FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12 MAY 2022
Contact: Duy Hoang +1 202-596-7951
Viet Tan Statement on the US-ASEAN Summit
The US-ASEAN meeting signals the importance of Southeast Asia for multilateral relations. But ASEAN is more than just a collection of governments, many of which are unelected. In the case of Vietnam, it is a land with 100 million people who desire a better life, security from an aggressive neighbor, and universal human rights.
Therefore, the US outreach to the region and, specifically to Vietnam, must also strive to uplift the people. This means fostering economic relationships that benefit both sides and promoting human rights — because a free Vietnam allows for each individual to flourish and contribute to the community around them.
In the last month, we’ve seen the Hanoi government try to further clamp down on social media. Their latest plan is to force platforms such as Facebook and TikTok to remove content that the authorities don’t like within 24 hours and to block livestreams that offend the government within three hours of notice. These actions indicate the Vietnamese government’s fear of free speech.
In the last week, the authorities have committed renowned human rights defender Nguyen Thuy Hanh to a mental asylum. Nguyen Thuy Hanh had founded the 50K Fund which asked concerned Vietnamese to donate 50,000 dong — a little over two US dollars — to the families of political prisoners. She helped many people and had broken no internationally recognized laws, but she was arrested and held without trial for over a year. This latest punishment of Nguyen Thuy Hanh by the authorities speaks to their blatant disregard for international norms and the sheer cruelty of the regime.
These recent acts of suppression is why both the Biden administration and members of Congress must continue pressing for human rights — and demand specific human rights improvements. As we have seen with Russia, any regime that censors its people and brutalizes its opponents is a dangerous regime — both to its own people and to the civilized world.
International pressure is often a deterrent to further abuses. In advance of this summit, several prominent Vietnamese political prisoners have been released from persecution, including:
- Ho Duc Hoa, who was imprisoned since 2011 for promoting democracy, and whose case many Members of Congress have repeatedly raised.
- Tran Thi Thuy, who was jailed in 2010 for campaigning against corruption, and who continued to be tormented while under house arrest.
Like all political prisoners, both Ho Duc Hoa and Tran Thi Thuy should never have been arrested in the first place. Their release shows that sustained international pressure does work. International advocacy is particularly important for the courageous activists who are in need of medical care.
For Vietnam to realize its potential as an economic powerhouse and key security partner, the people of Vietnam must be able to fully realize their universal human rights. The Biden administration and Members of Congress must call on the Vietnamese government to truly join the community of nations by respecting international values and norms.