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The Issue With Vietnam: Human Rights Before More Economic Benefit

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By John E. Carey
September 23, 2006

The issue with Vietnam today is this: they want to be included more in the world community of nations. More specifically, they want to be accorded economic privileges like entry into the World trade Organization (WTO) and have Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with the U.S.

The problem we have with this is the way Vietnam still systematically violates human rights on a large scale. We Americans can see and feel this very dramatically when Vietnamese-Americans travel to see elderly relatives in Vietnam and get arrested, held without charges and denied access to lawyers, medical care and other normal rights. Often, although the detainees are not charged, their crimes turn out to be related to democratically inspired internet postings on the internet.

The government of Vietnam has been releasing prisoners in order to curry favor from American lawmakers that will decide PNTR as soon as this next month.

One such prisoner, Mr. Cong Thanh Do of San Jose, Ca., who was just freed and deported on Thursday. More about him in a moment.

One American citizen still being held is Mrs. Thuong N. "Cuc" Foshee from Florida. She has been in jail in Vietnam since September 8, 2005.

So we urge American interest and action to gain the release of Mrs. Foshee at this time, as the Vietnamese, despite rhetoric to the contrary, are desperately trying to demonstrate a more enlightened attitude: even is it is to gain the benefits of WTO entry and PNTR. We recommend you petition your members of Congress on this issue.

After his release, Mr. Do said, "Society is changing a lot in Vietnam, but it is still a one-party system. Democracy is not a value you can let go ... democracy is a process. I'm committed to fighting as long as possible."

"What I myself have experienced is not unique. But because I am lucky enough to be an American citizen, it has served to bring to light the gross injustices that occur in my native land," Do said in his statement.

Mr. Do wants the whole enchilada and he wants it now. But we are more realistic, at this point, even though we agree with his long term goal.

Mr. Do made the statement at a news conference held at the offices of U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who helped orchestrate his release.

It is our belief that only active effort by members of Congress can persuade the Communist Vietnam government to release Mrs. Foshee and the other political prisoners still held.

"We said this is unacceptable," said Lofgren, the California Congressperson. "You can't arrest an American for expressing his views in America. We have to use this opportunity to gain concessions for human rights from the Vietnamese government."

Well said Ms. Lofgren. Now lets get home Mrs. Foshee and any other Americans that may be held in Vietnam.
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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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