Insider view of National Assembly

Published: 24/01/2010 05:00



VietNamNet will provide portraits of the 12th National Assembly deputies through a new column: “Discover Vietnamese Congressmen”. Readers are invited to send questions to them at

Thuyet was born in 1948 in Thai Nguyen, but his hometown is Hanoi. He graduated from the Philology Faculty of Hanoi University in 1969 and received his doctorate from Leningrad National University in the former USSR in 1981.

His accomplishments are impressive. He served as a lecturer at Viet Bac Teacher Training University, is a former Party Secretary and Vice-Chief of Hanoi University for Social Sciences and Humanities. He has guest lectured at Laval University in Canada and Paris 7 University in France. Thuyet was presented the second-class Resistance War Medal and the French Academic Palm Medal.

Additionally, he is also a permanent member of the 11th National Assembly’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment and is currently Vice-Chair of the 12th NA’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children.

VNN: How did you become a congressman?

Nguyen Minh Thuyet: It was out of my thought to become a National Assembly deputy. Frankly, I didn’t prepare for it.

In 2002, before the election of the 11th National Assembly, Prof. Dr. Vu Dinh Cu, NA Vice Chairman cum Chairman of the NA Committee for Science, Technology and Environment wanted to have a full-time expert in the social sciences and humanities. At that time, all nominees for full-time deputies of the NA’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment were experts in the natural sciences and technology.

The NA Standing Committee sent an announcement to introduce me to the 11th NA.

I was very worried because I was inexperienced in the National Assembly’s activities.

The university organized a meeting to introduce me and then the Vietnam Fatherland Front’s negotiation meeting considered my case. The Election Council then presented me to run for election in Lang Son province.

I was astonished in my electoral campaign in Lang Son. I had to present my action plan on local radio stations and in newspapers, plus travel to districts and communes to meet voters.

I had to learn from senior deputies to work out an action plan and persuade electors. Many people warned me about the danger of becoming merely a man of promises. NA deputies must promise to fulfill their duties, but they cannot display impetuousness or have a lack of understanding about their responsibility and power.

VNN: How did you come to join the NA Committee for Science, Technology and Environment?

Thuyet: I was very surprised with the new job. Frankly, it was easier for me to make decisions at the university because I had administrative staff, power and money.

But at the NA, I’m only one cog in a machine of nearly 500 people. A permanent member of an NA committee is a higher position than vice-chief at a university. but I had no staff, no power, no money as a newcomer. Before winning the trust of others through my capability and virtue, I couldn’t do my new job easily.

VNN: How did you deal with such difficulties?

Thuyet: Nearly the entire area covered by the NA’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment is out of my realm of expertise, so I had to learn from other deputies, assistant experts, as well as from facts and books.

I still remembered the first draft bill that I was assigned to check, the Law on Aquaculture. Reading the draft, I only saw some unclear sentences, but the contents seemed accurate. But at a meeting to collect opinions of experts and fishermen, I discovered there were many regulations far from correct and it had to be amended.

My current position at the NA’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children is closer to my area of expertise. As Vice-Chair, I also gain more initiative.

VNN: It is not very easy for NA deputies to quickly integrate into the NA’s environment like you have, especially young deputies. Is this the reason for the lack of professionalism in our Congress?

Thuyet: Normally, the biggest challenge for new NA deputies is expressing their opinion at the NA. But an NA deputy must speak, because the major operation is at the NA meeting.

Speaking in a conference hall in front of nearly 500 deputies, including the highest-ranking officials, plus the press and knowing voter expectations, deputies must overcome great psychological pressures. NA deputies can’t always give up the right of speaking to others to sit back and listen to others because they have been elected to represent the people.

Inexperienced deputies can train themselves gradually. They can speak at groups first, and then at the meeting hall. In the beginning, they can read from papers and then they can speak freely. They can contribute opinions to build bills and then make presentations about social-economic issues or question government officials.

VNN: A leader of the NA Office said that in recent NA session, the press “stimulated” some NA deputies to work more actively. The interaction between the media and NA deputies seems to get stronger. How about you because sharing information with the media means you are under the supervision of the press?

Thuyet: To date, the press has always had a positive influence on the assembly as an important source of information for congressmen and in transmitting representatives’ opinions to the people.

Through the press, an NA deputy can know the hottest issues and the pressure of public opinion. This pressure is great. For example, when a matter emerges but deputies who are experts in that field doesn’t raise their voice, how would they be viewed?

VNN: You have been interviewed by many international news agencies. Is it more complicated than speaking to local media?

Thuyet: The first time I received a phone call from a foreign reporter who asked to interview me. I was quite surprised because I don’t know how they found my mobile number.

If I refuse an interview or answer incompletely, they may think that Vietnamese representatives are not free and that may affect the country’s image. So, I often accept interviews by foreign reporters.

When speaking with foreign reporters via phone, an official must be quick-witted and sharp and the answers must be always correct because we have no chance to proofread their articles.

VNN: What are the interesting aspects of being a congressman compared with being a vice-chief of a university?

Thuyet: Through nearly two NA terms, my understanding has improved significantly. The way I think of issues is broader. The NA is really a school.

The second benefit is the benefit for the common good. Sound opinions of NA deputies are more easily turned into policies than those of common people.

But there are great burdens on NA deputies to overcome themselves and they always feel great responsibility on their shoulders. Honestly, I didn’t feel well if I didn’t contribute anything to an NA session. Moreover, if you are a congressman, you have to preserve your image.

VNN: Is your life better as a congressman?

Thuyet: As an NA deputy, my social relations are broader and I can work more favorably with government agencies.

Some may know how to make use of these relations, but I don’t have that need. My children have grown up and they have had stable jobs, so I don’t depend on anyone for help. The money is quite sufficient for me. Furthermore, I’m easy to satisfy.

VNN: Is there any difference in your income when you are a congressman and a vice chief of university?

Thuyet: The income of congressmen in Indonesia and Cambodia is from $2-4 a month. In Vietnam, NA deputies are paid salaries like ordinary workers. Full-time deputies are paid like government officials, plus responsibility allowances commensurate with their position.

Besides the regular salary, NA deputies are paid an additional basic salary and allowance of 50,000 dong/day during the NA session.

As of this term, the NA allows full-time deputies to use a small amount of money for disadvantaged people in the province they represent. I often use my allowance for the disadvantaged during holidays or after natural calamities.

With their low salary, NA deputies can’t reward advisory experts. Luckily, all experts are enthusiastic supporters of public affairs and they never ask for money.

I will withdraw from the NA in the next term because I will be over 60 at that time. I have to quit to take care of my family and to write. Moreover, there are many young and talented people who are willing to shoulder this great responsibility.

Le Nhung

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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