APEC News Alert
No. 4, November 19, 2006
Overcoming restrictions from the Public Security, Vietnamese pro-democracy activists hold press conference with foreign media
At 8:00 p.m. on November 19, a press conference was planned at the Sheraton Hotel in Saigon between Vietnamese democracy activists and foreign journalists. Although followed closely by eight security agents, Do Nam Hai, representing the Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam, was determined to make it to the event. Realizing that they could not deter him through intimidation, the public security decided to detain Mr. Hai at the police station in Phu Nhuan District. At the same time, Prof. Nguyen Chinh Ket disregarded the 20 security agents surrounding his house and tried to head for the press conference. As he was leaving his house, six agents immediately seized him and pushed him inside. Shortly afterwards, a public security agent gave Prof. Ket verbal orders forbidding him from leaving his house, except to attend “working sessions” with the public security.
Despite the intention of the communist authorities to silence democracy activists, a press conference was quickly organized over the phone. On short notice, several journalists dialed into the conference call and overcame the many technical difficulties including jamming and frequent disconnections. Ultimately, reporters from CNN Radio, LA Times, AFP, and Reuters were connected to Prof. Nguyen Chinh Ket in Saigon and Attorney Le Thi Cong Nhan in Hanoi. Do Nam Hai was unable to participate as he was still being held at the Phu Nhuan public security station.
Many of the questions focused on the isolation of democracy activists by the public security and even the physical lockdown of their residences. Questions were posed regarding the group beating of Dr. Pham Hong Son on Friday and the detention of Do Nam Hai today.
On the top priority of the Vietnamese democracy movement, Attorney Le Thi Cong Nhan answered: Foremost is the struggle for freedom of the press and free exchange of information. This is a fundamental right leading to other basic rights and each Vietnamese citizen can contribute to eroding the regime’s monopoly over information, she said.
On the activities of the Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights, Prof. Nguyen Chinh Ket responded that a key effort is bringing together individuals and groups who oppose the one-party dictatorship and who share the goal of achieving a multi-party democracy through peaceful means.
On his message to President Bush, Prof. Nguyen Chinh Ket stated that the Vietnamese democracy movement calls on the American president to publicly support the Vietnamese people in their just cause to achieve basic human rights and a democratic society.
The press conference also focused on the protest for religious freedom that had been planned for 10:00 a.m. this morning outside the No. 2 Government Office on Le Duan Street in Saigon. Finally, near the conclusion of the press conference, the telephone connection to Reuters was suddenly cut off.
In related news, we have confirmed that plain clothes agents guarding the homes of democracy activists are receiving bonus pay of about 1,000,000 dong per day for commanding officers and 150,000 dong per day for regular agents.
Tran Ngoc Ha
Editor of Canh Tan E-Magazine
Reporting from Vietnam