Lê Thị Thu Hằng. — Photo laodong.vn
Lê Thị Thu Hằng, director of the Press Information Department and Spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaks to Thế giới & Việt nam (World & Việt Nam) newspaper about Việt Nam’s foreign relations in 2018
2018 has been described as a busy year for Vietnamese diplomacy, do you agree?
2017 was considered the peak year for the Vietnamese diplomatic sector when the country played host for the APEC Summit. As for 2018, though facing many challenges which occurred in the region and the world at large, the task of external information in Việt Nam achieved many remarkable successes.
During the year, Việt Nam also played host to the 26th ASEAN Parliamentary Pacific Forum (APPF-26), the 6th Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and the 10th Cambodia- Laos- Việt Nam Development Triangle Summit (CV10).
The peak of Việt Nam’s diplomatic activities in 2018 was the successful organisation of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN. According to the WEF, the forum was the most successful in the last 27 years. With the success, Việt Nam’s image in the international arena was lifted.
In short, 2018 was a successful year for the Vietnamese diplomatic sector.
2018 was the first time the Ministry for Foreign Affairs used social networks for mass communication. What’s your take on that decision?
We can’t deny that foreign information nowadays has been impacted by new media, particularly social media. As we all know, with a smart phone, anyone can become a “reporter”. This has presented us with both opportunities and challenges.
By 2025, all Vietnamese ministries, sectors and localities must have websites and accounts on social media for communication activities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was one of the first Government agencies to open an account on social media. Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh has his own accounts on both Twitter and Facebook that are quite popular. In addition, all Vietnamese embassies and offices abroad also have accounts on social media.
Of course, we can’t ignore the dark side of social networks, so we should find ways to manage and protect the image of our agencies and the Vietnamese people and Government.
In 2018, which event left the strongest impression on you?
Protecting Vietnamese citizens abroad was on top of the list. In 2018, 30 per cent of the 250 questions asked in my capacity as a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry were related to the protection of Vietnamese citizens abroad.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be on the front line to come up with measures to protect the legitimate rights of Vietnamese citizens while they are abroad.
In late 2018 Vietnamese citizens became victims of terrorist activities in Egypt. We did everything possible to support them. Phạm Bình Minh instructed the Vietnamese Ambassador in Egypt to meet the victims and ask local authorities to support them.
For the start of the Lunar New Year, do you want to send a message to Vietnamese media workers?
I think 2019 will be a “busy year” for media workers to cover the news inside and outside the country.
In 2019, no major international events will be held in Việt Nam, but it will be pivotal as Việt Nam will assume the role of ASEAN President in 2020. The country may also become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2020-21 term.
Last but not least, I want to say that mass communication activities have become more and more important in the world. So we need to make the best use of traditional communications while utilising the positive sides of social media to inform the people of what is happening in Việt Nam and the world at large. — VNS