Skip to comments.Vietnam: Time To Release Political Prisoners
Posted on 09/16/2006 6:47:50 AM PDT by John Carey
Vietnam is seeking entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Vietnam is also seeking U.S. Congressional approval for Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) from the U.S. The President of the United States is expected to travel to Vietnam in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference.
Yet Vietnam continues to take actions contrary to its own self interests by jailing political antagonists for crimes such as posting democratically themed essays on the internet.
Two of these prisoners are Cong Thanh Do and Thuong N. Cuc Foshee, and there are others.
Cong Thanh Do used the internet to spread democratic messages, a crime in Vietnam. Mr. Do is from San Jose, California. His activities, taken for granted by all Americans, came to the attention of the government of Vietnam, a government that insists upon regulating all media and information, including the internet and email. The Washington Times web site, for example, is not available to readers in Vietnam. The Washington Times is too seditionist.
While the United States cannot appropriately intervene and tell another nation that it must insist upon an American style of freedom of speech, American Congressmen and Senators can insist upon the release of Americans wrongly held in jails in Vietnam.
Thuong N. Cuc Foshee, according to her family, was detained by the Vietnamese government and has been in a detention center in HCMC [Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon] ever since. She has not been charged with any crime, has been denied bail, has been denied a visit with an attorney, her prescription medication has been withheld and she has been denied adequate dental and medical care.
(Excerpt) Read more at johnib.wordpress.com ...
They'll have to purge themselves first ~ could take 3, maybe 400 years.
No one needs them.
Most of the people of Viet Nam would concur but they don't think it will take so long. If Uncle Sam keeps smiling and keeps leaning on the VCs things will continue to improve. Pretty soon they are going to have to dip their toe into the election pool. Then it will be like an unexpected punt at the 20 yard line.
We'll have to wait and see what the long-term holds for Vietnam's current leadership. For now, we would be thankful for the release of just a handful of folks wrongly imprisoned.
Vietnam's New Found Hope
By Honglien Do/ John Carey
July 4, 2006
The top political leadership of Vietnam just changed. A new team of economic reformers emerged; but their ability to move Vietnam toward a more open and democratic future remains uncertain. The question, as we celebrate Independence Day in America, is this: can democratic governments like the U.S. influence Vietnam toward more freedom and democracy?
Last week in Vietnam, Nguyen Tan Dung was chosen by the communist ruling body as Vietnam's youngest post-war prime minister, arguably the most significant leadership position in the government. Nguyen Minh Triet, the Communist Party head in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, formerly Saigon), was chosen as Vietnam's new president, a more ceremonial position. Nguyen Phu Trong was named as new chairman of the national assembly.
The leaders named nine new cabinet members, who were confirmed by the national assembly, including two deputy premiers and the foreign, defense and finance ministers.
Although the communist party has a firm grip on politics in Vietnam, this sweeping political change marked a watershed. From the end of the war in Vietnam in 1975, hard-line communist leadership made that country a backward, repressed, economically depressed failure: the Cuba, or worse, of Southeast Asia. All media in Vietnam is controlled by the Communist Party and the people have no say in their leadership.
Recently, more enlightened thinking has made Vietnam an emerging economic force; not a lion but perhaps an economic tiger cub.
For the future of trade with the U.S and the economy of Vietnam, the news of the new leadership gives great promise. Both Mr. Dung and Mr. Nguyen are economic reformers with close ties to the economic engine of the nation: Ho Chi Minh City.
Mr. Dung, for example, had lunch with Bill Gates when the Microsoft leader visited Vietnam last April. Business leaders we spoke to generally applauded the leadership changes.
In the past six years, the Vietnamese economy has grown at an inflation-adjusted average of 7.4 percent. This year, the government expects GDP to grow by 8.5 percent. This economic surge is helping to lift many from poverty and is leading to general improvements in infrastructure and quality of life.
The new leaders have also taken an active role in eliminating corruption and organized crime: decades-long blights on the communist system in Vietnam.
The new leaders will undoubtedly forge the future direction of Vietnam, according to professor Carlyle Thayer of the Australian Defense Force Academy.
"What is this direction?" Mr. Thayer asked us rhetorically. "Vietnam will attempt to fully integrate with the world economy through membership in the World Trade Organization. Vietnam will endeavor to maintain high growth rates over a decade-and-a-half to achieve the objective of becoming a modern and industrial country."
But even though the economic intentions of these new leaders seem clear, their political backbone remains untested and vague. One experienced diplomat who asked not to be named told us, "Dung is an enigma. He is hard to put a finger on, ideologically."
Why should the United States care about the political future of Vietnam? Precisely because, as President Bush has asserted time and again, "Democracies rarely wage war on other democracies."
While Vietnam poses no military threat to anyone, it is important to note that democratic governments tend to cherish freedom, protect their economic growth at almost any cost, resist knowingly harboring terrorists, and generally enforce human rights. Democracy not only makes people free but it also generally makes them more wealthy and improves their quality of life.
The past regime in Vietnam under Prime Minister Phan Van Khai actively persecuted the minority population, the Hmong, in ugly purges that left thousands dead and others forced to migrate away from their homeland. Mr. Khai also supported religious persecution that left dozens of clerics jailed for years on end without hope or recourse.
But people in Vietnam are restless for change. This spring and summer, petitions demanding more freedom and openness are circulating in the cities. One is called "The 2006 Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam." People are signing and supporting the petition, despite threats from the communist government.
"It's extraordinary that hundreds of citizens across Vietnam have boldly shown their support for political change in a written petition," said Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. "In Vietnam, the mere act of signing such documents routinely triggers a police investigation, detention and often imprisonment."
What can the U.S. do, to signal support for the new leaders and the people in Vietnam?
Beyond the normal diplomatic encouragements and niceties, the president should host the new leadership of Vietnam here in the United States. Last June the president hosted then-Prime Minister Phan Van Khai for a meeting in the Oval Office. At that time, because of Mr. Khai's hard-line views and miserable record on human rights, we objected, in an essay here in The Washington Times. A large portion of the Vietnamese-American public protested the Khai visit.
But the new, potentially much more democratically-leaning leadership in Vietnam would be more worthy and deserving of the prestige and dignity that comes from a White House visit (or even a trip to the Texas ranch).
Finally, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the president of the United States could, at the appropriate time, visit Vietnam. The president's position world-wide is clear: the U.S. stands for democracy and the dignity of human rights. The U.S. does not want a recalcitrant Vietnam isolated in any way from the world. It may be time to embrace the progress and fully heal the wounds.
The pace of change in Vietnam depends almost entirely upon the Vietnamese; but the United States might encourage progress in the right direction over time. This could fuel an even greater expansion of the Vietnamese economy. More importantly, additional U.S. interest and focus could push the Vietnamese leadership away from the evils of human rights abuses, including the ugly persecution of the Hmong and religious groups, and toward a more enlightened, and eventually democratic, government.
As Americans celebrate their own Independence Day, it seems fitting that we discuss and contemplate the freedom and democracy of other people. Some three decades ago we bravely attempted to secure the peace, freedom and democracy of the Vietnamese people, only to fail. Maybe enough time has passed now to allow a great nation to extend the hand a peace and reconciliation, and to encourage democracy by other than military means in Vietnam.
Honglien Do fled Communist Vietnam. John Carey is former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
One of my friends in Sai Gon emailed me a large smiley face and said there are changes.
I sent this story to the Republican U.S. Senator from FL, Mel Martinez.
(I never send anything to the Democrat U.S. Senator from FL, Bill Nelson, since it's a waste of time.)
There will be no actual progress on the corruption front until the government changes structurally. It's the same with organized crime-same people. That awaits Democracy. It will come.
Thanks for sending the article to the Senator! Exactly the kind of help we need!
John E. Carey
Until the communist party in Vietnam resigns from all government positions, allows full citizenship participation in the selection of a two-year interim government, to be followed by the independent formation of political parties, to be followed by internationally monitored elections for a new government - NOTHING, NOTHING AT ALL SHOULD CHANGE OR ADVANCE between the U.S. and communist Vietnam.
Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) escaped as a boy from Castro's Cuba, so I feel he will be more interested than most.
Great. Thanks. I am proudly married into a Vietnamese-American family. Many relatives and friend were held by the Communists. Many stories of escape and heroism; but the community of Vietnamese-Americans generally keep quiet, work hard and are just happy to be here to enjoy the freedoms of America. I get to be the loudmouth that sticks up for those still in peril or at risk.
All the best and thanks to everyone who can find a way to help,
This article is a waste of time. It is very apparent these countries can do anything they want anymore and the are still welcome into our new global community. All it takes is a large business to show interest in the area...
Had Kerry been elected it would already have taken place, and with absolutely no preconditions. The Vietnamese people may look to his wing of the Democratic party for sympathy and help no more than they could thirty years ago. Nor may they look to international organizations for pressure on the autocrats to democratize - is such pressure likely to come from the likes of Iran, Zimbabwe, or the Sudan? Russia or China? Is it even likely to come from the unquestioned beneficiaries of democracy, the EU? Anyone old enough to remember the policies of France with respect to the U.S. effort in Vietnam will dissolve in bitter laughter at the idea.
The Vietnamese are not entirely on their own, of course. But democratization will have to come from within, because it's a cold, fat, self-centered and frightened world without.
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