APEC News Alert
No. 3, November 19, 2006
Public Security detain hundreds planning protest in Saigon
November 19, Saigon is a city transformed with news that American President George W. Bush will be arriving at 10 o’clock tonight and will be staying at the New World Hotel on Pham Hong Thai Street. Residents along the route from Tan Son Nhat airport to the New World have been ordered by the public security to stay in their homes before and after the arrival time. Street vendors around the Hotel have been told by police to disperse while the foreign delegations are in town.
At 10 o’clock this morning, a protest was planned in front of the No. 2 Government Office at 7 Le Duan Street, near the US Consulate and the Zoo and Botanical Gardens. About 200 aggrieved citizens from many provinces came by circuitous routes, including from An Giang province via Cambodia, to demonstrate for religious freedom and the return of properties of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church. In addition, members of underground Christian house churches came to demand their right to worship freely. Many had prepared banners and blue and white shirts inscribed with slogans protesting the religious repression. The protest was to be peaceful and non-violent.
However, several organizers were arrested by the public security on their way to the location. Mr. Tran Thanh Hien and Ms. Tran Thi Thuy were arrested by the public security of Saigon and Dong Thap province and harshly beaten. Without the key organizers present, the protest was unable to continue. One of the planners, Mr. Truong Van Duc, was interviewed by foreign reporters by telephone. Mr. Duc expressed frustration with the U.S. State Department decision to remove Vietnam from the list of countries of particular concern for religious rights violations. He called President Bush’s statement at the church service this morning in Hanoi just diplomatic niceties. Hoa Hao worshippers and other religious believers in Vietnam look to the US and international community to increase pressure on the Vietnamese communist authorities to release the thousands of religious believers currently in prison or under house arrest, and to honor the pledges that they have signed with the world to respect religious freedom.
Tran Ngoc Ha,
Editor of Canh Tan E-Magazine
Reporting from Vietnam