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Cablegate: Gvn Launches Massive Agent Orange Media Campaign, but Few

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001077

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP (HUHTALA); EAP/PD (SKIPPER, GRADISHER, WELTON,
FURGAL); EAP/BCLTV (GAGNON, ADAMS, DUNLAP)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PREL SENV OPRC VM
SUBJECT: GVN LAUNCHES MASSIVE AGENT ORANGE MEDIA CAMPAIGN, BUT FEW
ARE LISTENING

1. (SBU) Summary: The Government of Vietnam has launched a
vigorous media campaign to whip up support for the Agent Orange
lawsuit in a New York Federal Court, but our contacts and (wo)man
on the street in Ho Chi Minh City remain largely unmoved, tending
to be more preoccupied with quality of life issues such as
education, trade relations and technology. Mass organizations are
"fronting" the campaign, but the GVN is not only the primary force
behind the media barrage but has also issued specific instructions
to media institutions to mask government involvement, according to
PAS media sources. End summary.

2. (U) On August 4, media in southern Vietnam began a media
campaign to highlight the Agent Orange case pending against U.S.
corporations in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. Each day
there are articles highlighting victims, announcing mass
organization rallies, and publishing interviews with both
Vietnamese and Americans who are speaking out against the use of
Agent Orange during the war. Additionally, the newly minted Agent
Orange Day of August 10 attracted significant media coverage, with
heavy focus on Agent Orange events and programs in HCMC. For
example, the Labor Federation and the War Remnants Museum in HCMC
held a ceremony to raise funds for Agent Orange victims and to
collect signatures to support the lawsuit. That same day the
Vietnamese Alliance of Friendship Organizations announced a
campaign to collect 2 million signatures to support Vietnamese
Agent Orange Victims.

3. (SBU) A correspondent for a leading paper in HCMC informed us
that the GVN issued an order to editors to mobilize this campaign,
but at the same time not to make it appear that the GVN was behind
it. This explains the apparent active involvement of "mass
organizations" in what is clearly a command performance, at least
in HCMC.

4. (SBU) A quick survey of contacts indicates that bread and
butter issues continue to drive not only the city's leadership but
also the average person on the street. For example, an editor of
a major HCMC daily told us that the city remains focused on the
future and that readers are actually far more concerned about
issues such as traffic safety, education, visas to the U.S. for
study and business, and bilateral trade issues. Similarly,
business contacts have told us that the best way to bring about
healing between the two countries is through vigorous trade which
will do more for the relationship than any amount of aid or
apologies.

5. (SBU) Perhaps indicative of the government-ordered nature of
the media campaign, we have not received a single request for
further information about Agent Orange from either media or other
contacts. In addition, despite the government's push to enlist on-
line supporters of an Agent Orange petition, to date the effort
has netted only 10 percent of the stated 2 million-signature goal.

6. (SBU) Comment: Based on the above assessment, we will keep
our Agent Orange guidance close at hand for if-asked use, but we
will focus our public diplomacy efforts on issues that resonate
such as helping to improve education, encouraging study in the
U.S., explaining U.S. trade policy, highlighting our humanitarian
assistance programs, and promoting the development of civil
society. End comment.

WINNICK

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