22/03/2005 00:00 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

“I want the world to better understand Vietnam”

On the International Women’s Day (March 8), Vietnam Pictorial introduces to readers a woman diplomat, who has been called by western press as “Mme. Ninh” or “Mme. Ambassador”. She is Ton Nu Thi Ninh, Deputy Chairwoman of the National Assembly’s Foreign Relations Committee, former Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and an Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Europe Union.

Ảnh: Thành Đạt

Ảnh: Tư liệu
Ninh (centre) as an interpreter for Prime Minister Pham Van Dong during his visit to India (in 1980).

Ảnh: Tư liệu
In 1980 Ninh worked as an interpreter for General Vo Nguyen Giap during his visit to Africa.

Ảnh: Tư liệu
Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission receiving Ambassador Ton Nu Thi Ninh after she presented the SRV President’s credentials (in May 2000).

Ảnh: Tư liệu
At the reception by Belgian King Albert II during her attendance to Belgian National Day celebration (in 2001).

Ảnh: Tư liệu
Talking with US Senator Thomas Carper (in 2003).

On the International Women’s Day (March 8), Vietnam Pictorial introduces to readers a woman diplomat, who has been called by western press as “Mme. Ninh” or “Mme. Ambassador”. She is Ton Nu Thi Ninh, Deputy Chairwoman of the National Assembly’s Foreign Relations Committee, former Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and an Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Europe Union.

She was born to a “Ton That” family in Hue. In 1950, she went to Paris with her family and returned to Saigon in 1960. In 1964, she graduated from her senior secondary school and went to France for study, and then to the UK where she studied at Cambridge University. Afterwards she worked as a lecturer at Paris-3 University. In 1972, she returned to Vietnam, working as a lecturer of English at Teachers’ University of Saigon (present-day Ho Chi Minh City). Her teaching plans changed when she chanced upon the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Xuan Thuy, who had known her during the Paris Conference (1968-1972). Upon his advice, she came to work at the Central Committee for Foreign Relations.

She became a diplomat by working as an interpreter. She saw it as an important turning point to become a career diplomat. She was fully dedicated to her work since she understood well to become an efficient interpreter, grasping the contents was an essential thing aside from having a good command of a rich vocabulary and grammar. The contents here meant the line and policies of the Party and the State, the profession and art of diplomacy. She gained a lot of experience when she worked as interpreter for the late Prime Minister Pham Van Dong and General Vo Nguyen Giap, Xuan Thuy and Nguyen Co Thach… With her in-depth understanding and a highly emotive voice that could appeal to the listener, she was quite successful in her work. Jean-Pierre Debris, one of the two Frenchmen who had formerly planted the flag of the National Front for Liberation of South Vietnam on the roofs of the Saigon House of Representatives, compared her to a highly-skilled goldsmith when listening to her interpretation for French President Francois Mitterand on his state visit to Vietnam in 1993.

Since her transfer to the area of multilateral foreign relations, she has recorded quite a few achievements in winning over the unanimity of views from other nations. She maintains in dialogue, it is a “must” to apply diplomatic tactics in a flexible manner and always seek interests for both parties; you should be conversant with the guiding principle of “ flexibility-firmness”. In multilateral foreign relations with roughly 200 countries, if you speak well, they’ll commend it; if you speak badly, they’ll all know it. For this reason, you should be very clever and careful. At a UN forum in the 80’s, she recalls, she was assigned with the task of giving the Singaporean Ambassador the answer on the Cambodian question. In spite of the fact that the two viewpoints were far from unanimously agreed, after listening to her talk, the Singaporean Ambassador held it in high regard and commended for the first time the Vietnamese argument sounded convincing. Or when talking on human rights, she asserted the Vietnamese leadership was profoundly concerned about its people’s hearts as it was an old tradition handed down by the great grandfathers since the foundation of the nation. About the issues of terrorism and Palestine, she stressed we should never render identical the issues of national liberation and terrorism. With her profound analyses, and her reasoning, with rhyme and rhythm, without stirring a big storm in a small teacup, she won over the delegates’ hearts at the assembly. After her speech was over, the Israeli Ambassador walked up to shake hands with her. She was a bit surprised but knew herself that her argument was convincing enough. Recently, in her capacity as chief delegate, she concluded a 3-week tour of the USA entitled “Vietnam-US Dialogue”. She held 50 receptions and interviews in 8 States, 12 cities, 11 universities and institutes. According to public opinion both at home and abroad, it was a successful trip, as it was not a one-way lecturing tour but a dialogue to provide the American public and Vietnamese nationals there a better understanding about the “doi moi ” (renovation) of Vietnam and the guideline of the Party and the State on national reconciliation toward the future.nbsp; With the extremist elements, she put it bluntly: Vietnam is far from a paradise but never is it a hell, definitely not as you describe!nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

In her career as a diplomat, aside from strictly abiding by the discipline and exceptional accuracy, she still has room for new ideas. During her term of office as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the EU (2000 - 2003), she successfully arranged a “Vietnam Week” in Belgium. Mr. Pierre Defraigne, Pascal Lamy Chief of Administration, remarked: “Vietnamese fashion is very beautiful and impressive, with a high aesthetic standard, surpassing the Japanese in terms of time.” Why did she choose fashion to recommend to the international friends? In her view, diplomacy of today must not necessarily take the political path first but it may proceed with the two channels of economics and culture. The cultural avenue is likely to facilitate exchanges and integration. In diplomatic activity, she prefers candid, open dialogues and “you should know to touch the right chord” to achieve high efficiency.

Working in diplomacy for over 20 years, travelling to nearly 70 countries, and getting considerable experience, she remains so modest. Now at the age of over 50, she still looks young, taking a great interest in arts. She is happy with her family. The democratic atmosphere in the family also provides her with more energy to make greater endeavours in her career, helping the international friends to better understand Vietnam.

Story: Hoang Chuong

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