Testimony to the US Congress from Nguyen Vu Binh (July 19, 2002)

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Hanoi, July 19, 2002

Testimony on the Human Rights Condition in Vietnam

Respectfully sent to: The Congressional Human Rights Caucus

I very much appreciate the invitation to testify before the US Congress. I sincerely thank the Honorable Loretta Sanchez and the Congressional Human Rights Caucus for this precious opportunity to present my views on the condition of human rights in Vietnam.

On the situation of human rights violations, we, the democracy activists and relatives of those arrested senselessly and illegally, have signed the July 6, 2002 joint statement to raise [public awareness] for the many cases of human rights violations, typified by the following incidents:

1. On April 25, 2001, two days after the ascension of Mr. Nong Duc Manh to the position of General Secretary, Public Security of Hai Phong city arrested Mr. Vu Cao Quan and held him in prison for nine days for interrogations on his and other intellectuals’ writings.

2. On July 12, 2001, Public Security of Ho Chi Minh City stopped and robbed retired General Tran Do of the manuscripts containing his views on the Ninth Congress [of the Vietnamese Communist Party].

3. On September 5, 2001, thanks to the application to form the “People’s Association to Support the State Fighting Corruption,” Messrs. Pham Que Duong, Tran Khue, Hoang Minh Chinh and almost 20 other people were arrested or harassed.

4. Throughout September and October 2001, the State re-established neighborhood prosecution sessions to denounce Messrs. Hoang Minh Chinh, Pham Que Duong, Nguyen Thanh Giang, and Le Chi Quang.

5. In late 2001, Public Security apprehended poet Bui Minh Quoc after he undertook a fact-finding trip along the Vietnam-China border. He is currently serving two years of house arrest. Also placed under house arrest are sociologist Tran Khue and biologist Ha Si Phu.

6. In January, 2002 Deputy Minister for Culture and Information Phan Khac Hai issued a directive, ordering a search-and-destroy campaign of books written by democracy activists. This Directive is a blatant violation of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.

7. In the last few months, the authorities have arrested rows of young [democracy activists] like Nguyen Khac Toan, Le Chi Quang, and Pham Hong Son without justifiable reasons.

8. [The authorities] have cut off the phone lines to the families of Hoang Minh Chinh, Pham Que Duong, Hoang Tien, Tran Khue, Tran Dung Tien, Ha Si Phu, Nguyen Dan Que, Bui Minh Quoc, Nguyen Thanh Giang, Nguyen Vu Binh, and so on.

9. [The authorities] harassed and imprisoned many lay-people and officials of various religions.

From these and many other cases, I have some conclusions on the condition of human rights in Vietnam as follows:

-  The Vietnamese authorities have violated human rights on a frequent, continuous, and systematic basis. Thanks to the opening [to the outside world] and better information, the collective knowledge of Vietnamese people has been raised considerably. That automatically leads to more and stronger voices demanding freedom, democracy, religious rights, and so forth. Rising alongside that development is the government’s oppression, resorting to all kinds of sophisticated and treacherous tactics. Such oppression violates the people’s fundamental rights which are defined in the constitution itself and in various covenants on human rights signed by the Vietnamese government. In recent years, given the upsurge of more democratic voices and their ability to link up, the violation of fundamental human rights have increased both in severity and brazenness. This trend is expected to continue in the future.

-  The Vietnamese authorities’ record of human rights violations fluctuates over time, with some improvement at times and rising severity at others. The condemnations and interventions of democratic governments and human rights organizations have brought about some limited results but most of the time, have been reactive in nature. The current situation comes from two causes: the domestic democratic force is not strong enough to protect itself and international pressure on the Vietnamese government remains scattered and inconsistent.

After studying, monitoring, and researching the human rights violations problem and the democratic movement, I would like to propose a few measures that might be able to reduce, prevent, or gradually stop human rights violations.

First and foremost, individuals and groups whose fundamental rights are frequently violated must have a way to protect themselves. The ultimate goal of the Vietnamese government is to isolate, separate, and divide the democracy advocates to stop their association at all cost. They achieve this goal through tactics carefully devised and applied to each target. To deal with this situation, therefore, people whose ideals are to fight for democracy have no other choice but to join and lean on one another. This coalition must take into account the real condition inside the country and around the world as well as the current state of the democratic movement itself. In my opinion, such alliance should be public and based on the common goals supported by most people [in Vietnam].

The coalition of courageous people advocating for human rights in a country where rights only exist on paper not only generates self-defending power but also provides an entity that democratic governments and human rights organizations can help protect much more effectively. Furthermore, such coalition, with its perceived promised future, could very well induce even more pressure and interventions [from the world community].

As for the democratic governments and human rights organizations, it is imperative to find the Vietnamese Communists’ Achilles’ heel and the most effective way of applying pressure to defend human rights. This is, indeed, not easy because too many contradictions exist in Vietnam, enough to confuse countless analysts. However, logically speaking, given that the country is going through the process of industrialization and modernization and beyond, with a giant number of cadres in the Party, government, administration, and associations from the central to local level to pay, what they need the most must be dollars. It is very important for the regime to spend money on these systems (and not on the projects they borrowed the money for) to remain alive.

However, given its stubbornness and its ability to do whatever to survive, this communist government will only compromise or make concessions when international pressure is assured to be consistent and determined. I understand the US House of Representatives passed the Vietnam Human Rights Act by a 410-1 vote. Democracy activists in Vietnam are highly encouraged by this action and would like to express their appreciation toward the representatives who supported this legislation. The Vietnamese Communist Party has vehemently protested and is applying pressure to throw out the bill. I think this is the right time for the US to express its determination to stand with the Vietnamese people by officially passing this bill [in the Senate]. I believe this legislation will help improve the human rights condition in Vietnam.

Honorable Members of the Caucus,

The current condition in Vietnam is relatively favorable to achieve a breakthrough in the effort to defend human rights and campaign for democracy. The credibility of the Vietnamese Communist Party has sunk to a pathetic level following the fallout of the court case involving Truong Van Cam and accomplices (a.k.a. the Nam Cam case); The reduction of tariffs on imported goods under AFTA will soon begin;

And finally, I always believe that when we can successfully stop and prevent human rights violations across the country we have also succeeded in democratizing this nation. Any measures to fight for human rights, therefore, should also aim for the ultimate goals aspired for so long by the Vietnamese people: Individual liberty and a democratic society.

Thank you very much!

Nguyen Vu Binh
House no. 26, group 67b,
Vinh Tuy ward, Hai Ba Trung district
Hanoi

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