Cablegate: National Assembly Seeks Its Own Diplomats Abroad

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
SUBJECT: National Assembly seeks its own diplomats abroad

1. (SBU) Summary: A new regulation passed by the National
Assembly's Standing Committee (NASC) authorizes the National
Assembly (NA) to delegate its own representatives abroad,
and confirmed the power of the NA its Foreign Affairs
Committee to coordinate all of the NA's external activities.
According to NA sources, the GVN is also considering
establishing a new inter-agency human rights committee to
help coordinate policy and deal with criticism from abroad.
Both efforts are likely more designed to whitewash Vietnam's
image overseas than to deal substantively with contentious
issues. End Summary.

2. (U) The NASC passed a regulation during its October
session ratifying a requirement for itself to discuss and
approve annual plans of all NA external activities,
including not only by the NASC but also various other NA
committees and the NA's Council for Ethnic Affairs. The
Chairman of the National Assembly, who currently is also a
member of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Politburo,
was entrusted with oversight of the preparation and
implementation of external activity plans for the NASC, the
NA Office (ONA), and various NA Committees, including the
Foreign Affairs Committee. According to a senior ONA
Foreign Relations Department staff member, the external
activities of the various NA committees had been conducted
in an unsystematic manner prior to the passage of this new
resolution, which at times had caused internal conflicts and
tensions with the Foreign Affairs Committee.

3. (U) The Foreign Affairs Committee is now explicitly
responsible for coordinating all of the NA's external
activities, and is in charge of dissemination of information
about those activities. In addition, the Committee is
tasked with coming up with recommendations and suggestions
about issues involving national foreign policies, and
providing comments on external activities conducted by the
other GVN agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign

4. (U) One novel aspect of the regulation authorizes the NA
to delegate its own representatives to work at Vietnamese
embassies abroad. Chairman of the NA Foreign Affairs
Committee Vu Mao told newspaper correspondents that the NA
was initially planning to station representatives in
Washington and Brussels (for the EU) to serve as a focal
points for information exchange and research, as well as,
more importantly, to lobby on behalf of Vietnam's interests.
(Note: It is unclear whether the NA has made any budgetary
preparations for such postings. End note)

5. (SBU) According to Chi Dzung (protect), editor-in-chief
of the ONA's journal "Legislative Affairs," NA
representatives abroad likely will include only one senior
official, probably at the rank of counselor or minister
counselor, to be sent to each of the two localities. While
technically under the supervision of the SRV ambassadors,
these representatives will be instructed by the NA to work
in a "quite independent" manner, including direct contacts
with the NA Chairman and the Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairman. Dzung confirmed that at present the NA has no
plans to send representatives to other embassies; the NA
views the U.S. and the EU not only as Vietnam's two biggest
economic markets but also the two "hot" spots with respect
to human rights criticisms. The NA representatives will be
expected to address these concerns and help "explain the
real situation," claimed Dzung.

6. (SBU) Thu Ha (protect), a section chief from the ONA's
Foreign Relations Department, separately said that the NA
Foreign Affairs Committee has at times been "furious" with
what she called a "lack of coordination" from related GVN
agencies, especially the Ministry of Public Security. She
cited in particular the arrests and trials of activists at
about the same time as a trip to Washington by Foreign
Affairs Committee vice chairwoman Ton Nu Thi Ninh to present
Vietnam's perspectives on human rights as an embarrassing
and unnecessary setback. She added that, in order to
coordinate efforts better to deal with foreign criticism
about domestic human rights conditions, the GVN is seriously
considering the establishment of a national inter-agency
committee on human rights. She predicted that such a
committee, which would likely be headed by Deputy Prime
Minister Vu Khoan, would meet twice annually, and would have
a standing board to instruct and advise related offices on
"appropriate treatment" over human rights related cases.
She claimed that "the NA is a strong supporter of such a

7. (SBU) Comment: The desire to station its own
representatives overseas is another sign of the NA's search
for an enhanced role and the frustration of NA delegates
about getting good information and portraying Vietnamese
"realities" accurately. It also likely reflects
dissatisfaction with the performance of the MFA, along with
a probable lack of understanding about how other foreign
governments operate. While Madame Ninh herself has wowed
many USG interlocutors during her meetings, few in the ONA
are up to this level of excellence, either substantively or
linguistically. The establishment of a committee on human
rights might be helpful in internal policy coordination, but
is probably more aimed at whitewashing Vietnam's
international image than in resolving endemic domestic
problems that provoke legitimate criticism.

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