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Cablegate: Ambassador and Foreign Relation Committee Chairman

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

210432Z Oct 04





E.O. 12958: N/A

Reftels: A) 03 Hanoi 3187; B) Hanoi 2590; C) State 219822

1. (U) Summary: National Assembly Foreign Relations
Committee Chairman Vu Mao told the Ambassador that he wants
improved relations between the National Assembly (NA) and
U.S. Congress and hopes to arrange an official visit to
Washington by NA Chairman Nguyen Van An. The Foreign
Relations Committee still hopes to place a staff member in
the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington to work on bilateral
parliamentary relations. Chairman Mao also confirmed that
the GVN has set up an inter-agency "steering committee" to
handle international allegations on human rights issues.
During the meeting, but unrelated to it, a small protest of
land issues by farmers took place outside the NA office
building. End Summary

2. (U) Receiving the Ambassador for a courtesy call on
October 20, Chairman Vu Mao reminisced fondly of his October
2000 visit to Washington and said he had "warm feelings"
towards the United States. While acknowledging that
relations with Congress are a major issue for his committee,
he admitted that he has largely delegated this to Committee
Vice-Chairwoman Madam Ton Nu Thi Ninh to take advantage of
her excellent English skills. Chairman Mao described
Congress' knowledge of Vietnam as "very limited," and said
he will encourage visits to Vietnam by members of Congress,
adding that this invitation is open equally to "those who
have goodwill toward Vietnam, and those who do not have
goodwill." Mao told the Ambassador that he had "criticized"
Vietnamese Ambassador to Washington Nguyen Tam Chien for
spending "insufficient time on Congressional relations," and
acknowledged that the Foreign Relations Committee is still
seeking to place a representative in Vietnam's Washington
Embassy (Ref A), hopefully during his term, which ends in
two years. Mao also hopes to arrange a visit to Washington
for NA Chairman Nguyen Van An in 2005 or 2006. While he
would prefer to receive a formal invitation from Congress
for such a visit, the NA could undertake the trip without
one, Mao declared.

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3. (U) The Ambassador agreed that placing a NA
representative in the Embassy in Washington would be a good
idea, and said that maintaining good relations with Congress
is, in his view, one of the most important tasks that the
Vietnamese Embassy in Washington has. He encouraged
Chairman Mao to be proactive in reaching out to Congress and
suggested that the Foreign Relations Committee encourage a
visit to Vietnam by the newly formed Congressional Vietnam
Caucus. The Ambassador added that, despite Senator Frist's
and Speaker Hastert's inability to participate, Members of
Congress are likely to attend the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary
Forum, scheduled to take place in Vietnam in January (Refs B
and C).

4. (U) In response to the Ambassador's inquiry, Chairman Mao
confirmed that the GVN had established the "Steering
Committee on Human Rights Issues" (SCHRI), which was chaired
by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan and included
representatives from different ministries and the National
Assembly. Madam Ninh serves as the NA's representative on
the committee. The SCHRI advises the Party and Government
on human rights issues; determines whether Vietnam's
policies and principles regarding human rights are being
upheld in reality; and collects ideas and criticisms from
abroad either to correct the "shortcomings" in the
Vietnamese system that they identify, or to refute the
foreign claims if they are inaccurate. (Note: This
committee was apparently set up after NA complaints that
actions by other GVN ministries, especially the Ministry of
Public Security, were damaging efforts to improve Vietnam's
human rights image abroad. Ref A. End note.)

5. (U) During the Ambassador's visit, a small demonstration
of farmers upset about land rights took place outside the
National Assembly building. The demonstration, apparently
coincidental, was entirely peaceful, and consisted largely
of rural families sitting on the sidewalk across from the
parliamentary offices and a small number of policemen,
watching but leaving them undisturbed. (Note:
Demonstrations such as these are illegal and still
relatively rare in Vietnam. End note.)

6. (U) Comment: The establishment of an inter-agency group
within the GVN to address human rights issues is welcome
news. It likely exists more to address Vietnam's image
abroad rather than the substance of human right issues
domestically, but any measure that forces some of Vietnam's
more conservative-minded ministries to factor in human
rights must be considered a positive, albeit small, step in
the right direction. End Comment.

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