Vietnamese American Youth Respond to Nguyen’s Visit to U.S.

It’s the third day on a visit to Orange County from Communist Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet. He’s staying at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa in Dana Point, and there has been a steady flow of protesters at the resort to respond to his stay.Here’s a press release I received yesterday:

Vietnamese American Youth Response to Viet Nam President’s Visit to U.S.

California, June 22, 2007 – Today, the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations, the United Vietnamese Student Associations of Northern California, the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California, the Vietnamese American Youth Alliance of San Diego, Phan Boi Chau Youth for Democracy, and Len Duong Vietnamese Youth Network issued a collective statement in response to the U.S. visit of Viet Nam President Nguyen Minh Triet and to voice concern for on-going religious persecution, human rights violations, and political oppression taking place in Viet Nam.

President Triet is the latest and highest ranking Vietnamese government official to visit the United States with the expressed purpose of improving economic ties and increasing foreign investment to Viet Nam. Since diplomatic normalization, Viet Nam has gained significant bi-lateral trade with the United States, become a member of the World Trade Organization, hosted the Asian Pacific Economic Summit, and received Permanent Normal Trade Relation status from the United States Congress. Despite these economic advancements, the government has not made a good faith effort to raise the treatment of its citizens to international human rights standards, as it continues to harass, detain, and imprison – without cause or due process – democracy activists, religious leaders, political dissidents, and various other individuals who voiced opposition to government policies.

Recently, the government has intensified its crackdown on democracy activists and opposition voices by arresting members of a pro-democracy coalition and imprisoning individuals accused of propaganda to overthrow the people’s government. Examples include Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest sentenced to eight years of jail time for his leadership role in calling for democracy in Viet Nam. Of particular concern is Mr. Nguyen’s denial of an attorney or his ability to self-represent during trial. In another case, lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan, a member of an opposing political party in Viet Nam, was sentenced to jail for similar charges of propaganda against the people’s government. Ms. Le was also tried in a closed-court session and was denied legal representation.

Today, despite economic developments, the current Vietnamese government has yet to recognize the fundamental rights of its citizens, including the right to have a free and independent press, the right to establish independent organizations and political parties, and the rights to due process with independent legal counsel and full legal representation.

In light of the current conditions inside Viet Nam, we, members of the Vietnamese American Youth Community, represented by the above-named organizations, hereby urge the current government of Viet Nam to:

* Respect freedom and human rights for all Vietnamese citizens such as the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and others as enshrined in the Vietnamese Constitution;
* Provide all citizens with due process, as established by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and reaffirmed by the United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment;
* End religious persecution and allow for the operation of independent churches and temples; and
* End all forms of oppression against ethnic minorities in Viet Nam.

We also urge the United States government to recognize these deficiencies as it negotiates trade and other policies with Viet Nam and to underscore their importance to establishing the growth of bilateral ties. We ask the federal government to continue its support for the Vietnamese people inside and outside the country in their struggle for human rights in Viet Nam.

We believe that if Viet Nam is to be an equal trade partner with other countries, the government must recognize the rights and freedom of its people as written in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Viet Nam is a signatory. Furthermore, the Vietnamese government is urged to allow open and fair elections with the participation of all political parties. Finally, we believe that if Vietnam is to continue bilateral trade with the rest of the world, it must uphold the values of the international community and respect human rights for all its citizens.

In Solidarity,

Hai Ton – President, UNAVSA,
Huy Duong- President, UVSA Nor Cal,
James Huy Vu- President, UVSA So Cal,
Tri Nguyen – President, VAYA,
My-Dung Tran – President, PBC YFD,
Quoc Phan – Len Duong Vietnamese Youth Network,

[Download the press release here] [The Orange County Register] [The Los Angeles Times]