Ambassador Nguyen Thi Hoi & Her Diplomatic Imprints

Having worked in diplomacy  for 37 years and two terms as an ambassador to Austria and Representative of Vietnam at the UN office in Vienna, and Canada, Nguyen Thi Hoi - former Head of Department and Secretary General of National Commission for  UNESCO of Vietnam left many imprints, contributing to the diplomatic outcomes of Vietnam.

Ambassador Nguyen Thi Hoi contributed to establishing some official state-level visits of historical significance for State leaders of Vietnam and Austria, and Canada and successfully lobbied for the international friend’s support for Vietnam’s efforts to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO). She was listed as one of 60 women contributing to 60 years of UNESCO.

We met her at her private house which was designed in both an Oriental and Occidental architectural style and our talk started with a story about her strange Vietnamese nickname, “Hoi hung” (lit. audacious Hoi) which was closely related to a landmark event in the relationship between Vietnam and Canada. It was former Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai who gave her that nickname during his official state-level visit to Canada in 2005. It was a visit of historical significance made by a Vietnamese Prime Minister to Canada and Ambassador Hoi was credited with the establishment of this visit.

Former ambassador Nguyen Thi Hoi (April 4, 2015). Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

Nguyen Thi Hoi at the ESCAP (Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific) 1982 Conference
held in Bangkok. Photo: File

Nguyen Thi Hoi at the ESCAP 1991 Conference held in Bangkok. Photo: File

To help us learn about her preparations for the historical visit, Mme. Hoi told us about the lobby for support from international friends, including Canada, for Vietnam’s effort to join the WTO. Vietnam concluded negotiations with Canada before the US and Hoi made a great contribution to this success.

Recognising Canada as a country which gives top priority to human rights, she gave out her keen arguments, saying: “Get it ahead and consider it as a gift for Vietnamese people”. She added that if Canada gave this gift to the Vietnamese people, it would be for women and children first because it would provide jobs for women who were the majority workers in factories, followed by children.

Secondly, Canada is a country that most Vietnamese know about from the past because it participated in two important cease-fire conventions that led to the end of Vietnam’s resistance wars against the French and the Americans.

Thanks to her reasonable arguments and with the cooperation and support of the local officers in the government, international friends and a Vietnamese overseas businessman in Canada,, Vietnam concluded negotiations with Canada before the US and Canada was the first of the G7 countries to support Vietnam, paving the way for success of Vietnam in the process of joining the WTO.

With this successful negotiation, the ambassador further affirmed her position and prestige that helped her successfully organise the historical visit to Canada by former Prime Minister Phan Van Khai. When recalling the event, many people could not help expressing their admiration for her. At that time, in 2005, it was rare to see the national flag of Vietnam in any developed countries, much less 2,000 Vietnamese national flags which were planted alternatively with Canada’s flags along the streets to welcome former Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.

The visit took place over 10 years ago, but the memories of the visit are still engraved in her mind. She was so moved that she could not hold back tears when she saw the red national flags of Vietnam on the streets of Canada. When meeting her, former Prime Minister Phan Van Khai said: “What ‘audaciousness’ Ambassador Hoi!” Since then she has been called “Hoi hung”.

We continued talking about her term in Austria and the photo of her with the Austrian President Thomast Klestil. For her, it was an unforgettable memory during her stay in that country (1992-1995). On the occasion of the 60th birthday of the Austrian President, Hoi sent a portrait of the President to Vietnam and asked to have it woven into a wool carpet which was then sent to the Presidential Office on the President’s birthday. After half an hour, she received a thank you card from the Presidential Office with a message “What thoughtful you are!”

Ambassador Nguyen Thi Hoi reviews the honour guard in front of the Presidential Palace. Photo: File

Ambassador Nguyen Thi Hoi presents her credentials at the Presidential Palace. Photo: File

Ambassador Nguyen Thi Hoi bid farewell to Austrian President Thomas Klestil
when she finished her term in Austria in 1995. Photo: File

Ambassador Nguyen Thi Hoi met with the Mayor of Salzburg in 1992. Photo: File

In a meeting with all the ambassadors in Austria held at the end of that year, the Austrian President shook hands with every participant and when it was her turn, after listening to the introduction about her – the ambassador of Vietnam, the President was very pleased and greeted her in a very special way. He said that he recognised her accomplishments and expressed his gratitude for her that surprised the others. Many asked: “As a new comer, how come you are so close to the President”. They did not know that it was her diplomatic skills, deftness and respect for national culture that helped her fulfill her tasks, being a bridge to linking the two countries and facilitating the signing of many important agreements between Vietnam and Austria. Then, an official high-ranking visit to Vietnam by the Austrian President was held, creating a foundation for the establishment of the Austrian Embassy to Vietnam (1998).

Her terms ended and her missions were also accomplished, and now, the “diplomacy bricks” which she laid for future generations will be a firm foundation for Vietnam to obtain more success in diplomacy.

Story: Thao Vy
Photos: Trinh Van Bo & Files