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Cablegate: Vietnam's Perspectives On December Asean Summits

VZCZCXRO3625
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1315/01 3370753
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 020753Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8793
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH PRIORITY 5333
RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0249

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001315

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM PGOV UNSC EFIN ECON BM VM
SUBJECT: VIETNAM'S PERSPECTIVES ON DECEMBER ASEAN SUMMITS

REF: A) STATE 123211, B) HANOI 1311

HANOI 00001315 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Anxieties about political unrest notwithstanding,
Vietnam considers the December 15-18 ASEAN summits to be among the
most important diplomatic events of the year and will be sending a
large delegation. MFA and think tank contacts confirm that the
global financial crisis will be a major topic of discussion and
highlighted the ASEAN+3 Chiang Mai Initiative as the region's
principle response. Our contacts expressed hope that the ASEAN
Charter will enhance the body's standing with its partners,
rationalize its organizational structure, and streamline
decision-making; however, they stressed that ASEAN will remain
consensus-driven and reluctant to interfere in member states'
internal affairs. "Hectic" negotiations continue on ASEAN's human
rights body, with no consensus yet on its mandate, staffing, and
funding. Burma will not feature highly on the agenda, according to
our contacts, although it will likely be discussed by ARF and
between ASEAN and the United Nations. END SUMMARY.

ANXIETY... MIXED WITH A BIT OF SCHADENFREUDE
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Vietnam considers the December 15-18 ASEAN summits to be
the highlight of its diplomatic calendar, explained MFA ASEAN
Department Director Pham Minh Thu. MFA contacts would not comment
on foreign press reports that Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos had
requested that the meetings be delayed; however, there is clear
concern that political instability in Thailand might disrupt the
events. According to MFA America's Division DDG Le Chi Dung,
Vietnam has arranged to send its 160-person delegation through a
military airfield near Bangkok. Still, amid the concern and
professed sympathy, one could detect a smidgen of delight, thinly
suppressed, at the Thais' predicament. "In the end it's their
problem," shrugged Nguyen Vu Tung of the MFA-affiliated Diplomatic
Academy of Vietnam (DAV). Asked about the Thai government's
capacity to host such a large and complicated gathering, Thu
commented (somewhat elliptically) that ASEAN's theme song -- chosen
this year in a region-wide competition -- was, after all, composed
by a Thai.

NEW ASEAN CHARTER, OLD "ASEAN WAY"
----------------------------------

3. (SBU) Whatever their feelings about the summit itself, our
contacts waxed enthusiastic about the ASEAN charter, which takes
effect December 15, even if the commemoration ceremony itself is
delayed or canceled. Both Tung and Thu highlighted the fact that
under its new charter, ASEAN will enjoy standing as a legal entity.
Previously, an agreement with ASEAN was technically a collection of
ten separate agreements, which could be broken by any party; now,
agreements will be with ASEAN itself. This, Tung argued, will not
only enhance ASEAN's ability to conduct external business, it will
help compel consensus within the Association. Similarly, by
bringing ASEAN's sprawling collection of councils, committees, and
sub-committees under three pillars -- and by subordinating these to
a coordinating council and permanent secretariat in Jakarta -- the
Charter will not only make for a more efficient structure, it will
ensure more streamlined decision-making.

4. (SBU) Our contacts emphasized that ASEAN will remain a
consensus-driven association -- "intergovernmental, not
supranational," as the MFA's Thu put it -- and that decision-making
will continue to be based on consultation. What will change, Tung
noted, is the degree to which the process is institutionalized, with
more regularized channels for persuasion and compromise. And this,
Tung speculated, could make ASEAN as a whole less timid,
particularly on sensitive topics.

FINANCIAL CRISIS: ASEAN AND THE CHIANG MAI INITIAITVE
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) The ongoing global financial turmoil will be a central
topic at the summit meetings, our contacts said; however, the only
concrete measure under discussion is the Chiang Mai Initiative,
formed by the members of ASEAN+3. According to the DAV's Tung,
there have been some proposals to double the Initiative's planned
$80 billion reserve and to refine "modalities" for disbursing
support. Both Thu and Tung confirmed that financial assistance
given under the Chiang Mai Initiative would likely come without
IMF-style conditions.

HUMAN RIGHTS BODY
-----------------

6. (SBU) The Terms of Reference for ASEAN's Human Rights Body are
still being drafted, our contacts insisted. The MFA's Thu denied
any urgency, saying that the aim was simply to have the body up and
running by next year's ASEAN summit. He acknowledged differences

HANOI 00001315 002.2 OF 002


among member states, but declined to characterize them, saying it
was an "internal ASEAN matter." The DAV's Tung was more
forthcoming, describing ongoing negotiations as "hectic." According
to Tung, major differences remain over the body's mandate, staffing,
and funding. Will the body have an investigative/monitoring
function, or will it focus on capacity building; to whom will the
body report; will there be permanent staff; will the body accept
outside funding, and if so, for what purposes? Vigorous discussions
on these and other central questions continue, Tung said, with older
ASEAN members Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines arrayed
against new members Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

BURMA
-----

7. (SBU) Burma will not figure prominently on the agenda, our
contacts contended, though it will almost certainly come up during
the ARF summit and between ASEAN and the UN. Looking a bit farther
ahead, Tung suggested that the streamlined decision-making
procedures that come with the new ASEAN charter might make it more
difficult for Burma to hide behind ASEAN's consensus-driven
conservatism. Thu disagreed, offering Vietnam's standard line on
non-intervention and the ASEAN way. (Note: See ref. B for a more
complete analysis of ASEAN's place in Vietnam's Burma policy. End
note.)

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