Don’t lose the focus on human rights in Viet Nam




          While mainstream America is still reeling economically from the recession and remain uncommitted on who to vote for in the November election, Vietnamese Americans are clamoring for basic human rights in U.S.–Viet Nam relations.

          Since President Clinton lifted the trade embargo (Feb. 3, 1994) and normalized relations with Viet Nam (July 11, 1995), rapprochement between the two former enemies has grown at a steady pace despite Viet Nam’s record of human-rights abuses. It seems the ebb and flow of Viet Nam’s crackdown on human rights and religious activists go in tune with its favorable trade and milestones reached with the U.S. and European trading partners, such as the Bilateral Trade Agreement in 2001 and the allowance of permanent normal trade relations in 2006.

          In fact, there was a period of relative lull for Viet Nam dissidents who seemed to enjoy their short-lived climate of unbridled expression and criticism of their government. Yet no sooner than Viet Nam’s ascension to the WTO and its removal from the Countries of Particular Concern list in 2007 that the world witnessed the widespread and organized brutal crackdown of a several dozen conscientious objectors. Chief among them Father Nguyen van Ly ― made famous by a photo of him being gagged in front of Viet Nam court ― attorneys Nguyen van Dai and Le thi Cong Nhan, and the Bay Area’s own Do thanh Cong, an expat Vietnamese American who went on a 34-day hunger strike in Viet Nam prison until the U.S. diplomatic negotiation won his release and status of persona non-grata with Viet Nam.

          Despite intercession by the U.S. Congress and diplomatic, behind-the-scenes efforts by the American embassy and others, the Viet Nam government hardly relents. The onset of the Arab Spring, coupled with sporadic incidents with China’s territorial transgressions as well the riots of China’s own people, do not make Vietnamese leaders sleep easy at night, especially with Burma inching toward democratic reforms.

          To change the tide, the United States will need to take a more forceful hand in diplomacy. As the first African American president, President Obama personifies the long struggle for human rights in America. Yet, under his watch, there has been a muddled response to the Viet Nam’s human-rights issues.

          While many in the U.S. are viewing President Obama moving the country to a more gentle direction as positive, the perception he has not taken the Vietnamese American grievances of communist Viet Nam seriously may backfire on him. Whether Vietnamese American leaders can mobilize hundreds of thousand votes in the upcoming election for his opponent remains to be seen, but this much is known: something must be done.


Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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