Cablegate: Mfa Protests Ambassador's Remarks Concerning Democratic

DE RUEHHI #2624 2860439
R 130439Z OCT 06




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: On October 11, MFA Americas Department Acting
Director General Pham Van Que called in the Charge to protest
remarks about the Vietnamese political movement 8406 Bloc made by
the Ambassador during an October 2 Radio Free Asia interview.
According to Que, the remarks caused a negative reaction among some
in the GVN, who misinterpreted them as USG support for regime change
in Vietnam. The Charge reaffirmed U.S. support for peaceful freedom
of expression in general, and for the 8406 Bloc's right to advocate
for political change. At the same time, he assured Que that the USG
does not support any anti-regime group in Vietnam. End summary.

MFA Reacts Strongly to Remarks in Support of 8406 Bloc
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) MFA Americas Department Acting Director General Pham Van
Que opened the October 11 discussion by raising the Ambassador's
interview with a Radio Free Asia reporter, which appeared on the RFA
website on October 4. Acting DG Que specifically referred to the
Ambassador's remarks about the 8406 Bloc and noted that the group is
trying to form a political party this year and has called for regime
change. Que said the Ambassador had expressed support for freedom
of expression, and also supported the activities of people belonging
to that group.

3. (SBU) Que said the statement had caused negative reactions among
some people in the GVN. The interview's contents expressed the
"wrong intention" of the United States, which is particularly
surprising because the Ambassador is usually very positive. The
Ambassador's meetings with Vietnamese groups in the United States
are politically sensitive. But, the Ambassador's statements could
be viewed as encouragement by the U.S. Government of what this group
is attempting to undertake in Vietnam. It has an impact on
U.S.-Vietnam relations, especially at a time when the GVN is working
hard to prepare for the President's visit and to make progress on
the "many issues that the U.S. side has recently raised with the

U.S. Supports the Principle of Free Speech

4. (SBU) The Charge responded that the topic of Que's discussion was
not a surprise since the External Relations Office in Ho Chi Minh
City had already made similar comments to a ConGen representative
(reftel). Que is correct in describing the Ambassador as a strong
supporter of an improved U.S.-Vietnam relationship. Furthermore,
the USG supports the right of individuals to peacefully express
political views. The USG's understanding is that the 8406 Bloc is a
political group. The Charge emphasized that the USG does not
support, materially or otherwise, any anti-regime group in Vietnam.
The Ambassador's remarks would reinforce the group's right to make
political statements in peaceful ways, an activity that the United
States and the international community do not regard as a crime in
any way, the Charge stressed.

5. (SBU) Que replied that the GVN has expressed the position many
times that it can not tolerate the expression of political views
advocating the overthrow of the current regime in Vietnam. Perhaps
the U.S. Government does not understand that, as a result of having
to overcome war and revolution, Vietnamese society is not as stable
as U.S. society. The GVN is trying to enhance the rights of people,
including their freedom and democracy, but at the same time trying
to keep Vietnam safe. It is a policy for the good of the Vietnamese
people. Referring to a discussion a couple months ago between the
Ambassador and VFM Le Van Bang about the activities of the 8406
Bloc, Que noted that the Ambassador had said that the Embassy will
pursue a low-key response to the 8406 Bloc. The statement in the
Radio Free Asia interview was not low-key, Que averred. A statement
of support for the 8406 Bloc sends the wrong signal to some in the

6. (SBU) When the Charge replied that the Ambassador's remarks
should not be misread to suggest the U.S. Government wants
instability in Vietnam, Que said it is hard to explain this to some
people in the GVN. The Ambassador's use of the phrase "call for
political change" in Vietnam has caused serious concern. Because of
the history of our relations, the GVN is working hard to build
confidence. In light of remarks such as the Ambassador's, it is
both hard to explain efforts to build relations with the United
States and hard to respond to criticism that some within the GVN are
pro-American and soft on America, Que concluded.


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