Thursday, January 21, 2010

OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR MARK WARNER RE ESCALATED VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN VIETNAM

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The Honorable Mark Warner
459A RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON DC 20510
(202) 224-2023

January 21st, 2010

Dear Senator Warner,

On behalf of Vietnamese Americans in Virginia, we respectfully request the Honorable Mark Warner to make a statement regarding the current escalated human rights violations in Vietnam, among which were the dismantling of the crucifix at Dong Chiêm parish on Jan 6, and the sentencing of 4 prisoners of conscience up to 16 yrs in prison on Jan 20, 2010, for their non-violent exercising their freedom of expression.

As Americans, we believe that a free, democratic, prosperous Vietnam would be in alignment with our American national interests. As Vietnamese Americans, we have high expectations that while attaining American national interests in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, we also would uphold the American core values in these countries: that of democracy, liberty and justice for all.

The Vietnamese Americans in Virginia are very blessed with having the opportunity to vote for Senator Warner to represent us. More than just voting, we would like to be engaged and support our government in achieving the goals set forth for our nation. We believe Vietnamese Americans can be of great resources in easing the transitional phase of Vietnam, from a totalitarian, communist country, into a free, democratic, prosperous nation who will be a strong alliance to the US in Southeast Asia.

As your constituents, Vietnamese American voters in Virginia, we would like to have your attention on two very important issues to all Vietnamese Americans: 1/ The Oppression of Freedom of Religion in Vietnam, and 2/ The Oppression of Freedom of Speech and Association in Vietnam.

Much to our appreciation for the well use of our tax money, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has worked diligently throughout decades, and recently has published the 2009 Annual Report in May. The report was very comprehensive and well done, regarding the current oppression of freedom of religion, oppression of freedom of speech and association. One can easily read or download it from the following link:

http://www.uscirf.gov/images/AR2009/vietnam.pdf

Since all actions taken by any Communist government anywhere follow only one pattern, it is needless to cite more up to date cases of human rights violations. It is, however, imperative, that we focus on the solutions with the commitment to bring about results.

1. As Vietnamese Americans, we highly support all recommendations made by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in the Annual Report May 2009.

2. Among the recommendations, the first necessary action is to place Vietnam back into the Country of Particular Concern list. This is not to punish Vietnam, but to support them with steady and conditional help so they can overcome challenges to cross the barriers and prosper with democracy and respect for human rights, as they have committed to honor decades ago. We respectfully request Senator Warner to suggest this to the State Department, to ensure our values are being upheld while our interests are attained.

3. As Vietnamese Americans, we would like to stay engaged and to share the entire burden in repaying all the blessings we have received from this country. Ethnic Americans are naturally concerned about what happens in, and have a special knowledge of, their countries of origin. We believe the Vietnamese Americans will do our best to play out our potential role as a source of information and an instrument of American foreign policy toward Vietnam. The unique history of Vietnamese Americans with more than 2 million people in the US will also help us to be a very special bridge to bring about changes of values in Vietnam in the best possible way. We respectfully request Senator Webb to realize his vision of the “triangle” with the Vietnamese Americans being one angle between the US government and the current Vietnamese Communist regime. We believe this will help to channel the high level of energy from both sides from confrontation to mutually resolving conflicts and moving forward to a better future for Vietnam.

All that being said, we would like to propose some recommendations for the US – Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue

Recommendations for the US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue


Background


· Government of Vietnam is cracking down against free speech: (i) convictions of nine democracy activists in October 2009 for “propaganda against the socialist state”, (ii) promulgation of Order 97 by the prime minister forbidding research on non-sanctioned topics, (iii) new restrictions on private blogs.

· To avoid international criticism, Hanoi is also using non-political charges to arrest dissidents: (i) detaining novelist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy for assault after she was beaten by police, (ii) convicting blogger Dieu Cay for tax evasion after he protested government policies.

· Hanoi is isolating dissidents through de facto house arrest and harassment of family: (i) Do Nam Hai has not been charged with any crime, but he cannot even meet with US consular officials, (ii) writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was repeatedly attacked by thugs this year, (iii) leaders of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam cannot leave their pagodas.

. Hanoi wrongly convicted its own lawyer and intellectuals for non-violently exercising their freedom of expression and freedom of association with made-up crimes such as "to overthrow the regime" and sentenced them from 5 yrs, 7 yrs, up to 16 yrs in prison. This was done with the looking on of the United States State Department while we continued to provide them with up to billions of US tax-payers' dollars in aid to the corrupted system.

Recommendations

· Call for immediate prisoner releases, especially the cases of former lawyer Le Cong Dinh, Nguyên Tiên Trung, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Le Thang Long, Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and all other prisoners of conscience. Pro-actively challenge Hanoi’s circular reasoning that these individuals were not imprisoned for their political beliefs, but only for violating the law.

· Renew focus on legal reform: Insist that Government of Vietnam repeal archaic statutes such as Article 88 of penal code and Decree No. 97/2008/ND-CP on management of blogs.

· Integrate human rights into the overall bilateral relationship: (i) place legal reform in the context of improving Vietnam’s higher education system and economic progress, (ii) be more forceful on human rights, especially when senior State Department officials visit Vietnam.

· Continue working with like-minded nations to foster a common position on human rights: US Embassy in Hanoi should hold human rights roundtables with other embassies and consider inviting non-governmental Vietnamese stakeholders to present their views.

· Establish benchmarks for the human rights dialogue: How do we measure results and avoid this being a stonewalling exercise for Hanoi?

As your constituents, we trust that you would uphold the American core values of human rights, democracy, liberty, and justice for all, especially while representing us at the 111th Congress.


Respectfully,

Vietnamese Americans in Virginia

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All of us who share the same concerns about human rights violations in Vietnam, please check the link below to find your Senators and send part of the above letter with the name of the Senator modified accordingly and other modifications as needed.

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=VA

Thank you.

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