Dutch minister presses for transparency in Vietnam
The Netherlands' minister of development aid told an audience at Communist Vietnam's top school for political education on Tuesday that the country should welcome human rights organisations.18 March 2008
HANOI - The Netherlands' minister of development aid told an audience at Communist Vietnam's top school for political education on Tuesday that the country should welcome human rights organisations and independent labour unions as part of its drive for economic development.
"Economics and politics cannot be viewed separately," said Bert Koenders, Dutch minister for development cooperation, in a speech at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy for Politics and Public Administration.
He said an independent judiciary and freedom of expression and association were necessary to ensure the transparency which businesses demand in a modern economy.
Koenders and Dutch Foreign Trade Minister Frank Heemskerk are on a five-day visit to Vietnam, accompanied by representatives of 45 Dutch firms from the agribusiness, water management and medical industries. The Netherlands is the second-largest European investor in Vietnam, with over USD 2 billion in FDI, and two-way trade of USD 1.1 billion last year.
Koenders visited the Ho Chi Minh Academy for the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Institute for Social Studies in The Hague.
Every senior official in Vietnam's Communist Party and government passes through the academy, which is the curator of Vietnam's official ideology, known as Ho Chi Minh Thought. In recent years the school has broadened its scope to include non-Marxist education and research in business, economics, and public administration, often in partnership with Western universities.
Most of Koenders' speech was laudatory, congratulating Vietnam on its rapid economic growth and mildly critiquing its lack of business transparency. In a brief question and answer period, audience members stuck to the less controversial topics.
Professor Le Huu Nghia, director of the Ho Chi Minh Academy, noted appreciatively that Koenders had participated in demonstrations against American intervention in the Vietnam War as a young man. He did not take up Koenders' views on transparency and human rights.
As Koenders noted, Vietnam currently occupies a spot on the United Nations Security Council, and has come under pressure over its policies on international human rights issues such as Burma and Kosovo. These are sensitive topics in Vietnam, which has in the past been accused of human rights violations against its own minority populations in the Central Highlands.
"The application of Ho Chi Minh Thought in reality is different at different times," the academy's Nghia said in an interview after Koenders's speech. "We have to know how to apply it most appropriately with each historical period."
[Copyright dpa 2008]