Hot off the press from our friends in Little Saigon, this news:
HUMAN RIGHTS FOR VIETNAM
The Vietnamese American community is united in its desire to promote human rights in Vietnam. More than 140,000 Vietnamese Americans signed a petition to ask for the Obama Administration’s assistance in releasing prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. SBTN created a plaque to memorialize this petition and has tendered the plaque to the White House staff to deliver to the President. After March 8, the White House will issue an official response to the petition.
The White House Office of Public Engagement quickly responded to the need for an open dialogue with the Vietnamese American community by hosting a briefing for 165 Vietnamese Americans from over 30 states on March 5. The briefing was a general meeting to educate participants about different aspects of the U.S. government’s work on diaspora engagement, global partnership, and human rights.
At the briefing, Dr. Quintan Wiktorowicz, Senior Director for Community Partnerships at the National Security Council, spoke about the community’s resilience and spirit and how this is part of the American experience. Dr. Wiktorowicz spoke of partnership with the Vietnamese American community.
Vietnamese Americans were also briefed by a panel of State Department speakers. The panel included: Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Michael Posner; Director of Global Partnerships, Thomas Debass; and, Acting Director for Mainland Southeast Asia in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Eric Barboriak. Assistant Secretary Posner expressed his efforts to promote human rights issues throughout ongoing discussions with Vietnam. His State Department colleagues emphasized the different ways in which the U.S. government is engaging on these issues with the Vietnamese government.
Briefing participants were able to present their questions and concerns directly to the panel of speakers from the Administration regarding current human rights policy, trade, religious freedom, and other issues. The government panel duly took notes of all the questions and concerns. Dialogue and interaction between the Vietnamese American community and the Obama Administration needs to continue regarding these matters.
Outside of the White House, more than 1,000 petitioners from fifty states stood in Lafayette Square with signs proclaiming “Free Viet Khang” and “Human Rights for Vietnam”, despite the cold weather.
The meeting between the Vietnamese American community and Obama Administration officials is a dialogue that needs to continue. Community members should sign up on the U.S. Department of State website to get regular updates on human rights, religious freedom, trafficking of human persons, internet freedom, press freedom, and many other issues that drove Vietnamese Americans to participate in the We the People petition drive at : https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USSTATEBPA/subscriber/new?
Phu Do Nguyen, vice president of SBTN, was informed through White House staff that The Obama Administration needs to hear from Vietnamese Americans regarding violations of human rights. U.S. Department of State officials are open to meetings and briefings with individuals and organizations to provide update on violations and conditions in Vietnam.
As in 2008, President Barack Obama stated, “I strongly believe that the human rights record of the government of Vietnam remains unsatisfactory. Political opposition movements are prohibited, independent human rights organizations are banned, and the government continues to crack down on dissent by arresting political activists and disrupting opposition organizations. It is past time for the government of Vietnam to do far more to protect human rights and to advance the freedom of all of its people.” SBTN recognizes the Administration’s commitment to these issues and hopes that the administration will do more to engage with the Vietnamese American community on human rights. Most of all, SBTN desires to see more tangible evidence of Vietnam’s progress towards human rights, as more individuals abroad are reporting human rights violations.
The same petitioners that met the White House officials on March 5 also joined many more Vietnamese Americans on March 6 to secure Congressional support for Vietnam Human Rights Act (HR 1410), Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions Act (HR 156) and H.Res. 484 “Calling on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to respect basic human rights” and other human rights related bills.
Vietnamese American voices are heard throughout Capitol Hill as more than 700 constituents and petitioners divided into teams to visit almost 100 Senate and 435 House offices on March 6.
This is a historic moment for the Vietnamese community as it’s the first ever event to bring as many as 700 people to the political center of democracy, organized and united behind one common cause – Human Rights For Vietnam. Truc Ho, CEO of SBTN, believes that President Obama, who is a human rights advocate, will advance the pro-democratic values of the Vietnamese American and that all the petitioners will be with him every step of the way to build a stronger and inclusive America.
Tuan Anh Nguyen