Late Party General Secretary Đỗ Mười during his official visit to Thailand in 1993. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Lâm
HÀ NỘI — Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyễn Mạnh Cầm revealed a little-known fact about late Party General Secretary Đỗ Mười: his fervent support was a major factor in Việt Nam’s choice to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Cầm, who was the country’s top diplomat at the time, accompanied Council of Ministers Chairman Võ Văn Kiệt on a number of visits to ASEAN countries in early 1992. Cầm was asked to personally deliver ASEAN’s invitation to Đỗ Mười.
“This is the right time for Việt Nam to join ASEAN, especially when we all share the same aspirations for growth in the region,” Đỗ Mười 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 Việt 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 Việt Nam being one of its most active members.
The story was told in a book on the former Party chief by author Diệu Ân.
While one could argue it was inevitable that Việt Nam would join ASEAN, it required a tremendous amount of political will and the staunch support of Party chief Đỗ Mười to realise this goal in less than three years.
Đỗ Mười 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.
Cầm knows this better than most. While he was the Vietnamese Ambassador in Moscow, he was often awakened by late night phone calls from Đỗ Mười.
Đỗ Mười started his workdays early. “He would call three, four times a week,” Cầm 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 Hà Nội.”
“One time, I gathered my courage and told him it was 2:00 and we just went to bed,” said Cầm. “He said he was sorry and that he wasn’t aware of the time zone, and he promised to call later next time.”
Đỗ Mười kept his promise – for a while. After a week or two his late night calls restarted, and Cầm made his peace with losing sleep.
“That’s just how he worked,” said Cầm. “It wasn’t even part of his job and he had a mountain of work to do every day.”
Đỗ Mười was born Nguyễn Duy Cống on February 2, 1917 in Đông Phù Village, Thanh Trì District in the outskirts of Hà Nội. He held the office of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Việt Nam from 1991 to 1997 and was Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Việt Nam from 1988 to 1991.
The respected former Party official died at 108 Hospital in Hà Nội on October 1, 2018 at the age of 101. — VNS