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Cablegate: Corrected Copy: Hfac Staffdel Mixter Discusses Human Rights

DE RUEHHI #1311/01 2061645
R 251645Z JUL 07





E.O. 12958: N/A



HANOI 00001311 001.2 OF 003

1. (U) This cable is a corrected copy of Hanoi 1301 of July 24,

2. (SBU) Summary: Visiting Professional Staff Member Jonathan Cobb
Mixter told GVN officials in Hanoi the recent wave of arrests and
crackdown on political dissidents was causing serious concern on
Capitol Hill and could make it harder to facilitate deeper USG
engagement with Vietnam; some members of Congress were especially
concerned after advocating hard for Vietnam's recent accession to
WTO membership and Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status.
GVN officials told Mixter that recent human rights issues are
'hiccoughs' and implied that Vietnam would make continued progress
over time. Mixter also raised the issue of Burma's human rights
record and ASEAN's potential role in advocating for change. The
delegation visited USG-funded HIV/AIDS sites and discussed overall
USG assistance programs. End summary.

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3. (SBU) Professional Staff Member Jonathan Cobb Mixter and
Associate Don Phan of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign
Affairs Committee (HFAC) traveled to Vietnam July 4 - 7, 2007 for
meetings in Hanoi and President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
(PEPFAR) project site visits in northeast Quang Ninh Province. In
Hanoi, Mixter met with the GVN National Assembly (NA) Foreign
Relations Committee; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MFA)
International Organization's Department; and the GVN Ministry of
Justice (MOJ) as well as NGO Asia Foundation - Vietnam and a local
"civil society" NGO.


4. (SBU) In a July 5 meeting with Madame Ton Nu Thi Ninh, Vice
Chairwoman of the National Assembly's Foreign Relations Committee,
HFAC Professional Staff Member Jonathan Cobb Mixter explained that
there is growing concern on Capitol Hill that political progress is
not matching economic progress in Vietnam. Specifically, several
members of Congress are concerned about the GVN's recent crackdown
on political dissidents and some are especially concerned given
their recent support to the GVN on WTO membership and Permanent
Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status. Mixter stated further that
this would make it more difficult for those USG politicians who want
to grow engagement with Vietnam and provide greater development
assistance here.

5. (SBU) Ninh encouraged even more members of Congress and staffers
to visit Vietnam to improve mutual understanding. Ninh noted that
she had met HFAC Chairman Representative Tom Lantos in June 2007,
during GVN President Triet's visit to the United States. She told
Mixter that "absolutely nobody" in the GVN wants to "go back to the
way it was before in Vietnam," referring to the pre-Doi Moi
(pre-1986 market renovation) period when the GVN followed a strict
Marxist-Leninist doctrine, leading the country into famine and
international isolation. Ninh asked that the United States take a
"longer and broader view" of Vietnam's development. Ninh said "we
hear your message" and characterizing recent events (referring to
the recent wave of dissident arrests) as assuredly "hiccoughs" in
our bilateral relationship. She deflected further discussion of
human rights by raising Guantanamo and our policy of "non
engagement" with Iran.

6. (SBU) On IPR and consumer rights, Mixter explained the
correlation between protection of these rights and economic
prosperity. Ninh agreed and explained that consumer rights were
slowly being established in Vietnam and that there was now a new
consumer association. She also noted the growing role of the press
in raising such issues in Vietnam. On press censorship, Ninh
emphasized that the press has revolutionized the debate on
corruption in Vietnam. She also downplayed the level of internet
censorship, stating that there were "far fewer firewalls than in
China." On trafficking in persons (TIP), Ninh welcomed and
requested more U.S. assistance to anti-TIP NGOs operating in
Vietnam, specifically asking for USG assistance in facilitating
cooperation between the GVN and Taiwan to establish an "assistance
hotline" to help deal with problems related to the large number of
foreign marriages between Taiwanese men and Vietnamese women.

7. (SBU) On Burma, Ninh explained that the GVN was concerned, and
"understood the U.S. point of view," but stated that the GVN was
reluctant to "cross the line" of ASEAN's policy of non-interference
in the internal affairs of member states. Ninh believes that "hard
and direct pressure" on Burma will not work, but expressed hope that
the potential success of the DPRK six-party talks could serve as an

HANOI 00001311 002.2 OF 003

"inspiration to Burma" and as a possible international model. She
advised Mixter that the USG should not "pre-set" conditions for
talking to Burma and should look at a "more strategic" multilateral

--------------------------------------------- -----

8. (SBU) At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mixter met with Mr. Vu
Anh Quang, Deputy Director General of the International
Organizations Department on July 5. While highlighting the overall
successful and positive growth in our bilateral relations, Mixter
said there was great concern in the U.S. Congress over human rights
issues and reports of political detainees. "Many in Congress are
supportive of greater engagement between our two countries, but not
when the rights of individuals are being violated," he told Quang.
Mixter stressed that human rights will always be a foundation of the
U.S.-Vietnam relationship for the USG.

9. (SBU) Quang responded by agreeing that current relations are the
best in history. He stated that disagreements on issues are
"normal," but said further that both countries must continue to
engage in dialogue on such issues. He noted that the current
U.S.-Vietnam human rights dialogue had been particularly helpful in
bringing such issues to the forefront. He held that, according to
international standards, Vietnam has made enormous progress in the
area of human rights. Quang highlighted the fact that Vietnam had
ratified UN Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination, Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Elimination
of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Rights of the
Child. Quang added that the GVN is also considering signing the
International Convention Against Torture (CAT). He noted that
Vietnam ratified these conventions before the USG did; further, that
each year the GVN receives UN complaints on human rights issues and
convention compliance, and each year the GVN sends out its response
to the UN in a timely manner - adhering to reporting requirements.

10. (SBU) When pressed by Mixter on the arrests of political
dissidents, Quang responded that he was well aware that recent
arrests had garnered attention in the United States and that "no
system is perfect," adding that only through continued engagement
can these issues be overcome. He said "Vietnam is fully aware of
the concern, but the United States must also be aware of the complex
social conditions that exist in Vietnam." He elaborated that the
USG should be aware of the conflict in Vietnam's history and that,
because of this, Vietnam has always sought "stability in order to
secure development."

11. (SBU) Quang added that "the GVN has released over 20 dissidents
since January 2005" and that this year alone the GVN had released
three political prisoners, naming recently-released Phan Van Ban,
Nguyen Vu Binh, and Le Quoc Quan. Quang stated that individuals who
break the law in Vietnam must face appropriate punishment and told
us that we should note that the number of former mid-senior level
government officials currently in prison (mostly on corruption
charges) is higher than the number of incarcerated political

12. (SBU) Mixter urged the GVN to continue its human rights reforms
and pressed for greater freedom of the press in Vietnam; he also
hoped the MFA would address the issue of Burma's human rights record
within ASEAN. Quang responded that, when it comes to the media,
there is "too much freedom," complaining that many journalists often
write baseless articles aimed at embarrassing GVN officials, who do
not have any legal recourse to defend themselves. Further, when
such journalists are confronted they neither respond with a public
apology nor retract the article. On a positive note, Quang stated
that journalists in Vietnam are eager to write articles on new laws
and decrees, and ordinary citizens are not shy about voicing their
opinions. On Burma, he took note but deferred to his ASEAN office.
Quang concluded the meeting by saying the GVN takes the points on
human rights seriously and again highlighted that "through
engagement and dialogue" both countries can work through these
issues of concern.

--------------------------------------------- --

13. (SBU) In a July 5 meeting with Mr. Nguyen Cong Hong, Deputy
Director for Criminal and Administrative Legislation at the GVN
Ministry of Justice, Mixter focused on what the GVN was doing to
reform its criminal code and advance greater judicial reform. Hong
responded that the GVN is revising its criminal code and has moved

HANOI 00001311 003.2 OF 003

away from an "investigative model" to an "accusatory model." He
added that this is a positive step but that it has also been
difficult because implementation means that training of judges,
lawyers and investigators is necessary. Hong added the GVN was
hoping to work with the Vietnam Bar Association to increase the
knowledge and legal education of its members. When Mixter asked
about the types of programs that exist to build capacity, Hong said
international cooperation and support for rule of law programs are
vital and the GVN looks forward to working with various donors and
aid agencies in this area. Hong stated, "Even a good system is
bound to fail unless good people are in place." He added that such
programs like the USAID Support for Trade Acceleration (STAR)
program, which has provided extensive technical assistance to revise
Vietnam's economic governance system since 2002, were extremely
helpful, and he looks forward to an increase in such programs.
Mixter responded that continued progress was essential and
encouraged the GVN to work with the Department of State on rule of
law issues. He added that when he returned to Washington, he would
report that the GVN was interested in pursuing further such
programming assistance.

14. (SBU) Hong explained that the target of such reforms is to
protect the rights of all citizens. He added that such reforms
would streamline the GVN judicial system and make it more efficient.
Hong added that the GVN had established a key steering committee,
headed by the Prime Minister, to support judicial reform. He noted
that this is only the beginning of the process but a relevant
example on the amount of attention that is being paid within Vietnam
to such reform.

15. (SBU) During the meeting, Mixter raised concerns over
accusations over use of the Internet and downloading information,
which have led to a number of "cyber dissident" arrests. He also
asked how other criminal code regulations, such as Article 88, are
being used now that Decree 31 has been repealed (Reftel). Hong
responded that Internet use has increased rapidly because the GVN
has "encouraged its citizens" to use the tool. He stated that he
could not respond to specific dissident cases charged under Article
88, but that the MOJ would be reviewing possible changes to the
criminal code in the near future. Hong, who appeared eager to share
information, noted that the GVN is currently translating the State
of California's criminal code in hopes of using it as a model for
future reforms. He said the GVN is serious about its intent to have
its criminal code conform to international laws and conventions and
that the GVN will continue to review the code and take appropriate
measures in the future.

16. (SBU) With regard to the status of a new GVN draft Amnesty Law,
Hong told us that unofficially the National Assembly would be
drafting a national amnesty law with specific procedures and
guidance. He said the drafting of such a law would end any
misunderstanding of when individuals are to receive amnesty.

17. (U) This cable was cleared by Jonathan Cobb Mixter, U.S. House
of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee.


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