At TPP, Vietnam, developing nations come under US onslaught on affordable cancer treatments

Below is a repost of an article that originally appeared on 23 October in Thanh Nien News and was picked up by  There are basically two sides in this debate:  1) those who support profit over people; and 2) those who support people over profit.  Unlike most things in life, it’s really that simple.  Whose side are you on?  Affordable medicine is a human right.  MAA

Vietnamese cancer patients, many of whom have succumbed to the disease due to high drug prices, are likely to pay even more if their country falls prey to a US-led attack aimed at handing out largesse to American Big Pharma in a regional free-trade pact, critics say.

A man holds a placard as he takes part in a protest against Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks outside the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan in April 2014. Photo credit: Bloomberg
A man holds a placard as he takes part in a protest against Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks outside the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan in April 2014. Photo credit: Bloomberg

The US, which has already sought to hand stronger monopolies to the drug industry in the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), continues to push for measures that would significantly constrain affordable access to life-saving drugs, according to a document released October 16 by WikiLeaks.

Health activists said this move threatens access to affordable cancer treatments, particularly in developing countries like Vietnam, where the average person earns less than $15 a day.

“One of the most frightening revelations in the text is a proposal to monopolize new cancer treatments for up to 12 years, which would price many people out of access,” Peter Maybarduk, director of US-based Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines program, told Thanh Nien News.

“It’s an unfortunate and deadly capitulation to the pharmaceutical giants,” Maybarduk said.

According to what WikiLeaks said in May 2014 was the latest draft text of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP, the US Trade Representative proposed a long automatic monopoly period (marketing exclusivity) for biologic drugs, which are the latest and most effective treatments for cancer, health activists said after reviewing the leaked document.

“The text reveals that the US is still insisting upon extension of data exclusivity for 8-12 years on biologic drugs,” Patricia Ranald, coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, said.

“Pharmaceutical companies already have the right to charge monopoly prices on patented medicines for 20 years, so this will delay cheaper generic versions of these medicines for even longer.”

According to another Wikileaks document leaked in November 2013, a raft of US-proposed provisions would extend and strengthen existing monopolies on medicines, and restrict the ability of governments to exercise safeguards and flexibilities to protect public health and ensure affordable drug prices, the activists said.

They would also delay market entry of generic equivalents of patented medicines, which would raise the cost of medicines and thereby increase private and public spending on them.

According to the leaked text, the US is also pushing for 20-year patent protection in certain areas related to public health such as therapeutic, surgical, and diagnostic methods, which are not provided under World Trade Organization rules.

Health activists said making the regional intellectual property rules tougher could prevent other countries like India, which is not part of the TPP negotiations, from continuing as a generic supplier to low- and middle-income countries.

Such provisions have pitted the US against most of the other negotiating countries, except for its closest allies, the leaked document showed.

When the intellectual property chapter was first leaked in November of last year, it showed that Australia closely aligned with the US throughout the text. But according to the May 2014 document, the US has got, in a move that comes as no surprise, a different closest ally: Japan.

“Multinationals are pulling the strings for almost all legislation in the US and Big Pharma has perhaps the most control,” Dennis McCornac, a professor of economics at Loyola University in Baltimore (Maryland), said.

“Japan also has a developed and important pharmaceutical industry which will also benefit from the TPP proposals,” McCornac said.

“I know Japan will fight against the US if Japan would get hurt, but the government in Japan is now very conservative and aligns with the multinationals and want to be on good terms with the US as the US is a good ally against China.”

Patients wait for health check at the Tumor Hospital, a major cancer treatment facility in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thanh Tung
Patients wait for health check at the Tumor Hospital, a major cancer treatment facility in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thanh Tung


 Cancer concerns

Many in the pro-TPP camp see the pact as key to ensuring the US will continue to write the rules for trade in the Asia-Pacific region and stay central to the global economy at a time when many are organizing their manufacturing, agriculture, and service sectors around China.

Its proponents say the TPP would create a free-trade zone from Australia to Peru with $28 trillion in economic output, or 39 percent of the global total, according to a recent Bloomberg report. The countries in the pact are the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

But the TPP comes at a bad time since Vietnam is struggling to deal with rising cases of cancer among its population of 90 million.

At a conference on October 18, health experts said the number of patients contracting certain types of cancers have doubled or even quadrupled over the past decade. Cancer patients are also getting increasingly younger, they added.

Vietnam records around 150,000 new cases of cancer annually, more than half of them fatal, according to figures released by the World Health Organization. At least 50 percent fail to seek timely treatment, many simply because they cannot afford it.

But Nguyen Chan Hung, a prominent doctor who chairs the Vietnam Cancer Society, disputed the WHO figures on cancer cases in Vietnam.

“According to my calculation, there are up to 85,000 cancer-caused fatalities every year in Vietnam,” Hung told Thanh Nien News.

India-ed out of the job

To make matters worse, health activists say the US government and its Big Pharma continue to put relentless pressure on access to affordable measures outside of the TPP negotiations.

India, considered the “pharmacy of the developing world”, has amended its patent laws to dovetail with WTO provisions, but has taken advantage of flexibilities within the WTO framework to protect its domestic generic drug industry and keep drug prices low for its people, many of whom continue to live in poverty, according to an article in October by Truthout, a nonprofit that provides news and commentary on a daily basis.

The article revealed this month that aggressive lobbying by pharmaceutical interests pushed the US Congress and White House into mounting pressure on India to change its patent laws.

In just the last two years the US has twice placed India on its Special 301 priority watch list for not meeting US intellectual property (IP) standards. The US Congress has also ordered two successful inquiries against India at the US International Trade Commission.

The White House has also exerted direct pressure, sending Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden to India to seek modification of its IP regime and also setting up a US-India IP working group that “put the US fox in the India chicken coop,” according to Brook Baker, an expert at the US-based Health Global Access Project (GAP).

“Since India is a major exporter of generic medicines of assured quality, including for HIV/AIDS where it supplies 90 percent of the global supply in low- and middle-income countries, attacks on India are attacks on patients in other countries,” Baker said.

The latest push from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an influential drug industry lobbying group, and its allies came in late September, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first visit to the US to meet with President Obama and prominent business leaders, according to Truthout.

It is unclear if mounting pressure from the US is having an impact on Modi, who, as PhRMA is quick to point out, has declared India “open for business”, the Truthout article said.

But Modi was quoted by India’s Economic Times as saying: “I understand that you want to be compensated for your investments in [research and development]. At the same time, India needs medicines that are affordable for its population.”

The US Trade Representative has maintained there is a need for tough patent standards to “incentivize” drug companies to keep innovating.

Unsurprisingly, US pharmaceutical giants back this view, saying the American patent regime fosters useful medical innovation.

“As all of us around the world face the persistent problems of disease, poverty, natural disaster, and other challenges, we all need India and it’s 1.3 billion people to fully develop their latent capacity for innovation – and not only India, but Vietnam, too,” Patrick Kilbride, executive director for International IP Policy at the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, said.

But activists rejected this, holding up plenty of data that suggest otherwise.

“There is growing evidence the US IP-based incentive system for pharmaceutical innovation is broken. Fewer truly new and therapeutically important medicines are being invented as drug companies instead try to game the patent system to extend patent monopolies on existing medicines,” Baker said.

A 2008 research paper titled “The Cost of Pushing Pills: A New Estimate of Pharmaceutical Promotion Expenditures in the United States” confirmed that pharmaceuticals spend about twice as much money marketing their drugs as they do on researching and developing them.

Much of the research pharmaceutical companies do is simply not relevant to public health concerns, a Huffington Post report said in 2011. Money pours into research to reverse hair loss, for instance, while funding for diseases that mainly affect the poor, like tuberculosis, is in perpetual short supply, it said scathingly.

Pharmaceutical insiders bristle at such allegations.

“Critics will continue to say what they want, but the fact is most of the research and development for new medicines is completed by pharmaceutical companies,” Mark Grayson, a PhRMA spokesman, said.

“If you wish to have new medicines you need to have an environment that recognizes the importance of innovation,” he said.

‘Irresponsible public policy’

Some of the more controversial issues related to access to medicines await higher-level discussions this month.

TPP negotiators have sat down again in Australia since October 19 with a ministerial-level meeting following on October 25-27. US President Barack Obama seeks a final announcement on the TPP on November 11, when he will be with other TPP country heads of state in China at a regional summit.

Though Vietnam has objected to the US demands on medicine prices, by and large ranking Vietnamese officials in Hanoi have expressed high hopes for the TPP, which some believe will provide leverage against China’s outsized economic influence.

“The government has continued to push for negotiations on both multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements,” Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the National Assembly, Vietnam’s legislature, at its opening session Monday.

At a meeting with US Trade Representative Michael Froman in Hanoi Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh also exhibited Vietnam’s determination to conclude the pact successfully.

In Vietnam, claims of the TPP’s benefits have overshadowed its negative ramifications though the texts and contents of the pact remain shrouded in secrecy.

People in Vietnam and Tunisia — 95 percent — had the most positive view of the benefits of growing trade among 44 countries covered by a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. On the contrary, citizens in two countries participating in the TPP negotiations show little enthusiasm for it: the US, the world’s second-biggest trading country, was fourth from last and Japan, eighth.

Truong Dinh Tuyen, a former trade minister who has advised the government on negotiations for entry into the WTO and now the TPP, has showed up to a number of economic forums trying to sell the benefits of joining the TPP, saying it would play a crucial role in restructuring the economy.

But he declined to speak to Thanh Nien News over phone.

“Don’t waste your time calling me again,” he said before hanging up brusquely.

Even Hung, the leading Vietnamese cancer expert, declined to comment about medicine prices under the TPP, citing “lack of information” about the issue.

The activists said that at the end of the day of all the TPP negotiating countries Vietnam has the lowest per capita income and thus faces the greatest development challenges. Oxfam, an international anti-poverty group, said thousands more Vietnamese could be pushed into poverty since they would have to choose between medicines and other basic necessities.

“Although Vietnam is developing rapidly, its economic development is primarily benefiting elites and select sectors,” GAP’s Baker said.

“Adopting heightened intellectual property burdens to gain temporary, short-term trade advantages for certain selectors is irresponsible public policy and goes against social solidarity for current and future generations.”

Source: Thanh Nien News

Link to article

BONUS:  Press Release – Updated Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – IP Chapter (second publication) (on 2014-10-16)

Below is an excerpt from a Wikileaks document mention in the article.  Click here to read the press release and scroll to the bottom to find the link that will take you to the full secret TPP treaty IP Chapter from May 2014. 

WikiLeaks_TPP_IP2_cartoonThe 77-page, 30,000-word document is a working document from the negotiations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, dated 16 May 2014, and includes negotiator’s notes and all country positions from that period in bracketed text. Although there have been a couple of additional rounds of talks since this text, little has changed in them and it is clear that the negotiations are stalling and that the issues raised in this document will be very much on the table in Australia this month.

The last time the public got access to the TPP IP Chapter draft text was in November 2013 when WikiLeaks published the 30 August 2013 bracketed text. Since that point, some controversial and damaging areas have had little change; issues surrounding digital rights have moved little. However, there are significant industry-favouring additions within the areas of pharmaceuticals and patents. These additions are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto.

Winning the Hearts & Minds of Young Vietnamese

Note:  If you’re an employee of the US State Department, do not pass go, do not collect $200, close this tab immediately.  This post contains a “sensitive” Wikileaks cable that originated in the US Embassy-Hanoi and commentary on the same.  If you read it, you are breaking the law, not to mention disobeying  Madam Secretary. 

Please pardon the use of this nasty wartime slogan but it is so apropos.  This post and the Wikileaks diplomatic cable on which it’s based are about the US Mission’s charm offensive and the use of educational outreach activities designed to “win the hearts and minds” of young people here.  Ultimate goal?  To become the most popular kid on the block and to maximize American influence on Vietnam’s educational system and thus on the future shape of Vietnamese society.

The cable below is worth reprinting in its entirety.  The date:  Three years ago today.  The scene: the American Center in the Rose Garden Annex of the US Embassy in Hanoi.  The context: a “wide-ranging discussion” following the airing of the Secretary’s speech on internet freedom.  The underlying assumption of this type of interaction between Embassy officials and young Vietnamese – with the requisite rhetorical questions and predetermined outcomes – is  that the American Way is the Best Way.  On a micro-level it’s yet another example of do as we say, not as we do.

It’s also a crystal clear example of an American Center event as an exercise in soft power and is completely consistent with other outreach activities of the US Mission in Vietnam, albeit more explicitly political.   At many of these events you can be sure that a US Mission staff member is assiduously taking notes, some of which find their way into cables to other missions and Foggy Bottom (i.e., the State Department in Washington, D.C.).

The American Center

What is the American Center? It’s a “free information center providing specialized, accurate and authoritative information and programming on the United States for the Vietnamese public.”  Well, not exactly “authoritative information.”  It is, after all, a component of the USG’s public diplomacy mission – whose goal is to ensure that Vietnamese (and other foreigners) see mainly the good, not the bad and ugly, of America.  (There’s also an American Center in the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.) 

It’s not exactly what Sen. J. William Fulbright had in mind when he proposed the creation of what has become the U.S. government’s flagship scholarship program. Fulbright once said about the objectives of educational exchange: “Its purpose is to acquaint Americans with the world as it is and to acquaint students and scholars from many lands with America as it is–not as we wish it were or as we might wish foreigners to see it, but exactly as it is — which by my reckoning is an ‘image’ of which no American need be ashamed.”  (From the foreword to The Fulbright Program: A History)

Do As We Say, Not as We Do (aka A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?)

Given the US government’s many human rights violations in the post-World War II era, including the years since 9/11 (think torture, extraordinary rendition aka “torture by proxy,” the murder of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, ad nauseum), I find it ironic that a “Human Rights Officer” led the discussion.  It reminds me of the expression “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”  A lot of glass was broken that January afternoon back in 2010.  As a  friend put it. “Where’s America’s moral ground regarding human rights?  Our President has assumed the right to murder anyone anywhere in the world at his whim.  And he’s done it, leaked to the press the ‘kill list’ he keeps in the White House, brags about it.”

Only If We Agree With What They Say

Or, as Peter Van Buren, the State Department whistleblower (and, coincidentally, former head of the Educational information Branch and director of Education USA at the U.S. Department of State) who worked for a year at a forward operating base in Iraq and wrote a book about his experience, put it: ‎”Better, so the message goes, to sip the Kool Aid and keep one’s head down, while praising the courage of Chinese dissidents and Egyptian bloggers. The State Department is all about wanting its words, not its actions, to speak loudest.”  Hy·poc·ri·sy (noun) \hi-ˈpä-krə-sē also hī-\:  a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not.

Mr. Van Buren’s price for becoming a whistleblower?  As he wrote in Left Behind: What We Lost in Iraq and Washington, 2009-2012 “My case also illustrates the crude use of ‘national security’ as a tool within government to silence dissent. State’s Diplomatic Security office, its internal Stasi, monitored my home email and web usage for months, used computer forensics to spelunk for something naughty in my online world, placed me on a Secret Service Threat Watch list, examined my finances, and used hacker tools to vacuum up my droppings around the web — all, by the way, at an unknown cost to the taxpayers. Diplomatic Security even sent an agent around to interview my neighbors, fishing for something to use against me in a full-spectrum deep dive into my life, using the new tools and power available to government not to stop terrorists, but to stop me.”

Or, as Glenn Greenwald put it in a recent article about the detention of Imran Khan, the most popular politician in Pakistan, a vocal critic of US drone strikes and possibly that country’s next prime minister, with party’s supporters   “What makes this most ironic is that the US loves to sermonize to the world about the need for open ideas and political debate. In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured the planet on how ‘those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind.’”

But I digress – sort of.  And now for the main event, the 2010 Wikileaks cable entitled Many Vietnamese Youth Trust Big Brother to Monitor the Internet.  As with many diplomatic cables, this one received wide distribution, including the US Embassy in Beijing, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Rangoon, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, and Vientiane, as well as the US Consulate General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, and Shenyang, in addition to the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C.

Stay tuned for more commentary and analysis about education-related Wikileaks cables from the US Embassy-Hanoi and Consulate General-HCMC in Vietnam.  There aren’t many but they sure are interesting and revealing.


P.S.:  Speaking of free speech, American-style, can you guess, dear reader, how long a link to Peter Van Buren’s blog would last on any US Mission-Vietnam Facebook page?  Or whether his book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People has found an honored place on the shelves of either American Center library?  I thought so…  The “open society” has its limits.


REF: A: STATE 4203; B: 09 HANOI 909


R 270328Z JAN 10


¶1.  (SBU) Summary: During a wide-ranging discussion at the American Center in Hanoi following the airing of the Secretary’s speech on internet freedom (Ref A) several participants parroted the Party line that the internet could be used to spread information that is harmful to Vietnamese society and should therefore be blocked.

Others, however, offered a contrary view, complaining that there is no true freedom of speech in Vietnam. A similar range of views were expressed on the broader topic of the media, with some participants supporting some degree of government censorship in the name of social order and others voicing frustration at the lack of press freedom.  Most participants agreed that censorship of social networking and foreign news sites is wrong and expressed disbelief that the government would read their private e-mail orrespondence.

“The line between freedom and censorship is always moving in Vietnam,” one participant noted. Most participants said they had access to high-speed internet at home and spend an average of 3-5 hours a day online. End Summary.

¶2.  (SBU) On Friday January 22, approximately 40 Vietnamese young people (ranging between the ages 20-30) gathered at the American Center in Hanoi to watch clips from the Secretary’s speech on Internet Freedom and discuss how the topic related specifically to Vietnam. After showing about 30 minutes of the speech, including a number of segments critical of Vietnam, the Embassy’s Human Rights Officer led a discussion about the role of the internet in the lives of Vietnamese youth and what involvement — if any — the government should have in monitoring and censoring its content.

¶3.  (SBU) Expecting the audience to be reserved and hesitant to comment on such a sensitive topic, Poloff began with a series of questions relating to internet access and common web activities.  Most of the audience said that they have high-speed ADSL connections in their homes. Those who don’t rely on internet cafes and their college campuses to go online. The majority of the audience said they have g-mail or yahoo e-mail addresses and spend an average of three to five hours a day online chatting with friends, e-mailing, gaming, catching up on pop culture, and blogging.

¶3.  (SBU) Participants offered various opinions as to why Facebook remained blocked in Vietnam (Ref B). Some blamed “technical difficulties,” while others acknowledged that the government was likely the source of the problem. All participants expressed dissatisfaction with the current situation, and noted that they use work-arounds to maintain their Facebook pages.  The participants were nearly unanimous that they would not to convert from Facebook to locally hosted social networking tools like; many laughed at the prospect. (Note: At the start of the event, there was a small celebration to commemorate the American Center’s Facebook page exceeding the mark of 1,000 fans in just over a month’s time. The speed of reaching 1,000 fans is notable given that the Facebook homepage has remained blocked in Vietnam throughout this time period. End Note.)

¶4.  (SBU) There was a long pause when Poloff asked what type of content should be allowed on the internet. Eventually a young man asserted that politically sensitive content and pornography should be censored, arguing that it is permissible to oppose GVN policies but not specific policymakers. Another participant added that the GVN does not have hard and fast rules on internet censorship, but that every citizen should recognize the impact their online comments could have and should therefore be “constructive.”

HANOI 00000090  002 OF 002

¶5.  (SBU) Another young man offered a dissenting opinion, however, arguing that because the government controls all forms of  media, Vietnam’s citizens don’t have the chance to raise their voices. “I am very frustrated,” he continued, lamenting that “We are all missing out on good opportunities.”  He specifically asked what the U.S. Embassy could do to “improve the situation.” Poloff noted the Department organizes public discussion sessions and also works behind the scenes in meetings such as the annual Human Rights Dialogue with Vietnam to raise its concerns related to free speech.

A third young participant countered that most Vietnamese are easy going and very satisfied with life as provided by the government, which ranks as one of the highest in the world. Vietnam’s government, he insisted — becoming less laid back — does not limit the voice of its people; rather, some people “abuse their rights” and are threats to the government that the government is correct to suppress. Still another participant cautioned that “chaos” would ensue if people were allowed to openly criticize the government.  “Change should happen slowly,” he averred, adding that freedom of speech should be “restricted sometimes.” Another individual commented that the line between censorship and internet freedom is not fixed, insisting with disapproval that it is “OK in the U.S. to slander another person and post pornography on the internet.”

¶6.  (SBU) Poloff pushed the participants on this point, asking whether it was permissible to voice opposition to GVN economic policies and whether the government should be allowed to read personal e-mail or text messages. Most bristled at the idea of the Government blocking news sites and blogs that do not comment on political news and reading their private messages. Many expressed shock when Poloff said that the Government of China routinely blocks internet sites such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and the New York Times. Most participants said that Vietnam should not follow China’s example. Poloff shared the story of leading dissident Dr. Pham Hong Son, who was jailed from 2002 – 2006 for translating and posting online a State Department pamphlet entitled “What is Democracy” from the Embassy’s homepage. Most participants said they had not heard of Dr. Son, and expressed disbelief that he would imprisoned for such an activity.

¶7.  (SBU) Comment: The fact that such a wide-ranging discussion occurred, following the airing of a speech at times critical of the GVN’s actions, is notable in itself. While participants articulated a variety of opinions, all said that they depend on the internet to remain in touch with the larger world.  While several vocal participants proclaimed that they had no problem with the government censoring political content, most expressed apprehension when confronted with more specific questions about the government’s role in censoring news media and personal blogging and rejected as illegitimate the notion that security services could be reading their own e-mails.  Most participants acknowledged the importance of a free media in fighting corruption and environmental degradation. Of the quarter of the participants that offered views, the group appeared evenly divided between those who supported the Secretary’s message and those that argued in defense of Vietnam’s position. To conclude the event, PAS Officer noted that the attendees had just participated in the exercise of free speech and hoped that they would see the benefit of this type of open exchange.



Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2011

People visit my blog for many and varied reasons.  Some arrive here from a search engine while others visit on a regular basis looking for up-to-date information about Vietnam and, in particular, US-Vietnam educational exchange. 

Here are the top ten posts of 2011.  The first one from November 2010 about student visas and US community colleges was by far the most popular and the last, consistent with the expression “last but not least,” is the most-viewed post since the birth of An International Educator in Vietnam in November 2009. 

Sandwiched in between  #1 and #10 are posts that address a range of topics, issues and people from David Shear, the (relatively) new US Ambassador to Vietnam (an excellent choice, by the way), nationally accredited US schools active in Vietnam, most of which are for-profit online universities, and a January 2011 AIESEC Vietnam conference (“Hey, AIESEC!  What’s Up?”) to Wikileaks and Vietnam, Who Am I?/Tôi Là Ai?, the College of Charleston’s Center of Vietnamese Enterprise, Tan Tao University and, one of my personal favorites, where can i buy an accredited overseas phd? 

Most who read the latter post are sorely disappointed because they really are in the market for “an accredited overseas phd.”  Memo to the wannabes, credit cards in hand, who want to buy a Ph.D. and delude themselves into thinking they can join that select group of those who can call themselves “Dr.” (about 1% of the US population): Why not actually pay your dues and earn one the old-fashioned way?  Oh, I forgot – you just want the “prestige” and other goodies associated with having these three letters after your name without having to doing any work or make any sacrifices.  Of course, once someone finds out it’s as fake as a three dollar bill, people will just pity you.  Depending upon your position, you may even end up getting your 15 minutes of fame, or infamy (?) and/or lose your job. 

Back down off of my soapbox…  and now to the list: 

  1. Of Student Visas & Community Colleges 
  2.  Obama Nominates David Shear to Become the Next US Ambassador to Vietnam 
  3. Wikileaks & Vietnam 
  4. Nationally Accredited U.S. Institutions with a Vietnam Connection 
  5. Who Am I?/Tôi Là Ai? 
  6. AIESEC “Developing Leaders” Conference 
  7. College of Charleston Establishes Center of Vietnamese Enterprise
  8.  where can i buy an accredited overseas phd?
  9. Tan Tao University 
  10. US-Based or Affiliated Unaccredited Institutions in Vietnam

Subject: Still Lucid at 97: General Vo Nguyen Giap Talks Education

This is the title of a fascinating diplomatic cable from the US Embassy-Hanoi, about Ambassador Michael Michalak’s 25 April 2008 meeting with the legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap at the latter’s home in Hanoi.   This unclassified document appears on the Wikileaks Cable Viewer website.  It’s one of several devoted to education in Vietnam and US-Vietnam educational exchange.   I expect to see quite a few more.  Note:  The cable was created on 5.5.08 and released on 26.8.11.

Clarification:  While the cable notes that “Giap is the hero of Vietnam’s 1954 victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu,” it’s worth pointing out – for the sake of historical accuracy – that he was also instrumental in the defeat of the US in what the Vietnamese call the “American War.”  I guess the target audience had something to do with this sin of  omission.

Võ Nguyên Giáp celebrated his 100th birthday on 25 August.


R 050947Z MAY 08 ZDK





¶1. (SBU) On April 25, the Ambassador and General Vo Nguyen Giap discussed efforts to increase educational exchanges between the United States and Vietnam.  After imploring the Ambassador to work to bring the overall relationship to an even higher level, Giap echoed the Ambassador’s desire to see more Vietnamese study in the United States.  Giap also pleaded for the Ambassador’s help in getting a U.S. university to open a branch in Vietnam.  While the General repeated himself a few times during the 40 minute conversation, he left no doubt he is a fan of U.S. educational institutions.  Giap is the hero of Vietnam’s 1954 victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu and an icon in Vietnam who has remained somewhat politically active despite his 97 years of age.  End Summary.


¶2. (SBU) On April 25, the Ambassador met Vietnamese national hero and Ho Chi Minh’s chief military strategist, General Vo Nguyen Giap, at the General’s Hanoi home.  Due to his age and frail health, Giap receives visitors only infrequently.  In seeking this meeting with the General, our note underscored the Ambassador’s desire to discuss bilateral educational exchanges.  Giap has been outspoken about the need for reform of Vietnam’s educational system, most recently last year issuing a public letter calling for systemic reform (Reftel).

¶3. (SBU) When the Ambassador and Poloffs arrived, Giap, his wife and son, and a few Party officials were waiting in a living room of the General’s home.  Giap, who did not get up from his seat, was dressed in military uniform.  No press representatives were present.  On the table in front of where the Ambassador and the General sat was a tape player that recorded the conversation — perhaps indicating Party officials still feel compelled, despite Giap’s advanced age, to keep tabs on what the General tells his foreign interlocutors.  (Note: After sidelining Giap, then removing him from the Politburo in 1982, reportedly for his opposition to the invasion of Cambodia, Party rivals continued to monitor the General’s activities and conversations.  End Note.)

We Are Now Friends

¶4. (SBU) The General began by noting that the United States and Vietnam are enjoying peaceful relations, with Vietnam now hosting a fourth post-war American ambassador.  Giap relayed that he met with most of the Ambassador’s predecessors, who “demonstrated goodwill” towards Vietnam.  Giap implored the Ambassador to bring the overall relationship to an even higher level.  He said the GVN has achieved a lot of late and is “trying hard” in all areas.  The Ambassador responded that he shares the General’s desire for better relations and pointed out that he is committed to doubling the number of Vietnamese students who study in the United States.

Zeroing In On Education

¶5. (SBU) The GVN is focused on improving its educational and scientific capabilities so the country can join the ranks of the developed countries, Giap said.  Hanoi has progressed in the education area, but much needs to be done, he added.  The increase
in the number of Vietnamese exports heading to the United States is just an “initial development” in the relationship and economic ties are bound to grow, he offered.  Giap said the most important thing — pointing his finger in the air for emphasis — is the “human element.”  The Communist Party has made improving Vietnam’s educational system its number one priority, he stated.

¶6. (SBU) The United States and Vietnam could talk a lot, but “deeds are more important than words,” the General continued.  He asked that the Ambassador pay special attention to education because what has been done so far to get Vietnamese students to study in America “has not been sufficient.”  Although a large number of Vietnamese students are enrolled at U.S. educational institutions, this is just a start, he added.  He averred that a U.S. university should establish itself in Vietnam. Perhaps it could be a joint U.S.-Vietnamese university, he said.

¶7. (SBU) The Ambassador responded that we have heard that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also wants a U.S. university to set up in Vietnam.  “You must have talked to him about this,” the Ambassador said, which elicited laughter.  The General replied that, from time to time, he does talk to the PM about education issues in Vietnam. Giap added that, on many occasions, he has made public his points on science and education.

Comment: Approaching 100 But Still Lucid

¶8. (SBU) Giap repeated himself a few times during the 40 minute meeting, but spoke with clarity about the importance he attaches to education.  With a doctorate in economics and as a former high school teacher whose daughter and grandchildren have studied at American universities, the General made clear that he sees U.S. educational institutions as important to Vietnam’s future.