Cablegate: Vietnam: Ambassador's Call On Molisa Minister Hang

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


1. (SBU) Summary: In an October 21 meeting with the
Ambassador, Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs
(MOLISA) Madame Nguyen Thi Hang expressed hope that the
Department of Labor would continue and expand its projects in
Vietnam and gratitude for the selection of Vietnam as a
President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) country.
She also described recent steps taken to improve protection
of Vietnamese working abroad. Minister Hang responded
positively to the Ambassador's offer of assistance in further
strengthening Vietnam's legal framework in combating
trafficking and ensuring export labor protections, and called
for other assistance in the area of labor market development
through increased foreign investment. In the context of
discussing the rights of workers and persons living with
HIV/AIDS, Minister Hang stressed the attention that the
Vietnamese Government gives to the issue of human rights and
invited the Ambassador to visit local pagodas and churches to
observe this first hand. End Summary.


2. (SBU) Minister Hang began by expressing gratitude for
the excellent cooperation on labor between the United States
and Vietnam, in particular regarding the U.S. Department of
Labor projects. The Minister said that there was a need to
expand these labor projects to include areas such as
employment and vocational training, noting the increasing
demand for skilled labor by U.S. and other foreign firms.
She said that she looks forward to more projects with DOL.
Minister Hang strongly emphasized the importance of releasing
pressures on the workforce by creating more jobs through
increased foreign investment and welcomed support from the
United States in this area.

3. (SBU) Minister Hang voiced great appreciation for
President Bush's decision to name Vietnam an Emergency Fund
focus country as she sees the primary challenge in combating
HIV/AIDS as a shortage of resources. (Note: A large portion
of funding targeted to HIV/AIDS is channeled through the
Ministry of Health, and not enough funding is used to support
human management capacity with sound technical expertise at
the central and provincial levels. End Note.) While the
Minister noted that the other main challenge of HIV/AIDS in
Vietnam is the lack of understanding about the nature of
transmission of the virus, which leads to stigma and
discrimination, she did not reply to the Ambassador's
question on planned changes to the Labor Code to prevent
HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination in the workplace.
(Note: While the characterization by Minister Hang regarding
the lack of understanding about HIV/AIDS contributing to
stigma and discrimination is true, until recently it has been
the official position of the GVN that HIV/AIDS is associated
with social evils. This position has changed over the last
year and the removal of stigma and discrimination is
addressed in Vietnam's National Strategy on HIV/AIDS
Prevention and Control in Vietnam until 2010 with a Vision to
2020 that was released in April 2004. End Note.)

4. (SBU) In the fight against HIV/AIDS, the Minister listed
MOLISA's key priorities: to create jobs for persons with
HIV/AIDS, to develop policies to support them, and to support
their treatment, especially in the 05/06 centers. (Note:
The issue of treatment in 05/06 centers is critical, as up to
70 percent of intravenous drug users are HIV positive in some
provinces, and the majority of known HIV positive drug users
are in rehabilitation centers. This is a major challenge in
implementing the PEPFAR initiative, as current USG policy
does not allow for programs to work with populations in these
rehabilitation centers. End Note.)

Trafficking and Export Labor

5. (SBU) When asked about recent developments in
regulations to prevent involuntary servitude and other abuses
of export laborers, Minister Hang stated that trafficking is
covered in Vietnam's Criminal Code and was not a Labor Code
issue. However, when pressed about the status of a proposed
new export labor law, she referred to some articles in the
Labor Code and Decree 81 that address export labor and
protect workers overseas, and added that the Government has
proposed to include a Law on Labor Export in the National
Assembly's law making program for 2005. (Note: The articles
in the Labor Code address export labor were amended in 2002
and Decree 81 was promulgated in July 2003.)
6. (SBU) Minister Hang noted three priority training areas
for overseas workers: specific jobs skills, orientation
about receiving countries (on culture and environment) and
language. In response to the Ambassador's comments about
export workers needing to be informed about their rights
under both Vietnam's and receiving countries' laws, she
pointed out that Vietnam now assigns a Labor Officer in the
Vietnam Embassy in key receiving countries. The Minister
thanked the Ambassador for providing a translation of a study
on efforts by the United States to combat trafficking in
persons and welcomed the Ambassador's offer to assist Vietnam
in developing new laws to combat trafficking and protect
export laborers.

Other Legal Reform

7. (SBU) Minister Hang claimed that Vietnam has and
continues to prioritize developing a regulatory framework to
assist and protect workers both at home and abroad. MOLISA
will submit to the National Assembly by the end of 2004 a Law
on Social Insurance the covers all sectors and will also
submit new amendments on strikes. The Minister also
confirmed MOLISA's cooperation with the ILO but did not
provide any details on this work. (Note: The ILO has
confirmed that the Declaration meeting scheduled for this
month has been delayed. ILO source also mentioned that
Vietnam has ratified a number of core Conventions of the ILO
Declaration and is moving toward ratifying remaining
Conventions.) A final area the Minister addressed was in
response to a question from the Ambassador regarding lifting
the 3 percent cap on foreign workers in enterprises.
Minister Hang noted that MOLISA is still awaiting a decision
on the decree.

8. (SBU) Comment: Minister Hang warmly welcomed further
cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor and assistance
from the United States to increase foreign investment and
develop Vietnam's legal framework to combat trafficking. The
Minister, however, did not appear to be well versed on a
number of topics. She needed prompting that the Declaration
of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work was ILO related,
failed to elaborate on new regulations and developments on
labor export and protection of overseas workers that have
appeared in recent press reports, and either did not answer
questions or needed to be pressed on questions on Labor Code
reform. End Comment.


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