Cablegate: Supporting Democracy and Human Rights: Vietnam

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 STATE 333935

Following is the US Mission in Vietnam's submission for the
2003-04 edition of Supporting Human Rights and Democracy:
The U.S. Record.

Vietnam is a single-party state, ruled and controlled by the
Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). The Government of Vietnam
(GVN) restricted both political and religious freedoms
through a number of means during 2003, including by
detaining and imprisoning activists who criticized the GVN,
by subjecting religions to strict registration requirements
and obstructing the activities of "unauthorized" religious
groups, by censoring domestic media sources and blocking
foreign radio stations and websites, and by denying citizens
the right to form independent organizations. Restrictions
on religious freedom were particularly noticeable among
ethnic-minority Protestant groups in the Central and
Northwest Highlands. The USG has maintained close ties with
political activists and religious groups in Vietnam in order
to identify and highlight abuses, and has pushed for reform
during meetings in Vietnam and the United States, including
in discussions between Secretary Powell and the deputy prime
minister of Vietnam. Through State Department-, USAID-, and
Department of Labor-funded programs, the US Mission in
Vietnam seeks to heighten awareness of democratic principles
at the grassroots level, and to develop a transparent and
responsive legal system in Vietnam. Our efforts have
resulted in the opening of new churches in the Central
Highlands, greater GVN tolerance for the operation of
"unauthorized" churches in several areas, a reduction of
prison sentences for some religious and political activists,
programs to protect trafficked women, the ratification of an
ILO convention against child labor, and the public
availability of much of Vietnam's legal code, among other

The USG engaged the GVN on human rights issues at all levels
over the course of the year. Mission officers traveled
widely through the country to investigate allegations of
abuses, and virtually every Mission officer and most senior
USG visitors to Vietnam raised human rights in their
meetings with GVN officials. Through the Embassy in Hanoi
and Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, USG officers
explained international concerns and basic rights standards
to Vietnamese officials from the local level to the highest
ranks of the GVN and CPV. In Washington, Department
officers up to and including Secretary Powell repeatedly
stressed human rights concerns in meetings with visiting GVN
officials. This constant diplomatic pressure has produced
noticeably greater GVN attention to human rights and
religious freedoms in Vietnam. (Unlike in past years, the
USG declined to hold a bilateral human rights dialogue with
the GVN in 2003 as a sign of our displeasure over slow
progress on human rights issues.)

The USG increased legal transparency in Vietnam by funding a
successful $8 million, three-year program to help the GVN
develop and codify a better and more transparent legal
framework as part of the implementation of the U.S.-Vietnam
Bilateral Trade Agreement. Among the 2003 activities of
this program were 54 training and policy workshops with 3330
participants, and three study tours for 22 senior
legislative and judicial officials. The Official Gazette -
the Vietnamese equivalent of the Federal Register - began
daily publication in July, from six issues per month
previously, making the improvements in the Vietnamese legal
code available to all, in both Vietnamese and English. This
year we also began a $200,000 per year program focused
specifically on working with government officials to
modernize the Vietnamese Law on Associations which, when
completed, will allow independent domestic NGOs to flourish.

The GVN took a significant positive step by ratifying ILO
Convention 138 on minimum working age in June, as long
encouraged by the USG. With funds from the Department of
Labor, in 2003 the Mission began a $325,000 per year program
to improve employment opportunities for people with
disabilities as well as a $200,000 per year project to build
the capacity of the GVN to combat the problem of child

The Mission sought to advance awareness of human rights and
democracy issues in the media by funding Vietnamese
journalists to participate in an international visitors
program entitled Democracy and Legal Reform in the United
States, and a regional program on Refugees and Trafficking.
The Mission also initiated and helped arrange a Voluntary
Visitor Program for the Vice Chairman of the Ethnic
Minorities Commission as well as other Commission
representatives and officials from provinces with
significant ethnic minority populations to expose them to US
values and treatment of minorities. The Embassy's Public
Affairs Section also worked with a Vietnamese organization
to fund a series of workshops in four cities on the legal
rights and responsibilities of citizens, hold legal clinics,
and produce a series of pamphlets on such topics as
citizens' rights and basic issues in the Vietnamese legal

The USG continued to research and better document
restrictions on religious freedom in Vietnam, and to raise
our concerns at all levels in interactions with the GVN.
For example, after USG officials highlighted the case of an
"unofficial" Protestant church threatened with demolition in
Ho Chi Minh City, GVN authorities backed off their threats
and eventually allowed the church to continue operations.
In November, Ambassador at Large for International Religious
Freedom John Hanford visited Vietnam to set forth concrete
steps - including the release of religious prisoners and
allowing the opening of new churches - that the GVN should
take to meet international concerns. Subsequent to that
visit, the GVN issued a directive calling for the
"continuation of normalizing of relations with the
[Protestant Church] in the Central Highlands" and stating a
Bible training center may be permitted to open soon, and
also allowed a 40% increase in the number of officially
registered Protestant churches in the highlands.

The USG continued to encourage the GVN to ratify additional
ILO conventions addressing worker rights and recognizing
core worker rights. We stressed the need to continue to
discuss issues surrounding freedom of association and
collective bargaining. In addition, a Department of Labor
(DOL) program on dispute prevention and resolution for
representatives of more than seventy enterprises started its
work and enjoyed great cooperation from the GVN. Another
DOL program worked with the GVN to improve the country's
social insurance system.

To counter the problem of trafficking in persons, the USG
provided more that $500,000 in funds to international non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) from a variety of
backgrounds. These NGOs operated a shelter for victims of
trafficking repatriated from Cambodian brothels, as well as
a number of programs to assist returned victims of
trafficking and protect women and children in high-risk
areas by providing awareness training, vocational training,
and economic opportunity through microcredit programs. USG
officials at the working and policy levels continued to
engage GVN counterparts on trafficking in persons issues,
and USG officers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City played an
important role in coordinating and focusing the
international community's response to the trafficking
problem in Vietnam.

Major USG-Funded Human Rights and Democracy Programs in

-$8 million over three years to help the GVN develop and
codify a better and more transparent legal framework.
-$1.7 million over three years to improve industrial
relations, including the prevention and settlement of
-$650,000 over two years to improve employment opportunities
for the disabled by revising relevant legislation, and
training staff of employment service centers to better
assist people with disabilities.
-$500,000 over two and a half years to prevent child labor,
withdraw current child workers from the labor force, and
fund rehabilitation programs for these children.
-$375,000 for a one-year program to assist in the
establishment of social accountability standards for
Vietnamese enterprises.
-$300,000 over 18 months to modernize the Law on
Associations and related decrees.
-$288,000 over two years to strengthen the capacity of
Vietnamese law enforcement to counter trafficking in
-$243,000 over two years to reduce the trafficking of women
and violence against women through education, community
monitoring, and economic empowerment programs of vulnerable
women and families.
-$60,000 per year to operate a shelter for victims of
trafficking repatriated from Cambodian brothels.
-$25,000 for a one-year program to conduct workshops on
legal rights and responsibilities of citizens, hold legal
clinics, and produce a series of pamphlets explaining
citizens' rights and major issues in the Vietnamese legal

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