Sie sind auf Seite 1von 2

Thayer Consultancy

ABN # 65 648 097 123

Background Briefing: Vietnam: Why Was Le Cong Dinh Released? Carlyle A. Thayer February 7, 2013

[client name deleted] It has just been reported that Vietnam as released dissident lawyer Le Dong Dinh from prison. What is your assessment? Is this a signal to the United States? Will Secretary of State John Kerry visit Vietnam, as rumours in Hanoi incidate? ANSWER: According to various Vietnamese media reports high-profile prodemocracy activist Le Cong Dinh was released from prison early because of good behaviour or because his mother was ill. His release comes just before Tet celebrations, a supposedly humanitarian gesture. Vietnams human rights situation has gone from bad to worse since the eleventh national party congress in early 2011. This year alone at least thirty-six persons have been sentenced to prison on trumped up charges of attempting to overthrow the socialist state. All of the individuals concerned espoused non-violent means. Le Cong Dinhs release, as well as that of American Nguyen Quoc Quan last month, appears to go against the tide. The regimes reasons for releasing Messers Dinh and Quan cannot be accepted at face valuye. The decision to afford them somewhat lenient treatment was a political decision. Vietnam has set a priority this year on negotiating strategic partnerships with key countries. In January, it reached a strategic partnership agreement with Italy. Vietnam is currently negotiating strategic partnership agreements with France, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand. Negotiations with the United States stalled over a year ago over the human rights issue. In December last year the US abruptly pulled out of a scheduled annual human rights dialogue. US officials say privately that the US owes Vietnam no favours. The release of Dinh and Quan raise the suspicion that Vietnam is after something from the United States (and perhaps favourable treatment from Europe, the European Union in particular). Perhaps Vietnam wants to kick start talks on the strategic partnership in the hopes of ending the present impasse. In the past Vietnam has lobbied for an ending on restrictions on arms and military technology sales to Vietnam. Vietnam has also pushed for Washington to approve a high-level visit by one of its top leaders. And perhaps Vietnam hopes to curry favour with Secretary of State John Kerry by throwing him a bone to see if he will chew on it.

2 Vietnamese party officials, following bureaucratic routine, are currently reviewing Central Committee resolution no. 8 on the tenth anniversary of its adoption. This resolution ended the binary classification of major powers into states that cooperated with Vietnam (read China) and states that challenged Vietnam (read the United States). Resolution No. 8 opened the door for improved defence relations with the United States. Party officials have commented that the purpose of this review is to bring more balance into Vietnam relations with China and the United States. Party in-fighting explains in large part the motivation behind Vietnams current crackdown on pro-democracy activists. But this has come at a price in relations with the United States. Perhaps the release of Le Cong Dinh and Nguyen Quoc Quan is a straw in the wind suggesting that Vietnam may br more willing to cooperate with Washington in order to address some of its concerns over human rights.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, Vietnam: Why Was Le Cong Dinh Released?, Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, February 7, 2013.