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Vietnam Frees One Political Prisoner

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By Honglien Do and John Carey

Good news and cause for celebration this morning: Vietnam released Mr. Cong Thanh Do!

Cong Thanh Do, arrested and jailed by the Communist Vietnam government on August 14, 2006, was released and deported on Thursday. The Communist Party newspaper Nhan Dan (People) quoted a police report saying "The Vietnamese security agency, through documents and evidence, determined that Cong Thanh Do's job ... [in] Vietnam ... was to carry out terrorist plots, including suspected plot to target U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City."

Vik Jolly wrote in The Orange County Register that Mr. Do's daughter, Bien Dobui, later said her family had talked to Do while he was at the airport in Taipei, en route to his home in San Jose.

"I'm really happy," Dobui told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. "He talked to my mom on his cell phone, and they were both very emotional."

Vietnam is seeking entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Vietnam is also seeking U.S. Congressional approval for Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) from the U.S. The President of the United States is expected to travel to Vietnam in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference.

Yet Vietnam continues to take actions contrary to its own self interests by jailing political antagonists for "crimes" such as posting democratically themed essays on the internet.

One of these prisoners still held in Vietnam is Mrs. Thuong N. "Cuc" Foshee, and there are others.

Mrs. Foshee has not been charged with any crime. But Americans suspect she may be in detention for using the internet to spread "democratic" messages, a crime in Vietnam. Her activities, taken for granted by all Americans, came to the attention of the government of Vietnam, a government that insists upon regulating all media and information, including the internet and email. The Washington Times web site, for example, is not available to readers in Vietnam. The Washington Times is too "seditionist."

While the United States cannot appropriately intervene and tell another nation that it must insist upon an American style of freedom of speech, American Congressmen and Senators can insist upon the release of Americans wrongly held in jails in Vietnam.

According to Mrs. Foshee's family, "she was detained by the Vietnamese government and has been in a detention center in HCMC [Ho Chi Minh City, formerly, as many Vietnamese still say, Sai Gon] ever since. She has not been charged with any crime, has been denied bail, has been denied a visit with an attorney, her prescription medication has been withheld and she has been denied adequate dental and medical care."

Mrs. Foshee has not been charged, though she has been held since September 8, 2005.
Both Mr. Do and Mrs. Foshee went to Vietnam to visit elderly relatives.

When Vietnam's current government leaders ascended to power last June, we responded with a Washington Times commentary on America's Independence Day, July 4, 2006. "Recently, more enlightened thinking has made Vietnam an emerging economic force," we wrote, "the news of the new leadership gives great promise."

Now is the time for that new leadership to live up to its great promise.

Vietnam has released imprisoned persons guilty of similar "crimes." Earlier this month Vietnam released prominent dissident and pro-democracy activist Pham Hong Son. Son was originally sentenced to five years in prison. His crime? He translated articles from the U.S. State Department web site for an online journal. The articles were titled "What is democracy?"

The Vietnamese government is manipulating the international community by feigning partial respect for human rights. Vietnam has been releasing thousands of prisoners in order to convince the United States government to approve Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) and the world to support them in accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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