U.S. Reaffirms Commitment to Human Rights in Dialogue with Vietnam, Urges Release of Journalist Pham Doan Trang

U.S. Reaffirms Commitment to Human Rights in Dialogue with Vietnam, Urges Release of Journalist Pham Doan Trang

U.S. and Vietnam Engage in the 27th Human Rights Dialogue in Washington D.C.

In a significant gathering at the State Department in Washington, the United States warmly welcomed the Vietnamese delegation for crucial discussions on human rights, marking a pivotal moment in the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership following President Joe Biden’s visit to Hanoi.

Acknowledging Vietnam as a valued partner, the U.S. expressed confidence in the positive trajectory of their bilateral relationship, rooted in a common vision for a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. The dialogue underscored a mutual commitment to the principles of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the respective declarations of the independence of both nations.

The United States emphasized the importance of demonstrable progress in protecting human rights for strengthening bilateral relations. This was echoed during President Biden and Secretary Anthony Blinken's recent visits to Vietnam, highlighting the need for expanding civil society and respecting freedoms of expression, association, religion, and the rule of law.

While acknowledging Vietnam’s notable improvements in aligning labor laws with international standards and advancing the rights of women, people with disabilities, and LGBTQI+ individuals, the United States urged Vietnam to comply with international obligations across all marginalized populations, including religious freedom.

A focal point of concern was the incarceration of Pham Doan Trang, a peaceful journalist who is suffering deteriorating health while in prison. The United States called for her release, emphasizing the vital role of journalists in fostering resilient societies. Additionally, the United States urged Vietnam to ease restrictions on civil society, foster a digital ecosystem respecting free expression, and create a conducive environment for domestic and foreign NGOs.

The dialogue, led by distinguished U.S. representatives, including DRL Senior Official for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Erin Barclay and Pham Hai Anh, Head of the Vietnamese delegation, Director-General, Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was aimed at bridging differences with respect and candor, reflecting the courage and vision shown by leaders over the past decades to strengthen U.S.-Vietnam relations.

US Congresswoman Raises Alarm Over Deteriorating Bien Hoa Military Cemetery in Vietnam

US Congresswoman Michelle Steel has expressed grave concerns to U.S. Ambassador Marc Knapper about the deteriorating state of the Bien Hoa Military Cemetery in Vietnam, which houses the remains of over ten thousand soldiers from the Republic of Vietnam. The cemetery, once a South Vietnamese national military burial ground, has been renamed Binh An Cemetery and has fallen into disrepair since the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Steel, representing a district with a significant Vietnamese population, emphasized the cultural and historical significance of the site, which is a resting place for many who fought alongside American soldiers during the Vietnam War. She has urged Ambassador Knapper to engage with Vietnamese authorities to restore the cemetery.

The Vietnam American Foundation (VAF) corroborated the concerns, noting the severe degradation of the graves due to tree root infiltration and poor drainage. Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius has also highlighted the neglected state of the cemetery in his book on reconciliation efforts between Vietnam and the United States.

There is still no response from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The restoration of the Bien Hoa Cemetery is seen not only as a tribute to the fallen soldiers but also as a potential step towards healing and reconciliation between the two nations.

Over 100 Indigenous Protesters Decry Vietnamese Government’s Oppression at US Capitol

On the morning of Nov. 3, a fervent gathering of over 100 individuals from the Dega, Cham, and Khmer ethnicities took a stand at the U.S. Capitol. They voiced their strong opposition to the Vietnamese government's relentless oppression, particularly spotlighted by the aftermath of the June 11 Dak Lak police station attacks. Rong Nay, director of the Montagnard Human Rights Organization in North Carolina, expressed deep concern over the unchanged human rights and religious situation in Vietnam, especially for the Central Highlands' indigenous communities, over the past 48 years.

The protesters, alongside Pastor Y'Hin Nie, articulated the longstanding adherence to Christianity predating the Communist regime and denounced the government's disregard for Protestant Christian Churches in the Central Highlands. The pastor called for an end to the indigenous oppression and issued a universal rallying cry for human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam.

The crowd marched towards the White House and the Vietnamese Embassy, shouting their demands. Rong Nay highlighted the intensified mistreatment of Montagnards in the wake of the Dak Lak incident, which saw a violent attack on two People's Committee headquarters, which left nine dead. He speculated the incident could have been orchestrated by Hanoi to frame the Dega people, exacerbating the repression and surveillance of Montagnards, especially in rural regions. The assembly's outcry at the Capitol underscored a plea for international attention and intervention in addressing Vietnam's human rights abuses.

Unprecedented Conference Brings Together Vietnamese Americans to Reflect on Their Heritage and Future Amidst Generational Shifts

In a historic gathering, Vietnamese Americans of various ages and backgrounds convened a two-day conference organized by the University of Oregon's US-Vietnam Research Center and was supported by the United States Institute of Peace on Oct. 27-28. The event reflected on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, fostering dialogue on the community's past, present, and future.

Professor Tuong Vu, the head of the US-Vietnam Research Center, highlighted the conference's goal to reconcile past experiences with future aspirations. The conference saw nearly 90 attendees, ranging from scholars and politicians to activists and community representatives.

Emotional testimonials from the first generation depicted the war's harrowing impact on their lives, from discrimination and loss of life to the perilous quest for freedom, which resonated deeply among the participants. Yet, challenges arose from the generational gap, including differing political perspectives and the younger generation's unfamiliarity with their heritage.

The conference aimed to bridge these gaps. Van Tran, a second-generation Vietnamese, expressed appreciation for the newfound understanding of her roots. Similarly, Tu Duc Thao, representing the Vietnamese Community in Oregon, valued the opportunity for diverse community members to collaborate and exchange ideas beyond partisan lines.

Professor Tuong Vu stressed the need for unity amidst the community's recent polarization, advocating for intergenerational dialogue to foster mutual understanding and reduce conflicts. The conference marked a significant step towards reconciling generational differences and shaping a cohesive future for Vietnamese Americans.

Vietnam’s Chief Justice Launches Controversial Songwriting Contest Amid Scrutiny Over the Judicial System

Chief Justice Nguyen Hoa Binh recently initiated a songwriting contest to honor the judiciary's contributions to Vietnam amidst a widespread public outcry over wrongful convictions and recent death penalty cases. Lawyer Le Van Hoa, formerly of the Central Internal Affairs Committee, criticized the contest as ludicrous and insensitive, highlighting the judiciary's declining public trust.

The competition, framed as a propaganda campaign, coincides with vehement criticisms of Vietnam's court system, particularly in high-profile cases like those of Ho Duy Hai, Nguyen Van Chuong, and the recently executed Le Van Manh. Attorney Le Van Hoa, actively challenging these wrongful convictions, denounced the self-praising initiative as a disgrace, stressing that societal recognition should stem from genuine trust and respect, not self-congratulatory efforts.

An anonymous lawyer speaking to RFA Vietnamese expressed disillusionment with the Supreme Court's focus on superficial praise rather than addressing core judicial issues such as independence and corruption. He doubted the judiciary’s capacity for fairness, citing instances of bribery and injustice.

Questions loom over the effectiveness of this campaign in restoring the judiciary's tarnished image. Le Van Hoa predicted the contest would backfire, asserting that no self-respecting artist or socially aware individual would glorify a system marred by injustice and mistrust.

Former Thu Duc Prison Captain Nguyen Doan Tu Released After Controversial Sentence

Nguyen Doan Tu, a former captain and supervisor at Thu Duc Prison, has completed a two-year sentence for allegedly using corporal punishment on prisoners. Before his arrest, Tu released a video vehemently denying the accusations, attributing the investigation into his alleged actions to retribution by Colonel Le Ba Thuy, whom he had previously accused of misconduct.

In a recent interview with RFA’s Cao Nguyen, Tu recounted his transition from a police officer to working menial jobs post-release. He revisited the circumstances leading to his arrest, citing his support for fellow officers who faced retaliation after denouncing misconduct at Thu Duc prison. He also mentioned Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Duc Hung, who was unjustly stripped of his title.

Tu said he suffered no physical torture during his detention, but he described the psychological toll of being held in a solitary, dark, and damp cell. During his trial, despite having legal representation, the court dismissed his lawyer's arguments. The conviction hinged on testimonies from an accuser and two witnesses.

Before his arrest, foreseeing possible retaliation, Tu sent a letter to the United Nations highlighting human rights violations within Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security. He emphasized his advocacy for prisoner rights and fair treatment of low-ranking officers.

Tu concluded by expressing his awareness of the orchestrated nature of his arrest, attributing it to his vocal criticism and understanding of internal police operations.

Concerns Mount Over Alleged Torture and Illegal Detention of Activist Phan Tat Thanh

In the last two weeks, after reading the Facebook account of activist Pham Thanh Nghien, private sources are raising alarming concerns about Phan Tat Thanh, the former administrator of the "Patriotic Diary" Facebook page, now renamed "Van Toan." Allegations suggest Thanh is being subjected to torture and coerced confessions at Detention Camp No. 4 - Phan Dang Luu, Ho Chi Minh City. Three months after his arrest, he is still being denied legal representation, and his family members reportedly face intimidation.

As background, Phan Tat Thanh, also known as "Black Aaron," was born in 1986 and, was purportedly abducted and has been unlawfully detained since July 5, 2023. Official records claim his detention began on July 13, but reports indicate he was taken eight days earlier from 161 Nguyen Du Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Following numerous demands, Thanh's family received a temporary detention notice from the police, an act viewed as a grave legal infringement because it was sent after the family demanded it. 

During the initial eight days, Thanh allegedly endured continuous beatings and interrogations by police investigators. His mother and younger brother were also summoned for questioning and reportedly subjected to physical violence; his 70-year-old mother was beaten until she vomited blood and fainted, while his brother faced beatings and electric shock. Notably, Thanh is said to have ceased all human rights and democracy activities in recent years, and his family does not really know any of these conducts.

The current situation has left Thanh's family deeply concerned about his well-being, and they are calling for support, awareness, and solidarity from Vietnamese citizens and the international community.

Family Reunites with Activist Bui Tuan Lam at Xuan Loc Prison in Dong Nai Province 

In an emotional reunion, the family of Bui Tuan Lam visited him for the first time at Xuan Loc Prison in Dong Nai Province after an arduous journey spanning nearly 2,500 km. Setting out from their home in Da Nang City, Le Thanh Lam, his wife, and their three daughters travelled nearly 1,000 km by bus to Saigon and an additional 100 km to Xuan Loc to see Lam.

Arriving at the prison at 7:45 A.M., the family underwent the necessary procedures to meet Lam. At 9 a.m., they entered the visiting room, where the sight of their father sparked joy in his daughters, who excitedly shared stories with him. The family's happiness was palpable, making the long journey worthwhile.

Lam, though healthy and acclimating to his new environment, is still undergoing a trial period at the camp, and this was the first time he had any outside contact. Lam conveyed greetings from fellow detainee Nguyen Van Duc Do and expressed his gratitude for the support extended to his family during his absence.

Limited to a 60-minute visit, Lam's family will have to wait one month to visit him again. In Vietnam, political prisoners receive a family visit and two telephone calls to their families every month.

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