On behalf of the delegation from the Vietnamese National Assembly, I will explain the purpose of our visit. We wanted to gain an understanding of how minority immigrant community issues such as rights and obligations and problems were being handled in several European countries. We chose the United Kingdom and Ireland.
From the broader perspective of interparliamentary relations, Ireland is an upcoming state with which our relations at Executive and Legislature levels are still young. We decided to take this opportunity to establish direct relations with the Irish Parliament. The first Irish Member I met was Senator Lydon in my home town of Hue in April 2004 when Vietnam hosted the third Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership meeting. I recall that he wanted to promote closer ties between our two legislative bodies. We were also attracted to Ireland by its economic success and how in a short time it had risen from being a poorer member of the European Union to one of its economic engines. My colleagues from the economic and budget committee of the Vietnamese National Assembly may come to Ireland in December. Together with the exchange of diplomatic representations, we are pleased that the relationship is beginning to take shape.
Vietnam is a multi-ethnic society with 54 ethnic groups. The majority group is the Viet or Kinh which accounts for 87% of the population. It uses the Vietnamese language, the national language. There are 53 ethnic minorities. Since the founding of modern Vietnam, it was the tradition of the late President, Ho Chi Minh, to implement a policy of solidarity and cohesion among the ethnic groups. There is an economic discrepancy between the ethnic majority and minority as a whole. Both the legislature and the executive are acutely aware that this is one of the challenges facing the country as it grows and integrates internationally.
Vietnam was recently admitted to the WTO. International integration brings with it an added challenge to ensure the gap does not broaden and should be reduced as much as possible. The delegation has been made up in such a way that many of the ethnic minorities are represented. I am accompanied by Mr. Ma Dien Cu, a member of the Cham ethnic minority and vice chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Council. Mr. Dieu Bao is from one of our ethnic minorities and elected in the Binh Thuan province in the south. There is Mrs. Lun who is from the Dao ethnic minority in the north. She represents Tuyen Quang province in the mountains. There are three ethnic minority members in the delegation. The rest of us are from the Viet majority, although Mr. Quang is not an MP but the party secretary of Lai Chau, a northern province with many ethnic minorities.
Later, if members ask how we handle inter-ethnic issues in our own provinces, we will be pleased to answer their questions. We would be interested to hear from members what policies they have developed on immigrant communities, the rights that must be recognised in order that they might be treated as equals, and how the Irish enforce obligations. In Asia we always tackle rights and obligations together. How do the Irish discharge this task? What is the set-up? What policies and mechanisms are in place to encourage immigrants to discharge obligations to the general community? How do the Irish address such issues as the linguistic rights of immigrants and the teaching of their native languages, if any? Does Ireland practise affirmative action regarding ethnic or immigrant minorities? What is the impact of international politics on immigrant communities? How does Ireland handle this aspect?
In Vietnam the position is a little different, since we are not immigrants. Our ethnic groups are indigenous. Therefore, we do not have the same problems as Ireland. However, we would be interested to hear about the Irish experience.