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Cablegate: Reviewing Human Rights with Dpm Dung

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. STATE 106483 B. HANOI 248

1. (SBU) Summary. In a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister
Dung on June 3, Ambassador urged Vietnam to take steps on
human rights and religious freedom, inter alia, that would
create a good environment for high level visits from
Vietnam. Dung acknowledged problems in implementation of
"clear" GVN policies on ethnic minorities and religion,
which the GVN was trying to resolve. He denied political
prisoners but offered to "consider" reduction of sentences
for those who made "progress." He confirmed GVN "respect"
for Protestants but warned against using religion for
separatist or terrorist goals. He offered to work with the
U.S. on a voluntary departure program for Montagnards.
Ambassador called for any solid evidence of involvement by
US-based individuals or organizations in violent acts, but
urged a clear differentiation between peaceful activities
and terrorism, as well as between ethnic minority
Protestants in general and Dega separatists. DPM Dung
acknowledged that the USG did not support a Dega state or
separatism but noted "many" people believe so. He
criticized US actions in Iraq as an "illegal invasion" and a
"war of aggression" but nonetheless urged both governments
move forward toward further improvements in bilateral ties.
End Summary.

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2. (U) In advance of the Ambassador's departure for the
U.S. to participate in the speaking tour sponsored by the
U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and of the likely visit to the
U.S. in July by Communist Party of Vietnam Politburo member
Phan Dien, Ambassador met for two hours with Deputy Prime
Minister and Politburo member Nguyen Tan Dung on June 3.
(Ref b reported on their last meeting to review bilateral
relations.) Pol/C and Commercial Attache accompanied.
Assistant Foreign Minister Nguyen Duc Hung also attended.
Septel will report on commercial and economic issues

Creating the right environment

3. (SBU) The Ambassador explained to DPM Dung that we had
already provided the MFA with some suggestions (ref a) of
steps the GVN could take to create a positive environment
for a visit by the Prime Minister in 2005, as well as for
Phan Dien's visit in July. He highlighted the importance of
releases of prisoners who have done nothing more than
peacefully express their personal opinions; the need for a
public statement banning efforts at forced renunciations of
faith and a speedier effort to reopen and/or register
Protestant churches in the Central Highlands; and, a
willingness by the GVN to allow NGOs (with possible USG
funding) to help address developmental problems in the
Central Highlands, in an effort to help ethnic minorities
believe that remaining was better than fleeing.

4. (SBU) DPM Dung noted GVN hopes for a successful visit
to the U.S. by the Prime Minister. (Note: he did not,
however, comment on Phan Dien's upcoming trip. end note)
He reminded Ambassador of their earlier "frank" discussions
on human rights issues and reiterated Vietnam's concern for
promotion and better protection of human rights. He
stressed, however, that different countries and cultures
have different perceptions and laws related to human rights.
He admitted human rights problems in Vietnam, including
weaknesses in the implementation of policy on ethnic
minorities and a growing gap between the economic well-being
of the ethnic Kinh majority and the minorities, but promised
the GVN's determination to resolve such problems. He
similarly highlighted the "clear" GVN policy protecting
freedom of religion as well as freedom of non-belief, but
admitted that "implementation at the local level has not yet
been handled well." He cited improvements in reducing
poverty as human rights achievements recognized by the World
Bank, UNDP, and ADB.

Status of Protestants

5. (SBU) DPM Dung specifically noted that the GVN
"respects" the Protestant faith and is willing to register
new churches and permit "normal" activities. He warned,
however, that the GVN would "never" permit activities "under
the guise of religion" in support of a separate Dega state
or using terrorist tactics. He claimed that 25 new
churches, with 28,000 Protestants, had been registered in
2003 alone. He commented that Catholics in the Central
Highlands were able to operate "very well" and promised that
the GVN would "create favorable conditions" for the
Protestant Church in the Central Highlands -- but not for
Fulro or the Dega movement. While he acknowledged
statements by the Ambassador and USG that the USG did not
support a separate Dega state, he complained that Fulro, the
Montagnard Foundation, and Kok Ksor continued to "agitate"
from within the U.S. as "terrorist organizations," which the
USG should not permit. Furthermore, he stated, the USG
should not "support" illegal migration of Montagnards to
Cambodia, which causes instability in both Vietnam and
Cambodia. He promised that, if Montagnards wished to go to
the U.S., "we agree and are ready" for the MFA to work with
the USG on some sort of a "voluntary departure program."

6. (SBU) DPM Dung denied any political prisoners in
Vietnam, noting that people were detained according to the
laws of Vietnam. He emphasized that the GVN had already
reduced the sentence of Father Nguyen Van Ly once he
demonstrated contrition and asked for clemency. DPM Dung
said that the GVN would be willing to consider similar
treatment of Nguyen Dan Que and Nguyen Si Binh (sic). The
GVN was prepared to be "tolerant" of prisoners who made
"progress," he added. He called for dialogue and exchanges
on human rights and other issues on a "frank and
constructive" basis. He expressed the GVN's readiness to
welcome A/S Craner for talks on human rights later in June.

7. (SBU) Ambassador noted that definitions of human rights
were not subjective but rather codified in a series of
international covenants, many of which Vietnam had signed.
He highlighted that concern in the U.S. from the
Administration, Congress, NGOs, and others over Vietnam's
human rights problems affected decisions on how fast to seek
improvement in bilateral ties. He admitted progress in
personal freedoms and self-control over individual lives in
Vietnam as long-term trends but pointed to ongoing problems
over human rights. He urged in particular that officials in
the Central Highlands differentiate clearly between
Protestants and Fulro/Dega supporters. He urged that the
April demonstrations not lead to a set-back in the GVN's
efforts to improve conditions in the Central Highlands.

Who's a Terrorist?

8. (SBU) Ambassador reiterated that the USG does not
"allow" Kok Ksor to engage in violent activities, and urged
that the GVN share with the USG any clear and solid evidence
or proof of complicity by US citizens or residents in
violent activities in Vietnam. He noted the need for clear,
factual proof that could be used in a legal framework, not
vague accusation, and promised that the USG would act if it
received such proof. He urged a clear distinction between
peaceful separatist activities and actual terrorist actions,
and noted the twelve international conventions related to
terrorism gave good definitions.

9. (SBU) Ambassador also emphasized that the USG does not
encourage illegal migration to Cambodia, and that the USG on
the contrary would like to support programs in the Central
Highlands to encourage people to stay, but the GVN had not
yet given permission. However, if they do seek refuge in
Cambodia, the RCG should be able to fulfill its obligations
under the Refugee Convention and allow UNHCR to determine
their status.

10. (SBU) DPM insisted that the actions of Kok Ksor and
the April protesters were terrorist in nature -- throwing
rocks, using knives and sticks to attack and injure
officials, even killing people. He noted that Vietnamese
law prohibited all such violent action by non-peaceful
separatist organizations or reactionary organizations
against public order. Ambassador again called for a clearer
differentiation of what is and is not terrorism. He
commented that, even if there was outside encouragement,
without discontent on the ground already it could not have

11. (SBU) Ambassador cited an "unfortunate" recent article
in Quan Doi Nhan Dan (Army Daily) implying that the USG was
behind the events in the Central Highlands as a "step
backwards" and as simply not true. DPM claimed that
reporters draw their own conclusions and write what they
want. He emphasized that the GVN had not accused the USG of
being behind the demonstrations -- but many Vietnamese
believe so since the USG had not reacted against the
Montagnard Foundation and FULRO in the U.S. When Ambassador
charged that QDND clearly reflected official GVN views, DPM
Dung only commented "not exactly." Ambassador reminded the
DPM that two individuals were already in U.S. prisons in
California for attempts acts of violence against GVN

12. (SBU) The DPM acknowledged that the USG does not
support separatism or terrorism, and promised that the GVN
would "continue" to provide evidence of such acts. However,
in the interest of seeking a better relationship, the USG
should not be "tolerant" of such activities, he stressed.


13. (SBU) DPM Dung noted that all countries have human
rights problems, and cited the "illegal invasion" by the
U.S. of Iraq in a "war of aggression," as well as the
treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US troops, as examples. He
called upon the U.S. to "look at yourself first when you
talk about human rights." Ambassador acknowledged
violations by US soldiers but stressed that this problem was
revealed by our free press, discussed in Congress, and
subject to open and free debate. He cited this as an
example of how human rights problems should be dealt with.
The USG would solve this problem and punish violators.

14. (SBU) The DPM raised whether the "invasion of Iraq" was
itself not "terrorism," or when the U.S. sent troops to
Vietnam to fight against "Communist terrorism." He stressed
that the UN had "never allowed" the U.S. to "invade Iraq"
and repeated that this "act of aggression" was a "violation
of the UN Charter." Ambassador reminded him of Iraq under
Saddam Hussein having violating UN Security Council
resolutions for more than a decade, but welcomed a dialogue
with the GVN on Iraq, a subject that most GVN officials had
avoided up until now.

Toward a better future

15. (SBU) In conclusion, DPM Dung urged both sides to push
the relationship toward even closer ties and cooperation in
an "open" manner despite differences of views on human
rights, religious freedom, the Central Highlands, and
democracy. He called for better mutual understanding and
greater sharing of views. Ambassador welcomed DPM Dung's
frankness. DPM noted that both sides share a goal of better
relations, and expressed a hope that we will move forward
toward this goal.

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