September 30, 2009 The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520 Dear Secretary Clinton: As you prepare to meet with Vietnamese Foreign Minister, Pham Gia Khiem on Thursday, October 1, 2009, I would like to urge you to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Vietnam with Foreign Minister Khiem. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. However, the Vietnamese government continues to detain and imprison Vietnamese citizens for exercising rights that are guaranteed under the UN Declaration. According to Human Rights Watch, the Government of Vietnam failed to comply with 45 recommendations raised by the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review including lifting internet and blogging controls on privately owned media and allowing individuals to promote human rights. I find it appalling that a country which blatantly acts in disregard to the UN Declaration will be acting as President of the UN Security Council in October. I request that you strongly urge the Government of Vietnam to meet its obligations to the UN and its people by upholding the basic principles of the UN – respect for human rights. On September, 27, 2009, the police in Vietnam assaulted over 130 monks and removed them from the Bat Nha Monastery before destroying it, a blatant violation of individuals’s rights to freedom of religion. Also, recently, the following eight activists were imprisoned and are currently facing “propaganda against the socialist state” charges: Nguyen Manh Son (writer), Ngo Quynh (university student), Nguyen Van Tuc (land rights activist), Nguyen Kim Nhan (electrician) , Vu Hung (high school teacher), and Pham Van Troi (engineer). On September 24, 2009, relatives of these dissidents appealed to the UN to directly intervene and request that the Government of Vietnam abide by UN human rights conventions by stopping the repression of political dissidents and releasing their relatives. The ongoing imprisonment of these peaceful activists is a worrisome sign that the Vietnamese government is not committed to protecting human rights of honoring their responsibilities as a member of the UN. I strongly urge you to speak out on behalf of not only these eight individuals but the citizens of Vietnam who are denied their rights to freedom of speech, expression and religion on a daily basis. The United States must establish clear policies demonstrating that it is unacceptable for the Government of Vietnam to deny people their rights. I appreciate your consideration of this critical issue. Sincerely, Loretta Sanchez Member of Congress Cc: The Honorable Michael Michalak, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam
Posted on Sep 8, 2008 | by Staff WASHINGTON (BP)--A bipartisan commission has urged the U.S. State Department to return Vietnam to its list of the world's worst violators of religious liberty. The recommendation came in a report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on the Southeast Asian country, which is under the rule of a communist regime. Based on its fact-finding trip to Vietnam last fall, the commission reported most of the country's religious groups continue to suffer repression from different levels of government. The State Department removed Vietnam from its "countries of particular concern" (CPC) in November 2006. CPC designation is reserved for governments that are particularly severe violators of religious freedom. USCIRF objected to the decision and has urged since then for Vietnam to be restored to the CPC list, a request that has not been granted. In the new report, USCIRF said Vietnam made some helpful changes after it was given CPC status in 2004 but said it is incorrect to contend the government "is fully committed to respecting religious freedom instead of maintaining control of its diverse religious communities. " Vietnam should be re-designated as a country of particular concern because, among other reasons, it continues to imprison many people based on their religious faith, to exercise control over most religious groups and to prohibit independent religious expression, according to the USCIRF report. Particular targets for government repression or imprisonment, according to USCIRF, include Montagnard and Hmong Protestants; Catholics; the United Buddhist Church; and Khmer, Hoa Hao and Cao Dai Buddhists. Felice Gaer, USCIRF's chair, called on the U.S. government to pressure Vietnam to lift restrictions on religious groups and to release prisoners of conscience. "Improved conditions for some only emphasize the inexcusability of ongoing abuses endured by others," Gaer said in a written statement upon the report's Aug. 25 release. "The State Department should not diminish its categorization of Vietnam as a severe violator until the Vietnamese government demonstrates a countrywide, non-discriminatory commitment to religious freedom and human rights for all." The State Department never released a CPC list in 2007 and has yet to issue one this year. USCIRF is a nine-member panel that advises the executive and legislative branches of the federal government on religious freedom conditions overseas. The president selects three members of the commission, while congressional leaders name the other six. The State Department's ambassador at large for international religious freedom serves as a non-voting member of the panel. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is a USCIRF commissioner. The International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, requires the president to act to bring change in countries designated as CPCs. Under the act, the State Department has 90 days after designation to decide the policies it will utilize with the CPC designees. The act requires the president to take specific actions against governments designated as CPCs. He is provided a range of options, from diplomacy to economic sanctions. The president also has the authority to waive any action. USCIRF's report on Vietnam may be accessed online at www.uscirf.gov.
October 1, 2008 The Most Reverend Peter Nguyen Van Nhon Bishop of Da Lat, Vietnam President, Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops Toa Giam Muc 9 Nguyn Thai Hoc Tp. Da Lat, Vietnam Your Excellency: I was deeply saddened to learn of the escalation in tension between the Church and Vietnamese local authorities as bulldozers arrived at the site of the building formerly occupied by the Apostolic Nunciature in Hanoi. This turn of events is all the more worrisome given what appeared to have been an agreement reached in February to resolve such disputes over property and land in a peaceful manner through dialogue. Certainly when Monsignor Parolin headed a Vatican delegation to Vietnam in June 2008, there had been talk of “gradual restoration to ecclesiastical use of properties previously nationalized.” This recent unilateral action by the Vietnamese government is in direct contravention to those earlier discussions. As Chairman of the Committee on International Peace and Justice of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I want to express our solidarity with the Church in Vietnam in this difficult time. We fully support your Conference’s statement of September 25, 2008 which calls on the Government of Vietnam to enter into “frank, open and sincere dialogue, in peace and mutual respect” to resolve these land and property issues. We also strongly support your decision to stand in solidarity with Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet who has been falsely accused of inciting riots by the local authorities. You, your brother bishops and the faithful of the Church in Vietnam are in our thoughts and prayers. Praying that the Lord will continue to give you strength and grace in this trying time, I remain, Fraternally yours in Christ, Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski Bishop of Orlando Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace + GM Thomas G. Wenski
AP Reporter Detained, Beaten by Police in Vietnam By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 41 minutes ago (Sept. 19-2008) BANGKOK, Thailand - An Associated Press reporter in Vietnam was punched, choked and hit over the head with a camera by police who detained him Friday while he covered a Catholic prayer vigil in the communist country. Ben Stocking, the Hanoi bureau chief for The Associated Press, was released from police custody after about 2 1/2 hours and required four stitches on the back of his head. His camera was confiscated by police. "They told me I was taking pictures in a place that I was not allowed to be taking pictures. But it was news, and I went in," Stocking said by telephone from Hanoi. Stocking, 49, was covering a demonstration by Catholic priests and church members at the site of the former Vatican Embassy in Hanoi, which is currently the subject of a land dispute between the church and city authorities. The city had started to clear the site Friday after announcing a day earlier that it planned to use the land for a public library and park — a significant development in an already tense relationship between the church and state in Hanoi. After Vietnam's communist government took power in 1954, it confiscated property from many landowners, including the Catholic Church. The church says it has documents showing it has title to the land. Within minutes of arriving at the prayer vigil, Stocking said, he was escorted away by plainclothes police who took his camera and punched and kicked him when he asked for it back. Taken to a police station for questioning, Stocking tried to reach for his camera and an officer "banged me on the head with the camera and another police officer punched me in the face, straight on." The blow from the camera opened a gash at the back of his head. Transferred to another police station to give a written statement, Stocking was permitted to leave with a U.S. Embassy official to be taken to a medical clinic. The AP is protesting the incident, seeking an apology from Vietnamese authorities involved and insisting on the return of Stocking's property. "It is an egregious incident of police abuse and unacceptable treatment of a journalist by any civilized government authority," said John Daniszewski, the AP's managing editor for international news. "Ben Stocking was doing his job in a calm, reasonable and professional manner when he was escorted away and violently assaulted." U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Angela Aggeler said a formal statement of protest was filed with the Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to e-mail and telephone requests by the AP seeking comment. Violence is rare against international journalists in Vietnam, which has strict controls that govern press activities and travel. Foreign media have to register with the Foreign Ministry and get permission to go to remote provinces. The first portion of Stocking's arrest was captured by an anonymous cameraman and posted on YouTube.
Dear friends, The Senate Education Committee has sent AB2064 to the Appropriations Committee on a 5 - 0 vote. I had a very nice experience last weekend to become reacquainted with my State Senator (District 11) Joe Simitian. He held sidewalk office hours at the Farmers Markets in Palo Alto and Menlo Park to hear from constituents about things that interested them. I didn't learn much about the Vietnam War at UC Berkeley, even though I attended in middle age during the1980s and students who were refugees from South Vietnam were already attending--and succeeding. With the help of Amnesty International they gave a poetry reading and the first English translation of the dissident poet Nguyen Chi Thien, imprisoned in his native North Vietnam. Therefore I was teaching what I didn't know from the textbooks as a guide. Then I began to learn from community college students. The first lesson occurred at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. A student told the story of his father, who was celebrated in the local papers when he volunteered to serve in Vietnam on the same day that he achieved U.S. citizenship, having immigrated from Portugal. When his father returned he wore his uniform and medals proudly around town until the family went to the corner market, where he was spit on by the owner. This man was not an antiwar activist. In fact he was quite disreputable, having a shop that sold things to young people out the back door that could not be properly purchased in the front. He was loud and belligerant. He spit on my student's father in American uniform because "you lost." We talked in class about this quite a bit. I was shocked because I thought only antiwar activists spit on U.S. soldiers, calling them "babykillers." The next lesson occurred at De Anza College. De Anza College is in Joe Simitian's Senate District 11. A student in my U.S. History class stood up in tears and told me and her classmates (only about 10% of whom were of Vietnamese ancestry) that the textbook was wrong, and that Ho Chi Minh was a war criminal. Shocked again, I asked her why and she talked about the imprisonment of the entire South Vietnamese officer corps and civilian government after the Communist victory of April 1975. Over a million people were imprisoned in "reeducation camps" which had been named by Ho Chi Minh when establishing them in North Vietnam in June 1961. This was 2003, and I had never heard of reeducation camps. Political imprisonment by the Socialist Republic is the primary reason for the largest immigration of Vietnamese to the U.S., through the H.O. program of the early 1990. The children of the prisoners were my students, and that is why they were here. I have since learned that Marianne Brems, at Mission College, began assigning experience stories from students in 1993. The essays are online. I learned upon talking with people who immigrated to the United States and with further study of established historical sources that when Ho Chi Minh's government, when handed the country of North Vietnam by the Geneva Accords of 1954, had systematically killed nearly 200,000 people who were landowners. It was only necessary to own a small bit of land, less than 1 acre, to be denounced and executed. This was all in North Vietnam. The South Vietnam middle class was protected by the Diem government and gradually by the U.S. forces whose presence was initiated by President Eisenhower. The purpose of U.S. forces was containing Communist aggression. The issues and materials about the Secret War in Laos and the Hmong who fought on the side of the United States that is the subject of AB2064 are growing as the people immigrate to the U.S. after being in refugee camps in Thailand for many years, only to face deportation to Laos --and sure death-- in 2004. Not a typo, 2004. This is the infusion of new immigration that has resulted in the demand for historical recognition in textbooks. Duc Nguyen, a filmmaker, has been coming to meetings and encouraging the application of Vietnamese American education professionals to the California Dept. of Education. He testified to the Curriculum Framework Committee public session in San Jose on May 30 that the current textbook on the Vietnam War for middle school students in Oakland contained 31 first-person essays. None of them were by a Vietnamese American. The significance of AB2064 is that it is inclusive of all immigrant groups and their experiences as they related to the Vietnam War. This is not only who came, and what they left, but why and how and what happened after they came to America. The Digital Clubhouse at the San Jose History Park has been doing an excellent job with this by having students interview immigrants. I have learned from interest generated by AB2064 and the Hmong people who live in Fresno in Assemblyman Juan Arambula's District, that there is a memorial to the Laos soldiers-in-arms at Arlingon National Cemetery in D.C. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/laosmem.htm In examining the educational sites the clearest one that I have found is a Presentation Written by Txong Pao Lee and Mark E. Pfeifer at the Hmong Cultural and Resource Center, Saint Paul, MN http://hmongstudies.org/BuildingBridgesGeneralPresentation2006Version.pdf This presentation is downloadable and can go to any classroom or meeting. I have learned so much but the most valuable lesson is cooperation among the new and the old. Senator Simitian responded immediately to the idea that AB064 is based on the success of the pioneer Black Studies movement in the 1960s and 1970s, which we both remember well. All the groups -- Latinos, the Women's Movement, Asian Americans from 19th and early 20th century immmigration, credit the Black Studies movement for curriculum inclusion as paving the way for citizen participation in education. Thank you, California Senate Education Committee for quickly sending AB064 to the Appropriations Committee. Best regards to all, Jean Libby, editor VietAm Review http://vietamreview.blogharbor.com
Religious Freedom in Viet Nam Rev Peter Nguyen Huu Giai and Rev Peter Phan Van Loi To the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 27-10-2007 In Viet Nam nowadays, basic human and civil rights are listed sufficiently in the Constitution. But they are almost defined vaguely or inadequately, restricted or rescinded by statutes, edicts, decrees and resolutions. In other words, they don't exist in real life for the real citizens. 1- In theory. In religious matter, you can see now in Viet Nam, many places of worship built, many ceremonies organized, many representatives of the religious supreme authority going inside or abroad to study or participate in conferences, many religious institutes opened. All these, naturally, with the permission and under the control of the government. But according to our opinion, religious freedom doesn’t consist in building churches or pagodas, in organising religious festivities, in welcoming religious dignitaries, in going abroad, even in opening the seminaries (such as propagandized by the Vietnamese Communist regime). All these liberties are external and secondary. We think that real religious freedom essentially consist of the following: - the liberty of founding the religion, church or congregation, without the permission or the sanction but only with the recognition of the government, which must recognize this religion or church or religious organisation after its registration. - the independence of the churches to establish their structures, to recruit, to train their personnel, to ordain, to promote, to transfer their clerics, to designate or to appoint their hierarchies and leaders. - the promulgation of the religion to the people, the participation of the churches in the life of the society- by establishing and managing the schools of all grade levels, from nurseries to universities, by owning and running press, radio, television, website, publication house, and by founding and managing centers of charitable activities, such as medical clinics and hospitals. Regretfully, all the Churches in VN don’t have these liberties. They are annuled by the Ordinance on Religion and Belief issued in November 2004, the Decree of Implementation of this Ordinance issued in March 2005, the 15 Administrative Procedures issues in July 2007 and by the arbitrary will of local authorities who are all atheist and anti-religious. These legal texts control, threaten and limit the religions in five essential elements: statute, personnel, activities, finance, connections. For us, these texts constitute a measure to repress the religion by law. They easily make illegal all our activities and degenerate gradually our religion. According to the Cardinal Pham Minh Man, the Ordinance on Religion and Belief is not for the churches but for the communist party. 2- Some examples - At the present time, the Vietnamese Communist government only accepts 16 religious organizations that belong to 6 main religions (Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Caodaism, Hoa Hao Buddhism, Islamism) while the number of registered religious organizations are very much greater. The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam of the Venerable Thich Quang Do, the Pure Hoa Hao Buddhists of Mr Le Quang Liem, the Mennonite Protestant Church of the pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, the Vietnamese People’s Evangelical Fellowship of the pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh… are “outlaws” and are constantly persecuted. - In June 6, 2007, the Communist Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed the Decision No 83/2007 QD-TTg. It lays down as a policy the training of 22.000 cadres specializing in religious matter. The main duty of these cadres will consist in watching, reporting, infiltrating, rigging and controlling the Churches. The communist government want to paralyze or weaken the capacity of resistance of religions against the evil, social injustice caused by the regime, and finally to change religions into tools for the tyranical regime. - Utilizing the communist ideology to train future religious leaders, the communist government forces the seminarians (futures priests) to study the Marxism, the history of the Communist Party and the legislation of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. These subjects are among the most important in the curriculum of the seminary, and the high mark in them is the condition to be ordained priest. The study of materialist and atheist theory in tandem with the study of humanist and theist theory will paralyze or make degenerate the conscience of the futurs spiritual leaders. In fact, very few vietnamese priests plunge into the fight for religious freedom and democracy. - Mischievously, the communist government interferes in the appointment of the high-ranking dignitaries. That led to the choice and the consecration, in Vietnamese Catholic Church, of many bishops not totally to the standard of the Church. A disastrous aftermatch: two bishops in power must resign their post as pastors. That is the case of the bishop Nguyen Van Yen, diocesis of Phat Diem, and the bishop Nguyen Tich Duc, diocesis of Ban Me Thuot. This didn’t happen in the Catholic church before 1975. In general case, vietnamese archbishops and bishops prove rather indifferent to many iniquities in the society. - The recent pastoral letter of the Vietnamese Bishops’ Conference (12-10-2007) complains: “The door of the education remains closed to the religious organizations in Viet Nam: the religions have only the right to open kindergarten as private school. Although exerting itself to the utmost to do all the permissible to realize its mission in the world, such as opening charitables classes, founding scholarship fund for poor or disabled pupils, the Catholic Church, as a religious organization, resigns itself to stand on the margin of the educational cause and, because of lacking the right to take part, resigns to play the role of a reluctant observer”. This statement denounces a grave violation of human rights. The religions have the role of bringing the moral, spiritual values to the society by the predication and the education. To obstruct the Churches in taking part in the education is one of the causes of the tragic degeneration of the Vietnamese education and of the degradation of the Vietnamese youth. - Many religious dignitaries continue to be gaoled (such as the priest Nguyen Van Ly, the pastor Nguyen Van Dai [newly ordained]…), kept under house arrest (the bonzes Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do and Thich Thien Hanh, the religious chief Le Quang Liem, the priest Phan Van Loi…), harassed (the pastors Nguyen Hong Quang and Nguyen Cong Chinh, the bonzes Thich Khong Tanh and Thich Minh Nguyet…). Many believers are gaoled (such as members of the Hoa Hao Buddhism: Le Van Tinh, Bui Tan Nha, Nguyen Van Dien, Vo Van Thanh Liem, Vo Van Buu, Mai Thi Dung, Nguyen Thanh Phong, Nguyen Thi Ha, To Van Manh, Nguyen Thanh Long, Nguyen Van Thuy, Nguyen Van Tho, Duong Thi Tron, Le Van Soc…). The Montagnard Foundation, Inc, in USA, in a bulletin dated 20-10-2007 (Latest death of Degar Montagnard house Church Christian), announced: “01 October 2007 a Degar House Church Christian Preacher man named Siu Blok died from torture by Vietnamese authorities. He was videotaped giving an illegal prayer blessing and reported to police by another religious group who is sanctioned by the government. It is Vietnam's plan to "divide and conquer" the independent house Churches” (see document attached) - The churches can’t have press, radio, television, house of publication as private properties. The weekly Cong giao van Dan toc (Catholicism and Nation) and the weekly Nguoi Cong giao Viet Nam (Vietnamese Catholics) are the information services of the Communist Party of VN. The bulletin Hiep Thong (Communion) of the Vietnamese Bishops’ Conference can only issue 6 numbers per year, 100 copies per number for 6.000.000 catholics. The catholics books printed are under 100 titles per year and must be printed by the house of publication of the state. The basic information document of the Catholic Church (Catholic Church’s Year-book 2005) was censored strictly by the government, so that it was not entirely welcome and trusted by the believers and by the researchers. - The properties of the religions (lands, establisments such as university, school, orphanage, infimaries…) confiscated by the government since 1975, even since recent years, are not yet given back to theirs proprietors. (see documents attached). 3- Proposal to USCIRF From George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, from Thomas Jefferson to George W. Bush, democracy is the ideal of the people and the government of the United States. Therefore, we wish that in seeking the occasions for business in our country, the US government would always push up the process of democratization in VN. For us, the great benefit you can bring to our people is the democratization rather than the capitalization. At the present time, the process of capitalization is creating many red capitalists and innumerable destitute people. Without the democratization, we haven’t for ever freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of belief, religion, freedom of assembly, association and other democratic freedoms. And therefore, no real economic development. The maintenance of designating Vietnam as a country of particular concern (CPC) is just and worthy of praise. We hope that many measures will be soon applied to promote religious freedom and also political freedom in VN./.
Nguyen's proposal for San Jose Hundreds of chanting protesters swarmed to San Jose City Hall this morning as Councilwoman Madison Nguyen unveiled a compromise she hoped would quell the fury over what to call a new Vietnamese business district in central San Jose. Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American woman elected to office in California, unwittingly stepped into a political minefield earlier this year with a proposal to designate a stretch of Story Road in East San Jose "Vietnamese Business District." Local Vietnamese American activists demanded instead that the area be called "Little Saigon," a bow to the former capitol of South Vietnam before that country fell to Communist forces in 1975. Nguyen, along with business owners in the area, worried that the name was a politicized relic from the past - and besides, there are already Little Saigons in other cities. With activists promising to boycott businesses in the area and threatening to recall council members who didn't vote for "Little Saigon," Nguyen worked feverishly in recent days to craft a compromise. Flanked by San Jose's mayor and vice mayor, she stepped to a microphone in the city hall plaza this morning and announced her solution: "Saigon Business District." The crowd was silent. Then the chants began anew: "Little Saigon! Little Saigon!" Mayor Chuck Reed, who has worked hard to court the city's 100,000-strong Vietnamese American community, tried to appease the crowd, noting they were still free to call the area whatever they want. But the city's redevelopment agency has already allocated $100,000 for signs with the new name. The council is set to vote Tuesday on the new name. Just what to call the Vietnamese retail area has exploded into a divisive nationwide controversy - and jeopardized Nguyen's political future. Letters from as far away as Minnesota, Missouri and Pennsylvania have poured into the mayor's office. The furor over the name has become an unexpected emblem of the deep divisions within the Vietnamese community throughout the country. The debate is laced with rhetoric that has historically plagued Vietnamese-American politics - accusations that people are either radical anti-communists or passive communist sympathizers. To many people, "Little Saigon" symbolizes freedom from communist control. But others say San Jose needs its own identity; many of the Vietnamese merchants in the area, along with some of the Latino residents who live nearby, proposed the name "New Saigon." Little Saigon supporters have blasted that proposal, however, saying that's the name of a shopping mall in Communist Vietnam.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen: Vietnamese communists are quite deceitful. Talking face-to-face with people, they pretend to be respectful, but in their backs, they badmouth these people using extremely vulgar language. United States Commission On International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had recently arrived in Vietnam to conduct thorough investigations on the issue of religious repression in Vietnam because, for years, Vietnam had been designated in the U.S. State department’s list of CPC (Countries of Particular Concern) in 2004 and 2005 after Vietnam authorities torn/ burned down and/ or destroyed more than 4,000 churches and worship facilities in 2001 and 2002. They had imprisoned and killed many religious faithful and prohibited them from practicing their religions, especially to the Christians in big cities and in tribal hamlets in highland regions of Vietnam . This information may be referenced in the U.S. State Department’s official website. Vietnam authorities had promised to President George W. Bush and the State Department that they would implement appropriate policy and administrative measures to fully comply with State Department’s required benchmarks in order to be taken off from the list of CPC and be granted status of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) and admitted into the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, after achieving their goals, Vietnam authorities mendaciously turned around, swallowed their pride, and did not keep their promise. Yet, they have drastically increased persecution and imposing harsh jail terms for more than 50 popular political and religious dissidents since August 2006. Vietnam authorities formally welcomed USCIRF Delegation during its visit in Vietnam . However, when USCIRF was still working out issues with Vietnam and about to leave, the Communist authorities have instructed more than 600 state-controlled daily newspapers and periodicals to start igniting their war with full force by publishing this following article, written in Vietnamese, in their “Cong An Nhan Dan & An Ninh The Gioi” Newspaper (People Police and World Security” Newspaper on their article dated October 27, 2007, written in Vietnamese by Colonel Nguyen Nhu Phong, the Executive Editor. URL referenced below: http://www.cand.com.vn/vi-VN/binhluan/2007/10/77733.cand Please remember all communication media in Vietnam are strictly controlled by the government. Therefore, the above-mentioned newspaper was instructed to publish the following article. We have translated this article, intact, into English and highlighted important paragraphs/ phrases for your quick reference. We appreciate your in-depth comments and appropriate assistance to help convince the U.S. Congress passing the Bill HR-3096, Vietnam Human Right Acts, as quickly as possible, to improve the situation of religious freedom and human rights in Vietnam where our 84.5 million suffering fellow citizens have been severely repressed under the totalitarian dictatorship of the Communist Party of Vietnam, a sole political party in Vietnam. Thank you. May God bless you and your loved ones in your noble mission to help regain freedom and justice for our unfortunate People inside our beloved motherland, Vietnam . Again, tactic of “Setting both sides by ears” Oct. 27, 07 By Nguyen Nhu Phong Executive Editor, “World Security” Magazine, State-controlled writer In real life activities of the United States Commission On International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), especially the unfriendly attitudes of some members, we are clearly convinced that this is a conspiracy to exploit the issues of religion and human rights to sabotage the developing fine diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the United States for the shared interests of the two nations. During the last several days, “USCIRF” has been visiting Vietnam . According to their schedule, they will end their trip on November 11, 07. There will be nothing to say if this is a friendly visit and in the spirit of respecting independence and sovereignty of each other nation. However, USCIRF’s activities, specifically their meetings with some individuals who are “unwelcomed by Vietnam authorities” have been creating public concerns. Is it true that under the name of “Religious Freedom” they have grossly violated the religious freedom in Vietnam to plant seeds for conspiracies in which they aim at damaging the good progress of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and United States governments. Upon Vietnam government’s permission, from October 21 to November 1, 2007, USCIRF consisted of the President, 2 Vice Presidents and 3 Commissioners have visited Vietnam and worked with a number of Vietnam’s governmental departments such as Governmental Committee of Religious Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Congressional Committee of Foreign Affairs, Leadership of Public Security Ministry, Leadership of Central Citizens Mobilization and Leadership of People Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, etc. They also met with Catholic Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet, Most Venerable Thich Thanh Tu (Buddhist State-Controlled Church of Vietnam), met at round table with branches of Christian Church, Christian Church and faithful of Buddhist Hoa Hao Church… In addition, they also suggested meetings with some individuals who have been convicted of criminal offenses such as conducting propaganda, fighting against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and causing public disorders… These individuals include Le Quoc Quan, Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan. USCIRF also met with Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly’s family members. They even hosted welcoming lunch/ dinner to Nguyen Van Dai’s wife and mothers of Le Thi Cong Nhan and Le Quoc Quan. Their conspiracy for this trip is mainly encouraging protests and sabotage to Vietnam by some individuals in Vietnam who have proclaimed themselves as religious activists. Then, what type of organization is USCIRF when it has flatly ignored recent diplomatic efforts of the two governments to enhance and strengthen the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the U.S. ? Apparently, they have not cared much about the fact that the U.S. State Department had taken Vietnam off its list of “Countries of Particular Concerns / CPC” This Commission (USCIRF) is an independent entity, which is appointed by the U.S. President, directly reports to him and confirmed by the U.S. Senate with the participation of both Democratic and Republican parties. For years, taking advantage of the badge of “independence”, this Commission always has broadcast inaccurate information and grossly and falsely labeled religious activities in Vietnam . Information they have broadcast mainly from some exiled betraying and combating individuals such as Ngo Thi Hien who has proclaimed herself “President of Committee of Religious Freedom for Vietnam ”. However, in fact this is an organization, which was maliciously created and run by that woman to cheat Vietnamese Americans in America for her sole purpose of soliciting cash contributions. USCIRF also receives reports from vagabond Vo Van Ai. And of course, it also includes fabricated information of “hearsay and dropping burning charcoals on people’s palms” from others such as Le Quoc Quan, Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan and Pham Hong Son, etc. That’s why in the meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Committee Head of Religious Affairs Nguyen The Doanh and Vice Minister of Public Security Nguyen Van Huong, USCIRF has laid out extremely inaccurate and misleading information and obviously without friendliness at all. Based on some unknown informants, USCIRF gave out a list of 20 individuals and claimed that these persons are “prisoners of religious persecution”. All these listed persons are completely “ghosts” because there are no such persons in real life. Many villages and tribal hamlets claimed by USCIRF cannot be located on road maps. In the “working session” with Superior General Nguyen Van Huong, USCIRF shamelessly mentioned that freedom of religion in Vietnam had achieved some progress in the past but it is currently halted. That their Commission has been reported that there are abuses, arrests, and harassments to the Churches’ leaders. That they have been reported that religious faithful have been repressed, persecuted and even some were cruelly killed. Then, USCIRF requested Ministry of Public Security’s authorization so they could meet with some jail inmates and also requested release for some people who “dared to express their views of basic human rights”. They also proposed Vietnam to implement measures to “prevent repression” against religious practitioners. USCIRF also requested on-site visits to meet with Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan. And, in the lunch in which the Commission hosted these two inmates’ family members they claimed they were reported that Dai and Nhan have not been permitted to receive food and medication supplies from their families. They also requested that Vietnam legal system has to legalize the “ Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam ”. Last but not least, they also listed out concrete cases of some persons and claimed that these persons were persecuted until deaths such as Y Het in Phu Yen province. Superior General Nguyen Van Huong has straightly rejected USCIRF’s claims. For some specific cases, he requested evidences. And of course, how was USCIRF able to unearth their fabricated evidences? General Huong also affirmed there are no repression, abuse and harassment of the Church leaders. For years, religions in Vietnam have been very strongly developed. As of today, there are 23 million followers of all faith comprising of 10 million Buddhists, 5. 9 million Catholics, 1 million Christians, 3.2 million Cao Dai, 1.4 million Buddhist Hoa Hao, 67,000 Muslims, 1.4 million Tinh Do Cu Si Buddhist Association, 78,000 Tu An Huu Nghia, 78,000 Bahai, 10,000 Ngu Chi Minh Dao. Since 2005 until today, headcount of religious followers have increased 2 million, 6 religions and 16 affiliated organizations have increased from 10 religions and 29 affiliated organizations, which have been recognized by the government. Total of Church leaders, preachers, assistants are 53,000 persons in which Christian Churches have 1,423 faithful. There are 24,000 worship facilities, churches, pagodas and temples. Churches’ leader training programs also have developed very rapidly. (State–controlled) Buddhist Church of Vietnam has 3 institutes, 35 Buddhist college-preparation and trade schools, 15 Buddhist elementary schools. There were 274 Buddhist monks who had applied for college admissions in other countries. Many of those became PhDs. in Buddhism. Catholic Church of Vietnam has 7 seminaries, which have trained 3,000 Church’s clergy. Christian Church owns Bible/ Theology Association, etc. Beginning 2007 until today, Churches of all religions have ordained, appointed and transferred more than 1,000 Church leaders, built from scratches or renovated 351 worship facilities. Many province and city authorities have approved preliminarily the applications and land utilizing permits for Churches. Therefore, if Vietnam authorities have repressed religions how can we produce those speakable figures as mentioned above. As to the so-called “religious prisoners” then in Vietnam there has never been a single citizen who has been jailed for his/ her religious activities or because he/ she “dares to speak up his/her political viewpoint”. However, these citizens only have been convicted of their criminal offenses. Vo Thanh Liem in An Giang province has been jailed because he had splashed acid to other person’s face. Y Het in Phu Yen province was a street gangster. He had attacked simultaneously 6 persons. In jail, he died of neck tumors. Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan had invoked and organized forces to fight and plan to overthrow the government by which they have seriously violated Vietnam laws. The so-called “ Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam ” is an organization since Saigon regime, but in 1981 this organization’s leadership has volunteered to merge their organization with (State-Controlled) Buddhist Church of Vietnam. Therefore, if this organization had been in operations it surely would have been illegal. However, those so-called “ Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam ’s leadership” such as Thich Quang Do, etc. who even have not been recognized by law but they are still authorized to conduct normal religious activities in pagodas. And of course, nobody among them would have been arrested if they had not violated the laws. Superior General Nguyen Van Huong also has confirmed that Vietnam laws have clearly prohibited the abuse of prisoners and violators will be severely punished. Trials in courts in Vietnam are open to the public with the participation of defense attorneys and defendants’ family members. International diplomatic representatives in foreign embassies are also invited to attend and witness those trials. Also, governmental cadres in charge of public services in Vietnam have been all thoroughly trained in regards to human rights and in compliance with the Administrative Directive of Religions (PHA’P LE^.NH TO^N GIA’O). After the meeting with Superior General Nguyen Van Huong, USCIRF Delegation was invited to visit Le Thi Cong Nhan and Nguyen Van Dai in Ha Noi prison camp. Completely contrary to their initial acknowledgement that they claimed these 2 inmates have not been supplied with food and medication from their families and that these inmates are hungry and thirsty and currently living in unsecured conditions, Dai and Nhan both looked “very chubby” with their relaxed and happy faces. It turned out that since their arrests until now Dai and Nhan live in much better accommodations than they used to live in before because their families have supplied them regularly with food, medication and many other things. Nhan has received supplies 32 times and Dai 31 times. Therefore, they are in top priority to receive families’ food and medication supplies compared to other inmates (jail rules allow 2 times of supply for each inmate every month). In jail, Dai still reads Bible and books and even organizes his religious preaching sessions. Even USCIRF intentionally listed out tricky questions about Dai and Nhan’s living conditions but before the obvious truth, these 2 inmates could not say anything different from the truth. They have been kindly treated and their daily activities have never been interfered. Apparently, realizing Americans visit her, Le Thi Cong Nhan falsely understood that she finally found out her “live vest” while sinking in the ocean so she earnestly suggested USCIRF Delegation to intervene with Vietnam authorities to release both of them. In that meeting, USCIRF Delegation promised to Nhan it will voice out Nhan’s petition to Vietnam responsible authorities. However, after that meeting USCIRF absolutely has never mentioned about those two inmates again in following meetings with Vietnam officials. In the meeting with the Executive Team of Christian Inter-Association in North Vietnam , USCIRF focused their inquiries upon the so-called “difficulties in religious activities” of the Inter-Association, and questioned, “If the Church often receives reports concerning the local governments which violate the right of freedom of faith”. Minister President of Christian Inter-Association (State-controlled Minister) has explained to USCIRF the issue of budget deficit and under staff to keep the Inter-Association from working effectively. Mr. Phung Quang Huyen (state-controlled minister), also affirmed that the past difficulties in religious activities have been completely solved, especially after the Prime Minister had issued his Administrative Directive One (01). However, in some local provinces in Northern mountainous areas the execution of Administrative Directive One is still slow, in some areas the religious groups have not been registered but the faithful are still in normally religious activities. In regards to some conflicts between the Churches’ faithful and the government then after having been reported, Inter-Association leadership has informed the incidents to central and local responsible authorities to intervene and solve the issues to guarantee the legitimate interests of the faithful, and at same time to advise the faithful to practice religion according to the Bible’s spirit, not to commit in activities against the Government, which will create bad impact to the Church’s prestige. The reality has proven that the Church’s action viewpoint is correct therefore, relations between government and the Church is currently much more open. To conclude its visit and work plan at some Northern provinces , USCIRF flew to City of Hue and eventually to Ho Chi Minh City on schedule. Based on USCIRF’s on-site activities, especially on unfriendly attitudes of some Commissioners, it is more than obvious that this is surely a conspiracy to exploit the issues of religion and human rights to destroy developing fine relations between Vietnam and the U.S. for the shared benefits of both nations. It is not easy to understand why USCIRF dared to set up standards that this nation or other nation has to follow its strategy/ philosophy of religious activities. Each nation and each People has its unique characteristics of its own religions and unique culture. Therefore, religious activities are not identical to everybody. America always raises its loud and arrogant voice that this or that certain nation violates human rights but America itself is the one who violates human rights in the most horrific way. American governments were the main offenders who initiated the most destructing war in Vietnam . Until now, the war aftermaths cannot be overcome. In America , such incidents of gunfire sprees aiming at innocent people, tortures or abuses of inmates that have triggered big shocks to the whole world. Are these incidents sophisticated symbols of the U.S, a democratic society in which human rights are highly respected? Vietnamese all have learned a popular adage: «One’s feet stained with big chunks of smelly SHIT in darkness of the night, Yet he/ she arrogantly wield up burning torches to keep searching around people’s feet to find out where‘s the SHIT comes from». Perhaps, USCIRF should learn by heart this famous adage. Nguyen Nhu Phong State-controlled Executive Editor/ First runner-up for Nobel Prize of Literature English version by Viet Si, Activist for Religious Freedom and Human Rights in Vietnam
Saturday, 27 October 2007 By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly arrested in Vietnam. HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)-- A well-known Catholic priest and editor serving eight years imprisonment in Vietnam for alleged anti-government activity, is not allowed to have a Bible and other items of his church, according to a transcript of a prison conversation obtained by BosNewsLife Saturday, October 27. "Even papers and pen are not allowed to keep, not to mention to Bible," the 60-year-old priest, Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, told his sister and cousin during their October 10 visit to ‘K1 Prison Camp’ in Ba Sao commune of Vietnam’s northern Ha Nam province. "They only allow me to read 'Law' magazine you sent me. I am still in a single confinement cell. The cell floor was refaced with new tiles, to show off to visiting delegations. But until today, there is no delegation visiting me," he said. On Mach 30, a judge at Thua Thien Hue Provincial People's Court in central Vietnam sentenced Ly in a four-and-a-half hour trial on March 30 to eight years in prison on charges of disseminating anti-government documents and communicating with pro-democracy activists overseas. "OVERTHOWING" VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT Authorities said Ly, who already spent over 14 years in jail for his pro-democracy activities, was plotting to merge his Vietnam Progression Party with overseas democracy activists and to overthrow the government. "The Vietnamese constitution states that Vietnam has a one-party political system," Deputy Public Security Minister Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Huong said in published remarks. "It's illegal if some people want to establish another party, not to mention secretly inciting other people to join their organization and aim to overthrow the existing government." The priest has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is seeking peaceful means to fight for democracy and freedom. Viewing himself as an innocent victim of persecution by the Communist Party, he initially refused to wear a prison uniforms. "You, sister and cousin, should not have the wrong idea that I have admitted guilt” by wearing a "black-and-white striped prison suit." However “today, I have to wear it or the jail officers will not allow me to meet you," he told his sister Nguyen Thi Hieu and cousin, identified only as Ms. Minh, on October 10, according to the transcript. VIETNAMESE LEADERS CRITICIZED He criticized Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for declaring during a recent visited to the United States that there are no political prisoners in Vietnam. "Why not? Living evidence is [myself] here and many other democracy activists who are currently in jail across Vietnam. I will stay in jail until Vietnam authorities admit they still keep…many political prisoners and prisoners of conscience," behind bars. . However he said life was not easy in prison. as besides a Bible he was not allowed a “bottle of wine used at Mass and a little box of communions" brought to him by two fellow priests. "Probably Father Quy mistakenly thought he is the City Council member so he is authoritative and valuable so he should be well respected by jail officers…" he said about one of the visiting priests. "This regime does not respect anybody. Furthermore, they do not respect people who follow, work and compromise with them. They respect people who dare to challenge and fight them," he apparenty added. A key media tool for dissidents is the underground monthly magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Speech) he edited, which the priest said is still distributed nationwide, BosNewsLife learned. During the apparently emotionally charged meeting with family members, the priest asked why mail is addressed to "Mr./Brother Nguyen Van Ly" instead of "To: The Rev. Nguyen Van Ly?" His sister explained that writing the word "Priest" on a gift box is not authorized by the Vietnamese post office. "They will not send those gifts to you. The reason is this government [claims] it "does not imprison Church’s people," she said. "PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE" Ly said he had “not yet” received a Bible she sent to him, and expressed doubts that book would be handed over to him by prison authorities. He apparently managed to receive some other gifts from his family during their prison visit, but it was unclear if they would be taken away from him. He signed his gift receipt with: “The Rev. Nguyen Van Ly, prisoner of conscience.” It comes amid fresh reports of a crackdown on activists. Dissidents told BosNewsLife that Le Thi Kim Thu, an outspoken protester whose properties "have been robbed by local authorities in Vietnam," has been detained in Hanoi, while three other female activists, sisters Lu Thi Thu Duyen, Lu Thi Thu Trang and Lu Thi Thu Van were allegedly "electrocuted and assaulted by Vietnam police's high-voltage rods on October 11," in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. They were reportedly being interrogated by police for their roles of leading homeless residents to protest the government in Vietnam In addition Journalism student Nong Van Khanh was allegedly assaulted and electrocuted by a police high-voltage rod on October 10 in Hanoi for "stealing a mobile phone", an attack activists link to his apparent involvement in freedom of speech. More details were not immediately available, but several human rights organizations have expressed concerns about an apparent crackdown on dissent by a government they say allows more economic reforms but not the necessary political changes. At least hundreds of Christians are believed to be among detained activists. Besides priests and other church leaders, they also include less known believers and many Degar-Montanards, BosNewsLife established. (With reporting from Vietnam and other sources).
October 7th, 2007 The Honorable Michael W. Michalak United States Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam Dear Ambassador Michalak: It is my great honor to meet with you and the United States Congress members today. I am so grateful to provide you with the update concerning the latest human rights violations in Vietnam. These violations are becoming more severe while the Vietnamese authorities have been implementing their Resolution 36 to aggressively expand their political influence in the overseas countries in which many Vietnamese reside including United States, Western European nations and Australia. Vietnamese authorities have spent a tremendously big budget to implement the Resolution 36 with the ultimate goal to solidify, completely and politically control the overseas Vietnamese around the world. Followings are some recent incidents I would like to bring up to you today: - Catholic priest Peter Phan Van Loi has been under strict home detainment at his residence at 16/ 46 Tran Phu street in city of Hue, Vietnam for years under police’s verbal order without any public trial in court. - Christian Minister Nguyen Cong Chinh has recently been physically injured by plain-clothes police and hired street gangsters weeks ago. - Christian Minister Ngo Dac Luy had escaped safely to Cambodia to stay away from persecution. He had been registered and classified as a political refugee with the United Nations Commissioner of Refugees Resettlement in Pnompenh. However, he has been currently under intensive search by Vietnam secret police and seriously facing deportation to Vietnam. It is very much appreciated that you open your kind heart to help out these three popular religious leaders be free from physical abuse and unjust suppression. As to religious activities in Vietnam, I am extremely disappointed and absolutely pessimistic about the future of our Churches. Vietnamese authorities have aggressively trained and appointed hundreds of state-controlled monks. After graduating, these monks are appointed to work nationwide. In Catholic Church, it is more difficult for the government to train and appoint priests in local Churches and parishes. Yet, hundreds of Catholic clergymen have worked with pays for government at all levels including Congress, Father Land Solidarity Front and Communist Party of Vietnam, etc. even though the Catholic Church’s Canon Law strictly prohibits Catholic clergymen working or joining government or politically affiliated organizations at any level. It is very much likely that with quick and shallow observations from outside one only can see faithful clergymen dutifully serving the Churches and the faithful. In horrified reality, these paid, state-controlled clergymen have been working dutifully and skillfully to secretly destroy their Churches from inside step-by-step studiously. From outside, the international communities only have been shown all glamorously religious activities in which Churches’ new giant buildings have been erected and colorful religious parades have been well organized, etc. In sorrowful reality, state-controlled clergymen have been approved with long-term exit visas to visit Vietnamese in other countries to solicit generous cash contributions from millions of overseas religious faithful for the Communist Party of Vietnam and for these clergymen under designated contracts. Thank you. May God bless you in your noble mission to help bring back justice, human rights and civil rights to 84 million suppressed Vietnamese People who have been defenseless and voiceless for over 62 years under the defeated Communism and the heartless communists. Respectfully yours, The Rev. Nguyen Thanh Former Catholic Military Chaplain Marine Division, Republic of Vietnam Arms Forces Former Prisoner of Conscience Cc: - U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez - U.S. Congress members