Cablegate: Family Planning in Practice Along the Hcm Highway

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: 03 HANOI 2047

1. (U) Summary and Comment: Reftel described Vietnam's
new ordinance on family planning that went into effect on
May 1, 2003, "encouraging" families of one or two children
but highlighting individual choice. Under the revised
national guidelines, no fines or administrative sanctions
are to be used to punish those who have larger families. A
variety of provincial officials throughout central Vietnam
separately confirmed that all family planning activities are
wholly "voluntary," despite vigorous campaigns to "educate"
and "persuade" families to practice family planning. No
officials admitted using economic or administrative measures
to punish those who violate national norms, while
acknowledging some reports of such measures in the past.
There is clearly more latitude given to ethnic minority
families, which continue to be significantly larger than the
national norm. Overall, family size is indeed declining,
but there are no indications of any genuinely coercive
nature to Vietnam's family planning program in the
provinces. End summary and comment.

Free to choose

2. (U) During a December trip along the newly constructed
Ho Chi Minh Highway between Nghe An and Gia Lai provinces in
central Vietnam, Pol/C and ConGenoff discussed family
planning practices in various localities with provincial
officials, along with other topics (septels). Ha Tinh
provincial vice chairman Ngo Duc Huy emphasized that family
planning in his province was "100 pct voluntary," including
numbers of children and methodology. In 2003, the average
family had only 2.1 children, down from 3.9 in 1992.
However, the province failed to achieve its goal of 0.69 pct
population growth for 2003, instead reaching 0.9 pct. Huy
lamented that every one percent increase in population
realistically required at least four percent in GDP growth
(which he noted that the province had met twice over).

3. (U) Quang Tri provincial officials similarly stressed
that all family planning was "voluntary," relying on
"campaigns" rather than "pressure." They admitted that
Quang Tri still had the 13th highest population growth rate
in the nation, but described how the average number of
children per family had dropped from 4.5 in 1975 to 3 in
2003, with a goal of 2.9 in 2005. The family sizes were
larger than national averages because of the high percentage
of ethnic minorities living in mountainous areas; those
families prefer more children and often began families when
they are only 18 or 20 years old, officials noted. However,
they claimed that there had "never" been any provincial- or
district-level officials who had three or four children.

4. (U) In Dong Giang district of Quang Nam province,
officials reiterated the mantra of a "wholly voluntary"
family planning program, and admitted that many ethnic
minority families continued to have four or more children,
nonetheless down from the 8-10 children common a generation
ago. District level cadres "never" had more than two
children -- by choice, officials claimed -- but at the
commune level, some cadres did have larger families.
Officials in the Central Highlands province of Kontum also
noted the large family size of ethnic minority families,
usually about 4 children per family, an average number that
they admitted was no longer declining despite public
campaigns on family planning.

5. (U) Gia Lai provincial vice chairman Le Viet Huong
insisted that the family planning program in this Central
Highlands province was "entirely voluntary," without any use
of force whatsoever. He described educational efforts -- in
both standard Vietnamese and in two ethnic languages -- to
persuade citizens that smaller families meant a "better
future" for their children. He noted that, previously,
ethnic minority families had as many as nine children, now
down to about six. Even ethnic Kinh in Gia Lai often have
three children per family nowadays, including some ethnic
Kinh cadres, he admitted. Population growth remained about
2 pct per year, a rate he noted with pride was lower than
neighboring Dak Lak province but still too high and still a
major factor for the 15.5 pct rate of poverty within Gia

Fine or not?

6. (U) Ha Tinh's vice chairman Huy confirmed that no fines
or administrative punishments were used on individuals --
even CPV members or local officials -- who exceed the
desired two child family, while admitting that "as recently
as one or two years ago," there were still "district
officials" who resorted to fines. Quang Tri officials
emphasized that no fines had ever been used to punish large
families, while admitting they had heard reports of such
practices in other provinces in the past. They confirmed
that such fines were "strictly forbidden."

7. (U) Quang Nam and Kontum officials separately claimed
that there had "never" been any fines used in these
provinces, nor would ethnic minority cadres be punished in
any way if they had three or four children. Kontum
officials noted, however, that they had "never" seen a case
of an ethnic Kinh cadre with more than two children. Gia
Lai's vice chairman Huong similarly claimed that there had
"never" been any use of fines or other economic punishments
in family planning programs in this province.

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