July 2, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama will bring up human rights issues with a high-ranking Vietnamese Communist Party official when they meet next week in Washington, according to a prominent activist who met with American officials to discuss the situation ahead of the visit.
Vietnamese-American community activist Nguyen Quoc Quan was among a small group of rights leaders who met with members of the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) on Wednesday to discuss human rights violations in Vietnam and propose possible solutions to improving the situation at its root.
The NSC members told the group that Obama would discuss the issue with Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, when they meet on July 7 in Washington, said Quan, chairman for the NGO Rallying for Democracy.
“We emphasized the need to democratize Vietnam so that the U.S. can have a real ally there,” Quan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service after the Wednesday meeting. “We also warned them that the Vietnamese government is infamous for reneging on its promises.”
Among the other activists who attended the meeting were Nguyen Dinh Thang, chief executive and president of the advocacy group Boat People SOS; Cu Huy Ha Vu, a legal scholar, dissident and former political prisoner; Hoang Tu Duy, a Vietnamese-born American democracy activist who is the spokesman of Viet Tan; and Angelina Trang Huynh, advocacy director of the pro-democracy group Viet Tan.
Some Vietnamese experts on U.S.-Vietnam relations said the visit marking 20 years of diplomatic relations between the former battlefield enemies would only be symbolic because Trong would soon leave office, making it unlikely that he would follow through on whatever he discusses with Obama about human rights violations.
Furthermore, Vo Van Tao, an expert on Vietnam, said Trong wasn’t a leader with strong abilities to deliver on policy.
Will Vietnam accept compromises?
Other observers, such as former Vietnamese Communist Party member Pham Chi Dung, expressed hope that Trong would pay heed to whatever was discussed on human rights violations and do something about them.
“I hope after this visit, Vietnam will accept some compromises on human rights and carry them out, such as releasing political prisoners and allowing civil societies to operate freely,” he said.
Some observers said the overall visit would be significant for U.S.-Vietnamese relations, especially with China’s growing economic and political might as well as its aggressive moves in claiming territory in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam is also a negotiating partner in the proposed U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to create a multilateral free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region, but a number of U.S. lawmakers have expressed opposition to including the country, given its current human rights record.
“Vietnam is one of the U.S.’s important allies in the Asia-Pacific,” said Vu Duc Khanh, a Vietnamese lawyer who lives in Canada and has been an observer of Vietnam politics for many years. “The U.S. wants to use Vietnam as a buffer zone in this region.”
Vietnam and China have been at loggerheads since China’s set up an oil rig in disputed waters about a year ago. At the time, Beijing did not permit Trong and other senior Vietnamese leaders to meet with Xi, despite Hanoi’s efforts to try to resolve the dispute.
But that changed on April 7, when Trong visited China at Beijing’s request, after plans for his visit to Washington became known.
Trong and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to solidify the traditional friendship between their two countries and boost their comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, according to Chinese media.
Reported by An Nguyen and Thanh Truc of RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Ninh Pham. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Source: Radio Free Asia