Thong, who is also former Vietnamese Ambassador to the Netherlands, met with the Vietnam Times on the occasion of the 50th founding anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic ties. The following is the full text of the interview.
Vice President of the Vietnam-Netherlands Friendship Association,
Former Vietnamese Ambassador to the Netherlands Mr. Ha Huy Thong
Photo: Vietnam Times
- How has people-to-people diplomacy contributed to the Vietnam-Netherlands relationship?
In 2023, Vietnam and the Netherlands celebrate 50 years of their diplomatic ties, but in reality, the bilateral relationship has undergone over 420 years of formation and development. Vietnamese and Dutch historians like Phan Huy Le and John Kkeinen pointed out that the relationship began around 1601 when the first Dutch traders arrived on the coast of Hoi An in Vietnam. They were warmly welcomed by locals and the Nguyen Dynasty. The Dutch traders and other foreigners who lived and ran business there played an important role in the development of the feudal economy of Vietnam, making its silk, ceramics, and other industries known in many parts of the world.
From the 1640s, after spending several years in Pho Hien (now the northern province of Hung Yen), the first Dutch people in Vietnam arrived in the capital of Thang Long (now Hanoi) to do business until 1700.
As coastal countries, both Vietnam and the Netherlands have been coping with storms and climate change for over 4,000 years. In terms of history, both countries were victims of invasion and domination by external forces, especially fascism during World War II (1939-1945). They can be seen as natural partners and allies, who face common challenges. Therefore, their citizens have gained more understanding, sharing, and bonding with each other.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Dutch people took to the streets many times to march and protest, sending a strong message against the war in Vietnam. In November 1968, Dutch people who loved Vietnam established the Medical Committee Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV), aiming to provide medicines for the areas that were most heavily damaged by the war in the Southeast Asian nation. When Vietnam was still under embargo, the two countries’ people pushed for mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation, and humanitarian support.
Over the past half century, the bilateral relationship has constantly developed and taken big strides, from the establishment of a partnership on climate change and water management (2010) to a comprehensive partnership (2019).
It can be said that in the Vietnam-Netherlands relationship, people-to-people diplomacy plays an important role. Their citizens have not only laid a foundation but also served as a driving force for the relationship. People and businesses have been put at the centre of their economic diplomacy. People’s interests are decisive to the efficiency of cooperation projects.
- What are highlights of events and activities of the Vietnam-Netherlands Friendship Association in 2023 when the two countries celebrate the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic ties?
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Netherlands, as well as 10 years of the establishment of the Vietnam-Netherlands Friendship Association (January 29, 2013-2023). The association has coordinated with the Dutch side and friendship associations in localities to organise events, such as a football tournament at the Vietnam Maritime University on February 25.
It will continue collaborating with Vietnam-Netherlands friendship associations in Hai Phong, Binh Duong and Ho Chi Minh City, Dutch partners, and others, to promote exchange activities.
Such activities not only mark the 50th anniversary but also provide an opportunity for association members to look back achievements, draw lessons, and put forth directions to enhance the operational efficiency in the time ahead.
- What should the Vietnam-Netherlands Friendship Association do to improve the quality, scale and efficiency of cooperation and people-to-people exchange between the two countries?
Firstly, the association will adhere to the viewpoint that people-to-people diplomacy is one of the three pillars (along with the Party's external relations and State diplomacy) in building a comprehensive, modern diplomatic sector, as set at the 13th National Party Congress.
Secondly, it will participate and coordinate in the implementation of specific agreements and projects, particularly in the fields of economy, trade, investment, agriculture, irrigation, climate change response, water management, and human resource development.
Thirdly, the association will step up the communications work to raise understanding and trust with Dutch partners. It will also increase information sharing and interviews with the press, and roll out more activities to enhance mutual understanding between people of the two countries.
Fourthly, the association will attract the Vietnamese community in the Netherlands, which currently numbers around 25,000, including over 3,000 students and trainees (the Students’ Association was established on October 18, 2007), to participate in and contribute more to its activities.
The attention and investment of Vietnamese and Dutch competent agencies play a role in realising the targets.
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