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07HANOI1313 2007-07-25 17:12:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Hanoi
Cable title:  

MEETING WITH ACTIVIST NGUYEN KHAC TOAN, FOUNDER OF THE

Tags:   PHUM PREL PGOV ELAB ETRD VM 
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1. (SBU) In a July 16, 2007 meeting with Embassy PolOffs, Nguyen
Khac Toan, former journalist and the founder of the International
Labor Union of Vietnam (ILUV), discussed human rights abuses in
Vietnam. ILUV is an outlawed labor union formed by Toan in October
2006 to protect the rights of Vietnamese workers. Toan also works
with the Bloc 8406 democracy movement. In addition to describing
his own case, Toan shared with us stories of other victims of human
rights abuse in Vietnam. Since his release from prison in early
2006, GVN authorities tightly monitor Toan's whereabouts and
communication. End Summary.


GROWING DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT


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






2. (SBU) Embassy PolOffs met with human rights and labor activist
Nguyen Khac Toan at his Hanoi home on July 16, 2007. Toan is
Chairman of the outlawed International Labor Union of Vietnam
(ILUV), formed in 2006, to "protect the legitimate rights of
Vietnamese workers." In the meeting, Toan described the growing
democracy movement in Vietnam, which he characterized as having
started 10 years ago but which has grown dramatically in the last
couple of years. Toan told us over 2,400 people have applied for
membership in Bloc 8406, which is affiliated with the much smaller
ILUV and the Democracy Party of Vietnam (Ref. A). The democracy
movement is spread throughout Vietnam, he said, with several
prominent democracy activists residing in Hanoi. Toan is encouraged
by the "new generation" of democracy activists, naming prominent
house arrestees Nguyen Vu Binh and Dr. Pham Hong Son as among their
number.



3. (SBU) Toan is editor-in-chief of Bloc 8406's underground "Freedom
and Democracy Journal." He has published 10 issues of the journal,
including the most recent edition on June 12, 2007. Toan posts the
journal on the Internet and distributes hard copies for those who do
not have Internet access. The journal's Internet website is blocked
by firewalls, but dissidents routinely circumvent the firewalls to
gain access, Toan reported.


VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES


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






4. (SBU) During the meeting, Toan highlighted for us the number of
protesters that periodically come to Hanoi and gather in Mai Xuan
Thuong Street Park, near an office for public complaints of the
Central Party Committee. Petitioners gather to submit complaints,
often regarding land rights issues, and publicly protest government
policies. Ironically, Toan told us, the authorities who are guilty
of the injustice are usually the same individuals who receive the
complaints. Once petitions are received in Hanoi, most are referred
back to the provinces where they originated, and the petitioners are
then typically called in by police for questioning. Petitioners are
often intimidated and arrested for filing complaints against local
officials. Toan shared reports of entire families being intimidated
and threatened, including having their homes "burned to the ground"
by authorities. Toan explained that most petitioners are too poor
to travel to Hanoi, so their complaints are not heard.



5. (SBU) Since his release from prison, Toan has met with many
victims of social and political injustice and maintains very
thorough documentation on arrests, confiscation of property, and
human rights violations. He shared with us documentation of an
individual who was beaten by public security officers and then had
his furniture taken away. A second report focused on an individual
who was arrested several times after accusing officials of
corruption. During his incarceration, this same individual was
forced to sleep on a concrete floor without clothing for 15 months.


A ROCKY RELATIONSHIP WITH GVN AUTHORITIES


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






6. (SBU) Toan was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2002 but, with
international pressure, was released in January 2006. Toan was then
put on probation for three years under "Decree 53," which mandates

HANOI 00001313 002.2 OF 002


that he report any travel outside of Hanoi. He has been arrested
seven times for violating parole, and each time he is given a verbal
warning that he must report any travel before leaving the city.



7. (SBU) The GVN tightly monitors Toan's activities, and he must
report his activities on a monthly basis to GVN authorities. His
home phone line has been cut four times and he uses about 50
different cell phone SIM cards, he told us. In August 2006, GVN
authorities confiscated nearly 50 kilos of documentation, two cell
phones, and a personal computer from his home. The police
questioned him for 15 consecutive days and threatened him with
imprisonment if he did not stop working to document human rights
cases. During the 2006 APEC Summit, the GVN prohibited all visitors
from meeting with Toan. For three months during the APEC Summit
period, police were stationed outside the front of his house and did
not allow him to leave his home.



8. (SBU) The government continues to monitor closely Toan's cyber
activity. He subscribed for home internet service and was connected
for 12 days before being cut off. Toan normally uses internet cafes
to post articles, and he added that in the last couple of months,
cafe owners have not asked him to show his ID in order to log-on, as
regulations require. Nonetheless, he uses internet cafes farther
from his home, he told us, "to be on the safe side."



9. (SBU) Ending the meeting, Toan became emotional and stated that
he suffers from diabetes, spine and other physical ailments but that
his own government will "not allow him to be issued a visa" in order
to seek medical treatment abroad.



10. (SBU) Comment: While we do not doubt Toan's reports of
retribution suffered by some petitioners bringing their grievances
to Hanoi, such protests also play an important role in limiting the
worst abuses of local officials in this non-representative,
authoritarian, often corrupt system. In theory, Central leaders
actually encourage whistle blowers. Knowing that citizens who are
"pushed too far" might take to the streets of the capital does, in
some cases, constrain the actions of local officials. Occasionally,
a case is publicized and local officials are punished. In fact,
while this "safety valve" exists, petitioners also run the risk, as
Toan described, of ending up back in the clutches of their abusers.
The only long-term solution is a transparent rule-of-law approach,
rather than a system that allows officials to pick and choose which
petitions serve their purposes.

MARINE