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The Vietnam News

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Vietnam PM faces Australian protests during visit

CANBERRA - Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai will discuss economic reform with Australia during his his first visit here starting Wednesday, but will also face protests from Australia's anti-communist Vietnamese community.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Monday he and Khai would discuss the Asian economic crisis, economic reform and improved financial sector management in the region.
But Australia's Vietnamese community, which numbers about 140,000, said it was planning a peaceful demonstration against Khai at parliament house in Canberra.

``It is expected that hundreds of Vietnamese Australians will take part in this demonstration to voice their protests against the ongoing and escalating human rights violations in Vietnam,'' the ``Vietnamese Community in Australia'' said in a statement.
Former Communist Party chief Do Muoi was the last senior Vietnamese leader to visit Australia in 1995. Muoi's trip was marred by controversy when Howard, then opposition leader, refused to meet him and protests turned violent.
Khai arrives in Australia on Wednesday, starting his four-day visit in the southern city of Melbourne with business talks. On Thursday, he will meet Howard and other ministers in Canberra and will travel to Sydney on Friday for further business talks.

``I look forward to Mr Khai's visit as an opportunity for Australia and Vietnam to explore new areas for growth and cooperation between us,'' Howard said in a statement.

Australia's economic ties with Vietnam have steadily strengthened with exports to Vietnam growing more than 60 percent last year to A$386 million (US$244 million). Two-way trade last year exceeded A$1 billion for the first time.

Reuters - March 29, 1999.