Cablegate: Vietnam Security Minister Promises Coordination On

Published: Thu 21 Oct 2004 10:10 AM
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: Minister of Public Security Le Hong Anh
told the Ambassador October 20 that he is pleased with the
developing U.S.-Vietnam relationship and is "absolutely
committed" to ensuring the safety and security not only of
USG facilities and personnel, but also of Americans
traveling to Vietnam. He noted that when in Vietnam both
foreign visitors and Vietnamese employees of the U.S.
Embassy in Hanoi and Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City
are obligated to follow the laws and regulations of Vietnam
and bear responsibility for violations. Minister Anh agreed
that timely consular notification in cases of arrest or
detention of American citizens is an important issue and
proposed a "working session" between relevant sections of
MPS and the Embassy. Referring to incidents involving
harassment of FSN employees, Anh urged more discussion in
cases in which "things happen that are unexpected or
undesirable." On the subject of law enforcement and
counterterrorism cooperation, Anh said MPS "highly
appreciated" the information the United States had provided
to Vietnam on terrorism and narcotics. He reaffirmed the
right of Montagnard residents of the Central Highlands to
join their relatives in the United States under legal
immigration programs and asked for a list of cases in which
we believed there had been problems obtaining documents.
End Summary.
2. (SBU) The Ambassador called on Minister of Public
Security Le Hong Anh October 20, accompanied by Poloff, RSO
and the acting DEA Country Attache. Anh brought only his
administrative chief of staff and the Director of the
Department of International Cooperation; no one from the
security side or the General Department of Police was
present at the meeting.
3. (SBU) The Ambassador stressed the seriousness with which
he takes his responsibility for the welfare of American
citizens in Vietnam and emphasized that the Embassy and
Consulate General must have timely information about arrests
and detentions of American citizens as well as the ability
to hold frank and private conversations with American
detainees. While taking care to emphasize the importance of
foreign visitors' adhering to Vietnamese law, Anh
acknowledged Vietnam's obligation to provide security for
American citizens in Vietnam and to notify the U.S. Embassy
or Consulate in the event of the arrest or detention of an
American citizen. The issue of notification, he said,
"ought to be dealt with in a working session between
relevant sections of the Ministry and the Embassy." (Note:
Post will follow up on this offer next week. End Note.)
4. (SBU) The Ambassador noted to Minister Anh that some
employees of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and Consulate General
in Ho Chi Minh City had been detained and interrogated by
security personnel despite the fact that they were carrying
out their regular and official duties. In the future, the
Ambassador suggested, if MPS has concerns about the activity
of a USG employee, MPS should raise it directly with the
Embassy or Consulate General. For MPS to pursue these
concerns directly with the employees is "very disturbing,"
the Ambassador said. Anh responded that, while personally
unfamiliar with the cases the Ambassador referred to, he
could think of no reason why USG locally hired employees are
not free to act "if they are not violating regulations or
rules." If there is some reason for an employee to do
something "suspicious," the Embassy or Consulate General
should inform MPS about which employee would be carrying out
which task. "As the hosts of your diplomatic mission," Anh
continued, "the government must create good conditions for
the execution of bilateral relations. If some things happen
that are unexpected or undesirable, we should discuss it."
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5. (SBU) The Ambassador raised the issue of over 250
Montagnard Visas 93 follow-to-join applicants from the
Central Highlands whom we believed had encountered problems
applying for passports and other necessary documents to
complete their applications for permission to come to the
United States. Minister Anh provided a lengthy explanation
of Vietnam's ethnic harmony and (referring to the April 2004
protests in the Central Highlands) noted that "some people
in some countries ignorant of the true situation in the
Central Highlands" had distorted the situation created after
the "recent excitement induced by undesirable people trying
to undermine Vietnam." The Minister said that, for
"eligible" applicants from the Central Highlands, there
should be no difficulty in procuring documents and noted
that Vietnam has extensive experience in cooperating with
the United States on immigration, such as in the
Humanitarian Resettlement Program. To facilitate a GVN
inquiry, he asked the Ambassador to provide the names of
people who had had difficulty in applying for documents.
(Note: Post will work with ConGen Ho Chi Minh City to
compile a list. End Note.)
6. (SBU) The Minister stated that, "on the issue of
counterterrorism, MPS is committed to the fight." He noted
that MPS greatly appreciates the information the USG
provides on terrorism (and on narcotics cases) and said he
hopes in the future to have "cooperation, support and
assistance from the USG in dealing with terrorism."
Minister Anh added that the sandbag-filled shipping
containers the U.S. Embassy uses to provide setback space
from the Chancery "have psychological effects only and are
not effective in preventing terrorist attacks." The
Ambassador replied that the value of additional setback in
limiting damage from vehicle bomb attacks is well
established. In response, Minister Anh said that MPS is
committed to providing "absolute security for American
facilities and personnel." He offered to consult with the
City of Hanoi regarding the possibility of switching to more
attractive and unobtrusive barriers to replace the Embassy's
containers, but warned that, if the City's objections are
due to "planning obstacles" or if the barriers are
considered inconsistent with Hanoi's role as the cultural,
economic and political capital of Vietnam, then there would
be nothing MPS could do.
7. (SBU) The Ambassador stressed that in addition to the
United States providing training and assistance to MPS on
counterterrorism and counternarcotics, the two sides should
be working closely at the operational level. The ability of
law enforcement officers to work directly with each other -
currently prohibited by MPS - is essential to the successful
effort to combat terrorism and transnational crime. "Current
bilateral counternarcotics and counterterrorism activities
are commendable," the Ambassador said, "but we can and
should do better" to achieve more effective cooperation.
Minister Anh pointedly chose not to respond to this point.
8. (SBU) Comment: Minister Anh spoke softly in a southern
accent and looked considerably older than his 55 years.
There is a tendency to minimize Anh's power and influence
and exaggerate the clout of two of his more outgoing
deputies, Nguyen Van Huong (on the security side) and Le The
Tiem (on the police side). This tendency is exacerbated by
the fact that Minister Anh meets foreigners rarely - this
meeting was his first with any American interlocutor in more
than two years. We may, however, be underestimating him:
Anh has made it to the top of a tough organization and has
been an influential member of the Communist Party Central
Committee for eight years.
9. (SBU) Comment, continued: Anh's cautious and diplomatic
comments were within expectations, and in some areas
(notably greater operational-level law enforcement
cooperation, which he did not address at all) we will have
to satisfy ourselves with the fact that our concerns have
now been heard at the top. In other areas, such as the
offer to review the list of Central Highlands Montagnards
who have had trouble with local security forces and the
suggestion of a working-level session on consular
notification procedures, Anh's solution-oriented response
was gratifying. The challenge, as always with MPS, will be
translating policy-level promises into working-level action.
End Comment.
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