Monday, November 20, 2006

Vietnamese Dissidents Speak

As the host for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Vietnam has briefly come under the media spotlight. The Vietnamese regime has certainly loosened its grip on society since the dark days of the 1970s and 80s. Unfortunately, the Leninist dictatorship in Hanoi remains determined to prevent Vietnam's dissident movement from exercising the elementary rights that we take for granted. To quote an article from the November 15th Washington Times:

Vietnamese democracy and human rights activists accused the government yesterday of stepping up harassment in an effort to silence them ahead of President Bush's visit and a high-profile economic summit this week.

The activists, some of whom are under house arrest, praised a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday that denied permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status to Vietnam and criticized Vietnam's removal from the State Department's blacklist of countries that limit religious freedom.

"The PNTR status must come with a condition that the government respect human rights for our own people," said Pham Hong Son, an activist who was detained for two years beginning in 2002 and has been under house arrest for another two.

He said he was detained because of an article on democracy that he translated into Vietnamese from the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and posted separately on the Internet. His claim could not be independently verified because the government does not comment on dissident cases.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Just today, Reporters Sans Frontieres noted that Pham Hong Son, the same individual quoted above, was arrested and beaten by Communist authorities on Friday. However, Hanoi's repression has not prevented the dissidents from making their voices heard. Steven Denney has reproduced the text of an open letter signed by 18 Vietnamese activists, while Freadom has the text of a separate document from Catholic priest Phan Van Hoi. Both letters are worth reading. It is important that we as Americans stand with Vietnam's dissidents in their struggle for freedom of expression.


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