Cablegate: Dpm Dung Discusses Human Rights with Ambassador

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

Reftels: A) Hanoi 1727; B) HCMC 917; C) Hanoi 1964

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On July 15, Ambassador Burghardt and
Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Nguyen Tan Dung discussed human
rights issues including several specific cases of Vietnamese
human rights activists as well as the Vietnam Human Rights
Act of 2004. DPM Dung offered to allow Dr. Nguyen Dan Que,
an elderly dissident most recently arrested in March 2003,
to leave Vietnam if the U.S. is willing to accept him. Dung
also said that the GVN would consider new penalties for Tran
Khue and Pham Que Duong should they continue their "illegal

2. (SBU) On July 15, Ambassador Burghardt met with DPM Dung
at the Prime Minister's office to discuss human rights and
commercial issues. The Ambassador also followed up on
issues raised during the U.S.-ASEAN Ambassadors Tour of the
U.S. and the recently concluded visit to Hanoi of the U.S.-
ASEAN Business Council. Discussions of these two visits and
the commercial issues will be covered SEPTEL. The
Ambassador wove human rights and commercial issues into a
unified theme of "widening the circle of friends" of
Vietnam. He urged Dung to take a long-term view towards
building more effective constituencies in advance of
critical junctures in the relationship such as the possible
visit by the Prime Minister in 2005 and the vote to grant
Vietnam permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) once we have
reached a bilateral agreement on Vietnam's WTO accession.
Ambassador Burghardt noted that several opportunities
currently exist to build the right type of constituency that
would allow Vietnam and the U.S. to deepen their ties.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador asked that the GVN consider the
release of Vietnamese dissidents who are imprisoned for the
peaceful expression of their personal views, including
Nguyen Dan Que, Nguyen Khac Toan, Pham Hong Son, and Nguyen
Vu Binh. Dung responded by asking if the U.S. would be
prepared to accept Nguyen Dan Que, if the GVN released him.
The Ambassador countered that the real issue would be, "Does
he want to go? That's a question that only he can answer."
He reminded Dung that this issue was not a new one, and that
prior to the Ambassador's arrival in 2001, Nguyen Dan Que
had refused a similar offer. The Ambassador added that visa
procedures aside, "I am confident we would be willing to
take him." Again, the Ambassador noted that the best
response would be to allow dissidents to stay without
further harassment for the peaceful expression of their
views. As the meeting drew to a close, Dung brought up his
previous offer saying that, "If Mr. Que wants to go the
U.S., Vietnam will let him." The Ambassador said that
someone from our Embassy or the HCMC Consulate would need to
discuss this with Nguyen Dan Que. [NOTE: Dr. Que is
scheduled to be tried July 29 in Ho Chi Minh City on charges
of "abusing democratic rights to jeopardize the interests of
the State. END NOTE] Dung's final comment on Que was that if
he stayed in Vietnam but continued to violate the law, he
would be rearrested. [COMMENT: The context of this remark
implied that an early release was possible. END COMMENT]

4. (SBU) Regarding the request to release dissidents, DPM
Dung also replied that the GVN does not have any law that
would penalize anyone with different political views, and
all of those arrested and detained had violated the laws of
Vietnam. DPM Dung raised the possibility that Father Nguyen
Van Ly may be released in September stating that, "He has
recognized his guilt." (Ref A) He further added that, "Tran
Khue and Le Chi Quang were indicted for illegal acts, and if
they continue, we will consider more penalties." (Refs. B
and C)

5. (SBU) The Ambassador explained the dynamics surrounding
H.R. 1587, the Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2004, and how
they differed from those that existed during previous years.
While the new caucus formed by Congressmen Rob Simmons and
Lane Evans was a new force to consider, he explained that
some of Vietnam's longtime friends in Congress might be
reluctant during this election year to take action to derail
or defeat the Human Rights Act. The Ambassador acknowledged
some recent gestures that would be seen in a positive light,
most notably the prison sentences roughly equal to time
served for Tran Khue and Pham Que Duong. However, he
reiterated the USG position that their actions did not
warrant arrest and detention in the first place. The
Ambassador further added that most foreign governments and
outside observers would not grant Vietnam much credit for
the reduced sentences, but they would express great praise
if Vietnam would allow them to express themselves

6. (U) DPM Dung stated that he did not wish to further
debate the human rights issues raised by the Ambassador, and
the GVN only wished that the U.S. would not interfere with a
domestic issue. At several points during the meeting he
mentioned recent positive developments such as the
designation of Vietnam as the 15th HIV/AIDS focus country
and the Jackson-Vanik waiver. He also acknowledged the
efforts of many members of the U.S. Congress and other
interest groups speaking up on behalf of Vietnam this year
in advance of the vote on H.R. 1587.

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