take their complaints
on some issues to the street, and that the GVN will react
strongly against perceived "agitators" who "threaten" public

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