40th Annual Business Meeting
Vietnam & Cambodia

President Dennis Choate & Colleen
Hon. Richard Frazee & Elaine
Hon. Malcolm Mackey
Hon. Tom Murphy & Pat
Hon. Maren Nelson & William Hollingsworth
Hon. Burt Pines & Karen
Hon. Robert Soares & Punky
Diane Bowen, Chief Administrative Officer

MONDAY - Hanoi: The group flight arrived in Hanoi in the evening and the group was transferred to the InterContinental Westlake.

TUESDAY - Hanoi: The group met in the morning for a tour of Ha Noi which included a drive around Hoan Kiem Lake, and a cyclo (rickshaw) ride around the Ancient Quarter of 36 Streets District, a densely populated corner of the city that was once the centre of commerce and still a thriving community of sellers today. The street names reflect the merchants who specialize in a particular trade, such as jewelry, silk, flowers, etc. The group enjoyed seeing ancient homes and temples interspersed with stores and street vendors. Hanoi is Vietnam’s second largest city, dating from 1010.

                Punky Soares​                                                Street Vendor                                                  Colleen Choate

After lunch the group returned to the hotel for a free afternoon. In the evening the group enjoyed the Welcome Dinner at the Wild Lotus Restaurant, joined by Dale Washington, Esquire, married to Le Thi Giau, a Vietnamese businesswoman. Mr. Washington gave the Academy many introductions to the local legal community and the American Embassy in Hanoi. He and his wife commute between Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and Orange County.

WEDNESDAY - Hanoi: In the morning the group visited the American Embassy in Hanoi and met with Political Officer Gregory D’Alesandro and Michael Turner, Deputy Public Affairs Officer and Laura McKenchnie, from the office of USAID Viet Nam, a US Agency for International Development.

Michael Turner discussed the progress and development of US and Vietnam relations. The US established diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1950 following their limited independence from France. Following the defeat of France, Vietnam entered into civil war between the north and south. The US did not recognize North Vietnam’s communist government but maintained an Embassy in South Vietnam, and entered into the war on the South’s side until the US closed its Embassy in 1975 and evacuated all personnel prior to South Vietnam’s surrender to North Vietnamese forces. Vietnam reunified under communist rule and in 1978 invaded Cambodia.  

Following the withdrawal of the Vietnamese military from Cambodia and continued cooperation on prisoner of war/missing in action issues and other humanitarian concerns with the US, in 1995 the US announced formal normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Vietnam has now established diplomatic relations with 172 countries and holds membership in 63 international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

Mr. Turner commented there are large Vietnamese communities in the US who watch relations between the countries very closely. Vietnamese students studying in the US rank number eight. The Embassy feels it represents the American dream and is here to help. The Fulbright Economics teaching program is in partnership with the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City and Harvard Kennedy School.

Gregory D’Alesandro agrees and feels the Embassy is there to build trust between Vietnam and the US, create contacts in trade and business, health, and academic environment, and continue to push forth a diplomatic dialog on human rights. To that end the Embassy has a “Human Rights Cheat Sheet” which is handed out and proclaims:

The United States Supports a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that promotes human rights and the rule of law. Such a Vietnam will best contribute to regional peace and stability, enabling its people to reach their fullest potential and strengthening Vietnam as a U.S. partner.

Prisoners of Concern: We urge the Gov’t of Vietnam to immediately release: 
Le Quoc Quan (Rights lawyer and Catholic blogger held for tax evasion).
Nguyen Van Hai (Blogger “Dieu Cay,” Sentenced to 12 years for tax evasion and “anti-state propaganda”)
Cu Huy Ha Vu (7 years for “spreading anti-state propaganda”)
Vo Ming Tri (“Viet Khang: “4 years for songs critical of the government”)
Nguyen Phuong Uyen (6 years for leaflets critical of the government)

Convention Against Torture (CAT): Sign and ratify the CAT.

Internet Freedom: Lift internet restrictions.

Religious Freedom: Complete 100 church registrations in Northwest Highlands in 2013; Facilitate unification of the Evangelical Church.

Civil Society: Invite international NGOs, like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as an Amnesty research team to Vietnam.

Labor: publish results of ILO child labor survey.

Disability Rights: Implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Invite UN Special Rapporteurs to visit Vietnam and engage on:
-Religious Freedom
-Freedom of Opinion and Expression
-Freedom of Assembly and Association
-Migrant Workers

Presently there are no jury trials, no cross-examination of witnesses, and a weak right to counsel (although a private attorney can be hired). The American Bar Association is working with Vietnamese lawyers’ associations to bring the interpretation of the rule of counsel. Only about 1% of criminal convictions are reversed.

Laura McKechnie discussed the US Agency for International Development which opened in Vietnam in the 1990s and then closed and reopened in 2000. It is responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and developing economic growth between Vietnam and the US. Overall the US has given over $600 million in aid, about $85 million a year, most in the health area, HIV/AIDS is a big problem among sex workers and drug users. The agency is involved in the dioxen and Agent Orange clean-ups. Danang is a contaminated area causing birth defects and disabilities. The Agency spends a lot of time building relationships and trust with local organizations.

Ambassador David Shear arrived to meet the Academy Judges. He has been the Ambassador to Vietnam since August 2011. He was formerly in the Foreign Service and has served in Sapporo, Beijing, Tokyo, and Kuala Lumpur. He speaks Chinese and Japanese. He expressed his delight that the IATJ is visiting Vietnam, and believes it is a fascinating place. He believes the Rule of Law exchanges are very valuable to the country and there is much interest in it. Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court has recently visited, as has 9th Circuit Judges F. Rand Wallis and Diarmuid O’Scannlain. The Orange County Vietnamese Community and others throughout the US, as well as Congressman Lowenthal, pay close attention to what happens in Vietnam and “remain vigilant” on calling for an end to trafficking in persons and the release of political prisoners.  

Economically Vietnam is a big market with strong common economic interests with the US, and a 5-6% growing economy. The US can use economics to balance the influence in the Vietnamese mind. While different than China, Vietnam has the same issues from an Ambassador’s perspective: respect for human rights and the Rule of Law. The Embassy offers non-threatening ways to improve justice and freedom for the people, by encouraging reforms to the criminal justice system which will lead to a strong prosperous independent Vietnam.

The group enjoyed lunch at KOTO restaurant, and then visited the Vietnam National University School of Law. The meeting was facilitated and interpreted by Dr. Thuy Phan, senior lecturer in the Department of Business Law, and the acting head of the International Relations Office. In addition Assoc. Prof. Dr. Trinh Quoc Toan, Vice Dean and Director of Center of Comparative Law, Dr. Dang Minh Tuan and Dr. Nguyen Khac Hai met with the Academy judges. Academy members presented copies of recent US legal opinions and judicial college literature to the University library.  

The University of Indochina was established in 1906, and became the Vietnam National University in 1945 and the University of Hanoi in 1956. In 1993 it became one of three Vietnam National Universities in the country. The University enrolls 6,500 students, and has 3,500 academic staff and lecturers. The Law School was established in 2000 in Hanoi and has about 3,000 full-time and part-time students. The faculty consists of 40 professors, most of which have studied law outside of Vietnam, in Russia, Germany and the US. Academic departments include Theory and History of State and Law, Constitution and Administration, Criminal, Civil, Business and International Law. The Academy members visited one of the classrooms before leaving.

Students must take and pass entrance examinations to be enrolled. A Bachelor of Law takes four years, a Master of Law an additional two years, and a Doctor of Law four more years. Seventy percent of the students are female. At the conclusion of the meeting the Academy presented the University School of Law with a $1,000 donation. [At a later time it was discovered the University was unable to cash an American check, so Creative Travel arranged to facilitate giving the University Vietnamese Dong equivalent to $1,000 as a scholarship donation from the IATJ.]

​                             Meeting at Hanoi University School of Law       President Dennis Choate in Classroom

In the evening the Academy co-hosted a reception with Dale Washington and his wife, Le Thi Giau, at the Intercontinental for members from the American Embassy, local lawyers from the Indochine Counsel, who facilitated meetings with the local bar associations, lawyers from Baker & MacKenzie, and members of the Hanoi Bar Association. A group of musicians performed during the reception on traditional instruments including lutes and a Dan bau. Mr. Mai Dinh Toi, a “wizard” of unique musical instruments delighted the group by playing traditional music on eleven glass bottles, filled with water, tied to each other, and played like a guitar, and more!

                                                            Musicians                                Dale Washington;  ​American Embassy
                                                                                                            Political Officer Greg D'Alesandro;
​                                                                                                            Judge Robert Soares 

THURSDAY - Hanoi: In the morning the group met with members of the Vietnam Bar Association. The President, Nguyen Thj Quynh Anh, Lawyer Nguyen Trong Ty, Vice-Chairman Lawyer Nguyen Van Chien, Lawyer Tran Van Son, and Lawyer Quynh Anh.

Mr. Trong Ty is the Manager of the International Corporation Department of the Bar Association. He studied law in Moscow in the 1960s. He practiced criminal law and was a military investigator in the Ministry of Defense in Vietnam. He was appointed a judge in the Supreme People’s Court from 1982-1999. When he retired he joined the Hanoi Bar Association as the Manager. 

Mr. Trong Ty said yesterday was the traditional “Lawyer Day” of Vietnam, and, for the first time, it was celebrated. Prime Minister Ha Hung Cuong approved the decision to make October 10 a Day of Vietnamese Lawyers. This is considered a milestone. When speaking about it being celebrated on October 16, the Prime Minister noted the country is “accelerating its judicial reform and building the socialist rule-of-law based state, which offers favorable conditions and challenges for lawyers.” In 1945 President Ho Chi Minh signed a document regarding a lawyer organization, which laid a foundation for justice. However, because of 68 years of wars, it was not celebrated until yesterday.  

When the Hanoi Bar Association was founded in 1984, there was a shortage of lawyers and it had only 16 members, most of whom were retired from the Government. Now there are over 2,000 members in the City of Hanoi: over 700 are female, 60 have a Ph.D. and are professors from the law schools, and 35 have a Master of Laws degree. And, at the moment, there are over 800 law offices and companies. There is some concern Vietnam does not have big law firms like the US, since most are just three to four lawyers. One of the big problems is getting lawyers who speak English. They would like to improve their knowledge and are working with bar associations in the US to improve the quality of the Hanoi Bar Association.

Judge Nguyen Van Chien addressed the group saying that in 2008, he visited a US judge’s school for one month. He feels that lawyers in the US practice very professionally. It is now mandatory to belong to the Vietnam Bar Association, and if you belong to the Hanoi Bar Association, you are automatically a member of the Vietnam Bar Association. After law school lawyers train to practice law, become a prosecutor or judge. Trainees come from different Bars and need to satisfy requirements and pass examinations. Usually judges are appointed first to a provincial court. Courts have two lay judges and one professional judge and it takes two-thirds as a majority to make decisions. The decision can be appealed and a ruling must be made in the appellate court within 15 days. In a criminal case, following arrest, a lawyer cannot contact a defendant until given permission by the police, who will thereafter issue a permit, which needs to be approved by the prosecutor and the court.

The Academy members were given a copy of a Ministry of Justice Circular of October 14, 2011 outlining the Government’s Decree detailing and guiding the Law on Lawyers and socio-professional organization.

The Academy members returned to the hotel and at 2:00 p.m. reconvened for the

Annual Business Meeting

All members were in attendance. President Dennis Choate stated he hoped the trip was meeting everyone’s expectations, and that he believed we have had a great start. He commended Dale Washington and Le for all the arrangements they made directly with the hotel to ensure that the dinner reception was a memorable success.  

The minutes of the 2012 Cuba and Florida trip were approved; motion by Judge Mackey, second by Judge Frazee.

The 2013 Treasurer’s Report was submitted for Judge Seymour by CAO, Diane Bowen. The report reflects a beginning balance [corrected from 2012 ending balance] of $4,055.75 as of October 9, 2012. Income derived from dues, initiation fees and scholarship donations totaled $4,975.11; expenses were $4,540.63. The balance on hand as of October 8, 2013 was $4,490.31. Upon motion by Judge Soares, second by Judge Mackey, the Treasurer’s Report was approved.

The yearly membership report was discussed. There was one Fellow who had not paid 2012 and 2013 dues, and four who had not paid 2013 dues. [At a later date delinquent dues were received from two members, leaving just three who have not paid 2013 dues.] In 2013 four new members joined the Academy: Judge Burt Pines (Ret.) and Judge Elia Weinbach from the Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge David Long from Ventura Superior Court and Judge Nho Trong Nguyen from the Orange County Superior Court. There are four pending nominations. One Fellow resigned and one Fellow has passed away. The membership report was approved as presented; motion by Judge Soares, second by Judge Frazee.

In accordance with the Bylaws, the Nominating Committee chaired by Judge Murphy and consisting of Judges Frazee and Mackey as past-presidents, put forth the slate of officers as follows: Judge John Einhorn, President, Judge Maren Nelson, President-elect, and Judge Tom Murphy, Chancellor. There were no further nominations from the floor. The nominations were moved closed and the officers unanimously approved. Judge Tully Seymour will remain Treasurer and Judge Tom Murphy will remain Secretary.

Diane Bowen presented suggested destinations for 2014, and informational materials sent by Judge Einhorn regarding a river cruise in Europe which were discussed. At 3:15 p.m. the meeting was adjourned.

The Academy members next visited the Office of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a Government agency which represents the business community and its needs. When the Chamber began in 1963, it had 80 members, today it has over 8,000 members. The judges were met by Mr. Hoang Van Dung, the First Vice Executive President.

The VCCI is the only agency in Vietnam that is a bridge to connect big business and government and represent employers and trade unions in Vietnam. Twenty years ago Vietnam was isolated; 15,000 businesses were state owned and only about 3,000 were private. There was no foreign investment. Now there are over 600,000 private companies and 15,000 foreign investment companies with over $250 billion invested in Vietnam. Government has now recognized the importance of private investors and has passed more laws so that foreign countries are free to invest in Vietnam.  

The VCCI has set up an International Arbitration Center to settle matters between Vietnam and foreign investors. Some foreign businesses that feel that the Vietnamese courts are not efficient and are too complicated in resolving economic disputes, go to the International Courts. Both sides will pay the arbitrator. There were over 700 arbitrations done last year.

The VCCI understands what enterprises need in order to support business development and advises the Government. Lending interest rates in the Vietnamese banking system are much higher per annum than in other countries, and this is an issue on which they are working. Textiles are a $20 billion export, in balance with China, as it is very convenient to export from Vietnam because of the coastline. The IT sector is growing -- Samsung, Intel and Apple have factories here. Vietnam is lucky its people use the alphabet -- the French invented the language -- as it is easier in the international market than Chinese or Japanese. Six million tourists bring in $12 billion cash each year.

There are still environmental issues with companies coming into Vietnam and creating pollution. The laws are not strong enough to protect the country and there is concern about controlling pollution. Many of the oil and gas, power, transport, and airlines are going from government-run to privately owned and paying taxes on land use. Fifty percent of the people do not pay taxes.

Mr. Dung thanked the Academy for their interest and for visiting the VCCI.

In the evening the group enjoyed dinner at the Hanoi Press Club, created in 1997 in the French colonial design to evoke the Saigon hotels of the 1920s.

FRIDAY - Hanoi: The group left in the morning for a half day of sightseeing to discover the history of Vietnam’s “modern” wars. The Military History Museum covers the American and French wars, as well as the struggles against the Chinese. In addition to photos and remnants the museum holds tanks, guns and aircraft. The group visited the Hoa Lo Prison (known as the Hanoi Hilton), which was used to house political prisoners during the American war. The Museum of the Revolution is based on the wars from the perspective of the North Vietnamese. The group was given a historical tour of Hanoi to include a drive by the Presidential Palace, the Opera House and Ho Chi Minh’s tomb. Lunch was at the Indochine Restaurant. The balance of the afternoon was free. Some members visited more museums and some ventured down into the Old Quarter again to see the famous Traditional Water Puppet Show, cross a street (against numerous motor scooters), and enjoy the ambience.

SATURDAY - Halong Bay: The group departed in the morning for a drive to Halong Bay, considered Vietnam’s Eighth Wonder of the World, where they boarded the Ginger, a private junk for an overnight cruise. Lunch was on board and the afternoon was spent visiting floating fishing villages by rowboat, seeing the abundance of limestone islands in the Bay, and exploring the inside of a cave grotto. Dinner was on board and everyone enjoyed the spa and the evening on the ship.

SUNDAY - Halong Bay: In the morning the group had a Tai Chi class on the beach, and enjoyed swimming and hiking while overlooking the Bay. The ship then cruised back to Halong Port and the group most regrettably disembarked and was transferred to the Hai Phong Airport for a flight to Danang. On arriving, the group was taken to the Vinpearl Resort (as the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort had been damaged during the recent typhoon several days prior). The group had dinner in the hotel dining room.

                                  Halong Bay                                                                           China Beach, Hoi An

MONDAY - China Beach: The group departed in the morning for a short drive to Hoi An and a walking tour. The UNESCO World Heritage ancient town was built in the 16th and 17th centuries and was an international trading centre of merchant ships from Japan, China and Dutch Indies. “The old town has been fortunate to be preserved, giving a good example of symbolic oriental cities in the Middle Age” of centuries old low tile-roofed buildings, the central market and the riverfront where colorfully painted boats are moored. The group stopped at a silk factory where they observed silk worms, silk spinning and workers embroidering and making silk lanterns. The group walked along the streets to the Cam Pho Communal House, restored in 1817, the Quan Cong Temple built in 1653, and the Phuc Kien Assembly halls built in 1757-1887

After lunch and free time exploring Hoi An, the group left for Danang and toured the Cham Museum. Established in 1919, the collection of Cham sculptures was begun by French archeologists. The Cham people belonged to the Kingdom of Champa from the 7th to the 18th centuries. On the way back to the hotel the group stopped at Non Nuoc Beach, home to a major air base used by the South Vietnamese and US air forces during the Vietnam War, cement relics are still visible. 

In the evening the group had dinner in Danang at the Blue Whale Restaurant on China Beach.

TUESDAY - Hoi An: In the morning the group returned to Hoi An for a pleasure boat ride on the Hoai River, followed by more touring of the old city, exploring the open market and lunch. The afternoon was free. In the evening, dinner was on the scenic veranda of the Brothers Café located on the waterfront of the Hoai River, with boats passing by.

WEDNESDAY - Hoi An - Siem Reap: The morning was free. Some members of the group enjoyed the pools, the beach, and Judge Nelson and Holly went across the highway to visit Marble Mountain. After lunch the group departed to the Danang Airport for a flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia and transferred to the 1930s-styled Victoria Angkor Hotel where they enjoyed dinner in the hotel overlooking the pool.

THURSDAY - Ankor Wat: The group left to visit Angkor, spread out over 40 miles, once the capital of the Khmer Empire from A.D. 800 to approximately 1200, it was abandoned in 1431. After decades of war the temples and monuments are open to travelers and are considered among the world’s premier architectural sites. The group toured the Preah Khan, a monastic complex built by Khmer King Jayavarman VII, and the Pre Rup Temple built in 961. The group enjoyed lunch at Viroth’s Restaurant in Siem Reap and then returned to the Angkor Archaeological Park for more sightseeing, one of the highlights being the Angkor Wat temple complex surrounded by a moat, and the Bayon, the last great temple built at Angkor. Bayon is surrounded by 54 small towers that are entangled in dense growth of the jungle. Indiana Jones Temple of Doom was set in this atmosphere. The group enjoyed dinner at the hotel.

FRIDAY - Ankor Wat: In the morning the group visited Banteay Srei, built largely of a red sandstone and carved like wood. It was most likely built in 1119 A.D. and rediscovered in 1914 and largely restored in the 1930s.

The group enjoyed lunch at the Champey Restaurant and then visited the Ton LeSap Lake for a boat ride among floating homes and fish farms. The group returned to the hotel to pack and departed for a dinner and traditional dance show at the Apsara Theatre, followed by late night return flights via Seoul to USA.

Written By Diane Z. Bowen, Chief Administrative Officer

Dennis S. Choate, President