Cablegate: Press Reveals Vietnam's New Cabinet

DE RUEHHI #1360/01 2131822
R 011822Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) On August 2, Vietnam's National Assembly (NA) will
officially announce the make-up of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung's
Cabinet, approve the PM's plan to increase the number of Deputy Vice
Ministers from three to five, and reduce the number of government
ministries from 26 to 22, a move the GVN claims will "streamline
administrative procedures." The names of the new ministers were
revealed by the state press a day early, with ministers at National
Defense, Public Security, Foreign Affairs, Planning and Investment,
Finance, Transportation, Construction, Science and Technology,
Education and Training, and the Government Inspectorate remaining
the same. Some contacts expressed initial reservations about the
selection of the new Supreme People's Court Chief Justice, who hails
from the Ministry of Public Security. The changes in government
structure -- coupled with earlier decisions to reduce Party
interference in policy implementation -- appear to continue the
trend of strengthening PM Dzung's hand relative to that of Vietnam's
other top leaders. This remains to be seen, however, as a number of
powerful figures unrelated to Dzung survived the shakeup. We will
have to see how powers are distributed among the new set of players,
which will take some time. End Summary.

Hanoi's New (and Old) Faces

2. (SBU) One day ahead of the National Assembly's planned
announcement, the Vietnamese state-press on August 1 revealed who
will serve in Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung's Cabinet. The
Communist Party's Central Committee, reportedly after receiving the
Politburo's recommendations, put forth its own proposals for the
Cabinet at last week's Plenum (Reftel). After formally endorsing
these recommendations, the National Assembly (NA) will announce the
Cabinet line-up tomorrow. It also will approve PM Dzung's plan to
reduce the number of government ministries from 26 to 22, a move the
GVN claims will "streamline administrative procedures."

3. (SBU) The NA will sign off on merging the Ministry of Fisheries
into the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; combining
the Industry and Trade Ministries; rolling the Department for Sports
and Physical Training and the National Administration of Tourism
into the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and creating a
Ministry of Information and Communication that is the combination of
the Ministry of Posts and Telematics and offices for management of
the press and publication-related issues of the Ministry of Culture
and Information.

4. (SBU) The NA has already given its formal stamp of approval to
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung, President Nguyen Minh Triet and NA
Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong by re-electing them in their respective
positions. On August 2, it will announce that ministry heads who
will remain unchanged include National Defense, Public Security,
Foreign Affairs, Planning and Investment, Finance, Transportation,
Construction, Science and Technology, Education and Training, and
the Government Inspectorate. New ministers will take over at the
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Natural Resources and
Environment, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Ministry of
Information and Communications, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of
Justice, Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs,
Ministry of Public Health, at the Committee for Ethnic Affairs, as
State Bank Governor and as Minister-Chairman of the Office of the

Adding Deputy Prime Ministers

5. (SBU) The NA will also bless a slate of five deputy prime
ministers, an increase of two from the previous administration. The
NA's Nguyen Minh Thuyen said that adding two deputy prime premiers
is an important element in GVN efforts to promote administrative
reform. The three current incumbents will remain. These are
permanent Deputy PM Nguyen Sinh Hung; Deputy PM Pham Gia Khiem, who
will double as Foreign Minister; and Deputy PM Truong Vinh Trong,
who will continue to preside over the GVN's Anti-Corruption Steering
Committee. The newcomers are Deputy PM Hoang Trung Hai, who will be
in charge of economic affairs; and Deputy PM Nguyen Thien Nhan, who
will be responsible for cultural and social affairs and double as
minister of education and training. Hung, Khiem and Trong are
Politburo members, and are not known to be beholden to Dzung.
Newcomer Hai -- at 48 -- will be Vietnam's youngest ever deputy
premier. Nhan is a former Fulbright scholar and is regarded by many
inside and outside the government as one of the most forward
thinking and competent of the new team. These two are presumed to
owe their positions to Dzung, which is sparking some of the current
analysis that Dzung has strengthened his hand.

Changes Draw Mixed Reaction

HANOI 00001360 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) NA Deputy Director Dzung and NA Vice Chairman Dzung praised
the new cabinet line-up. Deputy Director Dzung said that adding two
deputy prime ministers will help PM Dzung focus more on "strategic
issues." In the past, the GVN had five deputy prime ministers, so
the addition of two more simply restores this past model, he added.

7. (SBU) A knowledgeable observer at the Supreme People's Court
(SPC) told us July 31 that Truong Hoa Binh, the new SPC Chief
Justice, was a "last-minute choice" imposed on the government by the
Party. Strong pressure from the Politburo-appointed Party Committee
at the National Assembly was brought to bear to replace Nguyen Van
Hien as Chief Justice. Party officials were reportedly angered by
Hien's "reckless comments" last year before the NA which were
critical of the qualifications of new judges being appointed in
Vietnam, this source said. Separately, HCMC contacts point to Binh
as yet another southerner, like Dzung (though a Long An native who
rose through the police ranks), taking up a key position in Hanoi.

8. (SBU) Hien himself was surprised to hear that he was to be
replaced, as top leaders had earlier confirmed that he would be
re-nominated despite his "uncontrolled remarks" about the quality of
judges, according to this source. Another source in the NA's
offices told us that Vietnam's current system puts the SPC Chief
Justice "in the awkward position" of being responsible to the
"common people's demands" and reporting to a Party-led National
Assembly, which is part of the "Party-controlled political system."
The courts, he averred, should be independent. Lack of judicial
independence leads to distrust and contributes to the problem of
repeated appeals of court rulings, he added. The selection of Binh,
who hails from the Ministry of Public Security, as Chief Justice was
a "Party-driven phenomenon," the two sources separately agreed.


9. (SBU) It is impossible to immediately analyze the significance of
these changes for Vietnam's future. There are plenty of old faces,
including a good number who clearly in no way owe allegiance - or
their positions -- to the Prime Minister. A couple of deeply
corrupt and incompetent officials have moved on, others remain.
Nonetheless, observers here are initially scoring this as a step
ahead for PM Dzung. The two new deputy prime ministers owe their
elevation to the Prime Minister, and are expected to be dynamic

10. (SBU) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Ho Chi Minh


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