Wednesday, 03/10/2018 09:12

Former party chief support crucial to Viet Nam joining ASEAN

Late Party General Secretary Do Muoi during his official visit to Thailand in 1993. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Lam

HA NOI — Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Manh Cam revealed a little-known fact about late Party General Secretary Do Muoi: his fervent support was a major factor in Viet Nam’s choice to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Cam, who was the country’s top diplomat at the time, accompanied Council of Ministers Chairman Vo Van Kiet on a number of visits to ASEAN countries in early 1992. Cam was asked to personally deliver ASEAN’s invitation to Do Muoi.

“This is the right time for Viet Nam to join ASEAN, especially when we all share the same aspirations for growth in the region,” Do Muoi said at the time. “Being a member of ASEAN will help compliment our strength and our position on the international stage.”

The motion was approved by the Politburo and Viet Nam became the seventh member of ASEAN in July 1995.

The bloc grew into one of the most prominent international organisations in the world today, with Viet Nam being one of its most active members.

The story was told in a book on the former Party chief by author Dieu An.

While one could argue it was inevitable that Viet Nam would join ASEAN, it required a tremendous amount of political will and the staunch support of Party chief Do Muoi to realise this goal in less than three years.

Do Muoi did not just get lucky. While he was in charge of numerous government offices, he built a reputation as a workaholic. He was often known to work through weekends and rarely took a single vacation day.

Cam knows this better than most. While he was the Vietnamese Ambassador in Moscow, he was often awakened by late night phone calls from Do Muoi.

Do Muoi started his workdays early. “He would call three, four times a week,” Cam said. “And he would call around 2:00 in the morning Moscow time. Because of the time difference, it was 5:00 in the morning in Ha Noi.”

“One time, I gathered my courage and told him it was 2:00 and we just went to bed,” said Cam. “He said he was sorry and that he wasn’t aware of the time zone, and he promised to call later next time.”

Do Muoi kept his promise – for a while. After a week or two his late night calls restarted, and Cam made his peace with losing sleep.

“That’s just how he worked,” said Cam. “It wasn’t even part of his job and he had a mountain of work to do every day.”

Do Muoi was born Nguyen Duy Cong on February 2, 1917 in Dong Phu Village, Thanh Tri District in the outskirts of Ha Noi. He held the office of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Viet Nam from 1991 to 1997 and was Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Viet Nam from 1988 to 1991.

The respected former Party official died at 108 Hospital in Ha Noi on October 1, 2018 at the age of 101. — VNS

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