US embassy cable - 00HANOI2441

VIETNAM -- PEASANT DEMONSTRATIONS AT PARTY HQ SYMBOLIZE CONTINUING DISPUTES OVER USE DECISIONS AND COMPENSATION

Identifier: 00HANOI2441
Wikileaks: View 00HANOI2441 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Hanoi
Created: 2000-11-06 09:56:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV PHUM KDEM SOCI EAGR VM DPOL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


2000HANOI02441 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ2151

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ACTION EAP-00   

INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AID-00   AMAD-00  A-00     CA-02    CCO-00   
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      DS-00    EB-00    ED-01    EUR-00   FBIE-00  UTED-00  FBO-01   
      VC-00    HHS-01   H-01     SSA-01   TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    
      LAB-01   L-00     VCE-00   MOFM-04  MOF-03   M-00     AC-01    
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      PRM-01   DRL-02   G-00     NFAT-00  SAS-00     /027W
                  ------------------9B3D0D  061011Z /38    
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1252
INFO ASEAN COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY BEIJING 
AMEMBASSY SEOUL 
AMEMBASSY TOKYO 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 
SECDEF WASHDC
NSC WASHDC
CDR JTF-FA HONOLULU HI
DIA WASHDC
JICPAC HONOLULU HI
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
USDA WASHDC

                       UNCLASSIFIED    

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HANOI 002441 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE ALSO FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL AND INR/B 
STATE FOR USAID 
USDA FOR FAS/FAA 
SECDEF ALSO FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN 
NSC FOR GENE CHRISTY 
CINCPAC ALSO FOR FPA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, KDEM, SOCI, EAGR, VM, DPOL 
SUBJECT: VIETNAM -- PEASANT DEMONSTRATIONS AT PARTY HQ SYMBOLIZE CONTINUING DISPUTES OVER USE DECISIONS AND COMPENSATION 
 
REFS: (A) FBIS SEP200010030000071 
      (B) HCMC  1526 
      (C) HANOI 0496 
 
1. SUMMARY:  IN A RECENT PROTEST AGAINST UNRESOLVED 
LAND DISPUTES, 100 FARMERS FROM THREE PROVINCES CAMPED 
OUT OVERNIGHT IN FRONT OF PARTY HEADQUARTERS AND THE 
PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE IN HANOI.  THEIR DEMONSTRATION, 
WHICH RECEIVED CONSIDERABLE ATTENTION IN THE VIETNAMESE 
MEDIA, WAS ONE MORE SIGN THAT THE NEW COMPLAINTS LAW 
MECHANISM AND "GRASS ROOTS DEMOCRACY" PROGRAMS ENACTED 
TO COPE WITH RURAL LAND DISPUTES AND CORRUPTION ISSUES 
IN THE WAKE OF THE 1997 THAI BINH INCIDENTS HAVE NOT 
BEEN ENTIRELY SUCCESSFUL.  IN RECENT MONTHS, THE GVN 
HAS SENT HIGH LEVEL WORKING GROUPS TO SPEED UP 
RESOLUTION OF DISPUTES IN NUMEROUS PROVINCES. 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  02441  01 OF 04  061011Z 
VIETNAMESE MEDIA HAVE BEEN DEVOTING INCREASING 
ATTENTION TO THE PROBLEM.  BUT THE WORKING GROUPS 
APPEAR NOT TO HAVE FULLY SATISFIED PEASANT DEMANDS. 
MOREOVER, THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DOES NOT SEEM LIKELY TO 
PASS NEEDED AMENDMENTS TO THE COMPLAINTS LAW BEFORE 
NEXT YEAR'S PARTY CONGRESS AT THE EARLIEST.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
FARMERS CAMP OUT AT PARTY HEADQUARTERS 
-------------------------------------- 
 
2. ON OCTOBER 18, A GROUP OF ABOUT 100 FARMERS FROM THE 
PROVINCES OF NAM DINH, THAI BINH, AND QUANG NINH SET UP 
TENTS OUTSIDE COMMUNIST PARTY OF VIETNAM (CPV) 
HEADQUARTERS AND THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER. 
FRUSTRATED BY GOVERNMENT FAILURE TO RESOLVE TO THEIR 
SATISFACTION COMPLAINTS OVER LAND DISPUTES, THE FARMERS 
WERE DEMONSTRATING AGAINST CORRUPT LOCAL OFFICIALS WHO 
THEY BELIEVE ARE AT FAULT.  RESPONDING TO A REPORTER'S 
QUESTION ABOUT THE CAMP OUT, MFA SPOKESPERSON PHAN THUY 
THANH SAID THE PROTEST TOOK PLACE AFTER LOCAL 
INSPECTION TEAMS HAD ALREADY REVIEWED THE FARMERS' 
COMPLAINTS AND PROPOSED DISCIPLINARY MEASURES AGAINST 
THE LOCAL OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE. THE NEXT DAY, AFTER 
THE GVN HAD (IN THANH'S WORDS) "PROMPTLY INSTRUCTED 
COMPETENT BODIES TO TAKE CARE OF THE MATTER," THE GROUP 
DISPERSED.  THANH SAID THAT THE STATE INSPECTOR GENERAL 
AND A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE HAD 
BEEN SENT TO MEET WITH THEM. 
 
3.  SIMILARLY, ABOUT 150 PERSONS, COMPRISING SEVEN 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  02441  01 OF 04  061011Z 
SEPARATE GROUPS OF FARMERS FROM MEKONG DELTA PROVINCES 
AND DISTRICTS OF HCMC, HAVE BEEN CAMPED OUT IN FRONT OF 
A GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATIVE AFFAIRS BUILDING THERE FOR 
NEARLY THREE MONTHS.  OFFICIALS HAVE ACCEPTED THEIR 
WRITTEN PETITIONS, BUT IT IS UNCLEAR WHAT TYPE OF 
DIALOGUE, IF ANY, IS TAKING PLACE BETWEEN THESE GROUPS 
OF DEMONSTRATORS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.  POLICE HAVE 
ERECTED BARRICADES TO KEEP THEM OFF THE SIDEWALK 
DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE GOVERNMENT BUILDING, BUT HAVE 
ALLOWED THEM TO REMAIN ON THE SIDEWALK ACROSS THE 
STREET.  THE POLICE HAVE BEEN "POLITE," ACCORDING TO 
ONE OF THE DEMONSTRATORS WHO SPOKE WITH CONGENOFF REF 
B. 
 
THE NEW COMPLAINTS LAW IS NOT WORKING 
------------------------------------- 
 
4. THE PROTEST AND THE PUBLIC ATTENTION IT RECEIVED ARE 
ONE MORE SIGN THAT THE COMPLAINTS LAW AND "GRASSROOTS 
DEMOCRACY" PROGRAMS CREATED AFTER THE 1997 THAI BINH 
DEMONSTRATIONS (REF C) HAVE FAILED TO ADEQUATELY 
ADDRESS RURAL DISCONTENT WITH GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION AND 
INEFFICIENCY.  IN PART, THIS MAY BE BECAUSE PASSAGE OF 
THE LAW RAISED EXPECTATIONS.  SIZEABLE NUMBERS OF 
VIETNAMESE FARMERS TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE COMPLAINTS LAW 
AFTER ITS PASSAGE LAST YEAR TO REPORT CORRUPTION AND 
COMPLAIN ABOUT COMPENSATION ON LAND ISSUES HANDLED BY 
LOCAL OFFICIALS.  THE OCTOBER 18 HANOI DEMONSTRATION 
WAS NOTEWORTHY BECAUSE, UNLIKE SOME PREVIOUS 
DEMONSTRATIONS HERE, FARMERS FROM SEVERAL DIFFERENT 
PROVINCES JOINED FORCES. 
 
A FEARFUL GVN TRIES TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM QUICKLY 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
5.  THE GOVERNMENT'S DECISION TO UILIZE HIGH-LEVEL 
TEAMS LIKELY REFLECTS A CONCERNTHAT LOCAL OFFICIALS 
ARE NOT GOING TO BE IMPARTIL IN REVIEWING THEIR OWN 
LOCAL DECISIONS.  IN SEPEMBER, PRIME MINISTER PHAN VAN 
KHAI SENT FIVE WOKING GROUPS, EACH LED BY A DIFFERENT 
CABINET MEMBER, TO THIRTEEN PROVINCES AND CITIES TO 
ADDRESS LOCAL DISCONTENT, A SIGN OF HOW SERIOUSLY THE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  02441  02 OF 04  061011Z 
GVN TAKES THE ISSUE. THEY WERE SENT TO THE FIFTEEN 
PROVINCES WITH THE LARGEST NUMBER OF UNSETTLED PUBLIC 
COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS CASES.  (REF A).  THIS WAS 
IN ADDITION TO A SPECIAL TASK FORCE FORMED EARLIER IN 
THE YEAR TO DEAL WITH THE GROWING PROBLEM OF 
DEMONSTRATORS GATHERING OUTSIDE THE HOMES OF VIETNAMESE 
LEADERS TO LODGE COMPLAINTS.  ACCORDING TO MASS- 
CIRCULATION CPV-AFFILIATED DAILY "NHAN DAN" ("THE 
PEOPLE") OCTOBER 25, KHAI SUBSEQUENTLY DECIDED TO 
DELEGATE YET ANOTHER INTER-AGENCY WORK GROUP, THIS ONE 
LED BY INDUSTRY MINISTER DANG VU CHU, TO SPEED UP THE 
SETTLEMENT OF PUBLIC COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS IN 
THREE MEKONG DELTA PROVINCES. 
 
6.  THESE VARIOUS WORKING GROUPS SEEM TO HAVE BEEN 
GRANTED MAJOR DECISION-MAKING POWERS.  VICE DIRECTOR OF 
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE LE NGOC TOAN QUOTED PARTY 
CHIEF LE KHA PHIEU SEPTEMBER 6 AS SAYING THAT HEADS OF 
THE WORKING GROUPS COULD MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE 
PRIME MINISTER TO TEMPORARILY WITHDRAW PROVINCIAL 
LEADERS FROM THEIR POSTS.  ACCORDING TO STATE GENERAL 
INSPECTOR TA HUU THANH, THE HEADS OF THE WORKING GROUPS 
HAVE THE FINAL SAY IN CASE DISCREPANCIES ARISING 
BETWEEN THEM AND THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES DURING THEIR 
REVIEW. 
 
7.  A SIDE EFFECT OF THE HIGH LEVEL WORKING GROUPS IS 
THAT SOME LOCAL POPULATIONS LOOK TO THEM FOR DECISIONS 
WHICH WOULD ORDINARILY BE MADE BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES. 
SOME NATIONAL LEVEL LEADERS SEE THIS AS A PROBLEM. 
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY VICE CHAIRMAN MAI PHUC LAM HAS SAID 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  02441  02 OF 04  061011Z 
THAT "MANY PEOPLE THINK THAT THE GOVERNMENT'S WORKING 
GROUPS CAN REPLACE LOCAL AUTHORITIES IN DEALING WITH 
DENUNCIATIONS AND COMPLAINTS TO SOLVE EVERY PROBLEM. 
THIS WILL CREATE A PRECEDENT SO THAT PEOPLE WILL 
CONTINUE TO SUBMIT THEIR COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS 
TO THE PARTY AND THE GOVERNMENT WHENEVER THEY ARE NOT 
SATISFIED WITH THE SOLUTIONS OF THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES." 
HEALTH MINISTER DO NGUYEN PHUONG, WHO HEADS ONE OF THE 
WORKING GROUPS, NOTED THAT "IN ALL THE PROVINCES OUR 
GROUP HAS WORKED IN, PEOPLE NOW EXPECT THE GOVERNMENT 
TO SEND SPECIAL WORKING GROUPS ONCE A YEAR."  OBVIOUSLY 
THESE NATIONAL OFFICIALS BELIEVE THE LOCAL SYSTEMS NEED 
TO BE STRENGTHENED TO GIVE THE PEOPLE CONFIDENCE IN 
DECISIONS AT THAT LEVEL. 
 
WORKING GROUPS GET RESULTS IN THE SOUTH 
--------------------------------------- 
 
8.  THE INCREASED NATIONAL ATTENTION THE GVN IS 
DEVOTING TO THE ISSUE OF LOCAL LEVEL CORRUPTION AND 
MISMANAGEMENT HAS GOTTEN SOME RESULTS.  HCMC PEOPLE'S 
COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN VO VIET THANH OCTOBER 24 TOOK THE 
HIGHLY UNUSUAL STEP OF MAKING A PUBLIC APOLOGY TO 
FORMER RESIDENTS OF TWO MUNICIPAL DISTRICTS.  HE SAID 
AUTHORITIES IN THESE TWO DISTRICTS HAD BEEN WRONG IN 
THE PAST TO INAPPROPRIATELY CLEAR LAND AND PROVIDE 
INADEQUATE COMPENSATION.  THANH PROMISED THAT 
APPROPRIATE COMPENSATION WOULD BE GIVEN TO THOSE 
AFFECTED AND THAT OFFENDING OFFICIALS WOULD BE 
DISCIPLINED.  HE ALSO SAID HE WOULD SUBMIT HIS 
RESIGNATION IF THE COMPLAINTS WERE NOT SETTLED BY THE 
END OF NOVEMBER. HCMC AND SOUTHERN PROVINCIAL 
NEWSPAPERS HAVE ALSO COVERED THE WORK OF THE WORKING 
GROUPS WITH INTEREST. ON OCTOBER 31, STATE GENERAL 
INSPECTOR THANH RECOMMENDED THE HEAD OF BA RIA-VUNG TAU 
PROVINCIAL PEOPLE'S PROCURACY BE REMOVED FROM OFFICE 
BECAUSE OF INAPPROPRIATE LAND CLEARANCE ACTIVITIES HE 
PRESIDED OVER IN HIS FORMER POSITION OF DISTRICT 
PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN. THE NOVEMBER 1 EDITION OF 
HCMC-BASED "THANH NHIEN" ("YOUTH") DAILY REPORTED IN 
DETAIL THE SUB-WORKING GROUPS ACTIVITIES LEADING TO 
THIS RECOMMENDATION. 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  02441  03 OF 04  061011Z 
 
NEWSPAPERS VENTURING TO COMMENT 
------------------------------- 
 
9.  VIETNAMESE MEDIA HAVE PROVIDED SIGNIFICANT COVERAGE 
TO THE FACTS SURROUNDING RECENT DISCONTENT WITHOUT 
EDITORIAL COMMENT.  HANOI'S "LAO DONG" ("LABOR") AND 
HCMC "TUOI TRE" ("YOUTH") HAVE BEEN IN THE FOREFRONT, 
CARRYING INTERVIEWS WITH DEPUTY PM NGUYEN CONG TAN, WHO 
OVERSEES THE WORKING GROUPS, AND STATE INSPECTOR 
GENERAL THANH. 
 
10.  TAN TOLD "LAO DONG" OCTOBER 13 THAT "THE CURRENT 
SITUATION REGARDING THE LARGE NUMBER OF NEW AND 
UNSETTLED CASES OF SERIOUS PUBLIC COMPLAINTS AND 
DENUNCIATIONS IS UNACCEPTABLE."  THE PROBLEM HAS 
EXISTED FOR SOME TIME, HE SAID, ANGERING THE COMMON 
PEOPLE.  "IF IT CONTINUES, IT COULD SPREAD TO OTHER 
SOUND ACTIVITIES OF SOCIETY".  TAN ALSO SAID THAT MOST 
OF THE PUBLIC COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS ARE IN THE 
FIELD OF LAND AND HOUSING MANAGEMENT, INCLUDING 
COMPENSATION FOR LAND CLEARANCE. 
 
NEW LAWS ALONE ARE NOT SUFFICIENT 
--------------------------------- 
 
11.  VIETNAMESE OBSERVERS SPECULATE THAT THE REASON FOR 
THE GROWING NUMBER OF PUBLIC COMPLAINTS AND 
DENUNCIATIONS IS THE CONTINUING LACK OF AN EFFICIENT 
MECHANISM FOR HANDLING THEM.  AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL, 
THERE IS A TENDENCY FOR PUBLIC COMPLAINTS, ESPECIALLY 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  02441  03 OF 04  061011Z 
THOSE REGARDING LAND DISPUTES AND CORRUPTION, TO BE 
DEALT WITH "DISCREETLY," ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS, 
RATHER THAN OUT IN THE OPEN.  THIS HAS LEFT LOCAL 
RESIDENTS ANGRY OVER WHAT THEY SEE AS A LACK OF 
TRANSPARENCY.  THEY CHARGE THAT LOCAL OFFICIALS OFTEN 
CHOOSE QUIETLY TO SUPPRESS COMPLAINTS RATHER THAN 
OPENLY DISCUSS THE CONCERNS OF COMPLAINANTS. 
 
12.  THE COMPLAINTS LAW CALLS FOR EXPEDITIOUS HANDLING 
OF COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS WITH AUTOMATIC TIME 
LIMITS WITHIN WHICH LOCAL OFFICIALS MUST TAKE ACTION. 
DISSATISFIED FARMERS AND OTHERS CHARGE THAT LOCAL 
AUTHORITIES AND THEIR HIGH-LEVEL SUPERIORS TEND TO 
CIRCUMVENT THIS REQUIREMENT FOR TIMELY ADJUDICATIONS BY 
HAVING HIGH-LEVEL OFFICIALS REFER COMPLAINTS BACK TO 
LOCAL AUTHORITIES FOR MORE INFORMATION.  THEY SAY THAT 
IT IS ALL A BUREAUCRATIC SHELL GAME WHOSE OBJECTIVE IS 
TO KEEP THE COMPLAINTS OUT OF SIGHT AND OUT OF MIND 
INDEFINITELY.  THE RESULT HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT 
INCREASE IN PUBLIC DISTRUST. 
 
FLAWS IN THE EXISTING LAW UNLIKELY TO BE AMENDED 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
13. ONE MAJOR FLAW IN THE MUCH-DEBATED LAW ON 
COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS, ADOPTED BY THE NATIONAL 
ASSEMBLY NOVEMBER 23, 1998, IS THAT IT DOES NOT ALLOW 
ANONYMOUS PLAINTIFFS.  AT THE TIME, THE MEMBER OF THE 
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY STANDING COMMITTEE WHO IS CHARGED 
WITH HANDLING THE COMPLAINTS ISSUE, NGUYEN THI HOAI 
THU, A PROMINENT NATIONAL VOICE FOR ENACTMENT OF THE 
LAW, PUT THE BEST FACE ON THINGS PUBLICLY.  SHE TOLD AN 
INTERVIEWER FOR "TUOI TRE" THAT DESPITE ITS 
SHORTCOMINGS, THE NEW LAW "RAISES PEOPLE'S HOPES, 
ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE EVER-INCREASING NUMBER OF PUBLIC 
COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS, WHICH REPRESENTS A 
GENUINELY SERIOUS PROBLEM FOR THE COUNTRY."  THU HAS 
PUSHED FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF A PERMANENT ASSEMBLY 
COMMITTEE ON COMPLAINTS AND DENUNCIATIONS SINCE 1997, 
BUT DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOREIGN 
AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT NGUYEN CHI DUNG TOLD US THAT "HER 
CURRENT PROPOSAL IS LIKELY TO DIE A PREMATURE DEATH." 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  02441  04 OF 04  061011Z 
OPPONENTS, HE SAID, WILL SUPPORT THE BILL IN PRINCIPLE 
BUT CITE FINANCIAL REASONS TO OPPOSE PASSAGE AT THE 
MOMENT. 
 
14. COMMENT:  SINCE THE COMPLAINTS LAW WENT INTO EFFECT 
IN JANUARY 1999, NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED IN THE WAY LOCAL 
GVN AND CPV OFFICIALS HANDLE DISPUTES.  THE OLD 
PROBLEMS OF GRASSROOTS CORRUPTION AND INEFFICIENCY 
PERSIST.  IF TEETH ARE NOT ADDED TO ENFORCEMENT OF THE 
LAW, THERE WILL BE AN INCREASING LEVEL OF DISCONTENT 
AMONG PEASANTS, JUST WHAT THE CPV AND GVN MOST FEAR. 
VIETNAM'S LEADERS HAVE YET TO MAKE MUCH PROGRESS ON 
THIS OR RELATED REFORMS, INCLUDING SUCH ADMINISTRATIVE 
REFORMS AS STREAMLINING THE OPERATIONS OF COURTS AND 
THE NATIONAL PROSECUTORIAL APPARATUS.  BUT WITH 
PROVINCIAL AND NATIONAL PARTY CONGRESSES ABOUT TO 
BEGIN, AND A MOOD OF UNCERTAINTY AT ALL LEVELS OF 
GOVERNMENT, WE EXPECT FEW DRAMATIC ADVANCES IN THE NEAR 
FUTURE. SENDING OUT WORKING GROUPS SEEMS A STOPGAP 
MEASURE WHICH EVEN NATIONAL LEADERS SEE AS DISRUPTIVE 
TO THE IDEA OF CREATING A RESPONSIBLE AND RESPONSIVE 
LOCAL SYSTEM.  WE EXPECT THEM TO DO LITTLE MORE THAN 
PUT A LID ON IN SOME AREAS MOST AFFECTED BY DISCONTENT. 
 
PETERSON 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 


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