Wednesday, October 11, 2006

President’s Planned Trip To Vietnam: A Call To Free Mrs. Foshee and Take a Stand on Human Rights

By John E. Carey
October 11, 2006

President George Bush has a planned trip next month to Vietnam to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). We applaud this effort by the president.

But at the same time, we remind the president that Vietnam is still a Communist nation with a miserable record on human rights.

Vietnam’s entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the granting of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) by the U.S. are virtually assured in the next month or two. And we support the president on these efforts too.

But we urge the president to remain mindful of the human rights abuses in Vietnam; especially the wrongful detention of American Citizen Mrs. Foshee who has been held in jail for over a year.


Today Vietnam is all about money. The economy is starting to rumble and many want to cash in.

Interest in human rights has largely been crushed in the stampede.

Tourism is a big moneymaker. The NBC Today Show is currently hosting a wedding. One of the honeymoon options is a free trip to Vietnam.

The fourth meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Tourism Ministerial Meeting (TMM) is scheduled to take place in Hoi An, central Quang Nam province, Vietnam October 16-19. According to the Vietnam National Administration for Tourism, there will be more than 200 officials from 21 APEC economies attending the meeting in the ancient town, which is now a world cultural heritage site.

But there are many industries that rely upon low paid workers that are currently thriving in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s textile industry threatens to destroy what is still remaining of clothing manufacturing in the United States. The Bush administration promised Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina last week it would closely monitor textile and clothing imports from Vietnam after that country joins the World Trade Organization and the United States is required to drop import quotas.

This small promise by the president set off a fire storm among retailers: that want access to inexpensive clothes from Vietnam without any restrictions.

Computer chip manufacturing is huge and growing in Vietnam: both Japan and China have recently announced huge investments in Vietnam’s computer industry. Bill Gates visited Vietnam earlier this year. He doesn’t want to be left out of the “Vietnam Economic Miracle” we ourselves have predicted.

Some Human Rights Cases

In early September 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 in Vietnam. The articles were titled “What is democracy?”

Mr. Cong Do was also falsely imprisoned by Vietnam. He has now been released and is advocating the return from Vietnam of another U.S. Citizen: Thuong Nguyen "Cuc" Foshee, a pillar in the Orlando, Florida Vietnamese community.Foshee, a U.S. citizen, was taken into custody Sept. 8, 2005. She was not charged, not allowed to post bail, denied an attorney and put in a prison in Ho Chi Minh City.

We urge President Bush to assure her safe return to the United States before he makes any deals with Vietnam.

To us, Mrs. Foshee is symbolic of a host of human rights abuses in Vietnam. Vietnam is high on the list of U.S. State Department states that crush human rights.

The Vietnamese people have no free elections. In Vietnam, the Communists Party chooses all candidates prior to an election and no people excluded by the Communists system can run in an election. Since all candidates are nominated by the Party, from the People’s Committee at the village level to the National Assembly, elections are only a ploy used by the regime to disguise its scheme to impose its will on the population. This is the reason why people’s legitimate complaints are never addressed.

The Communist government of Vietnam, like that of North Korea, controls and monitors all media including the internet and email. Along with the U.S. Department of State web site, the web site of The Washington Times is not available to readers in Vietnam. The Washington Times is too “seditionist.”Although Vietnam currently has more than 600 newspapers; all are owned and controlled by the Party. Until now, no private newspaper has ever been allowed to be published.

Vietnam has one of the strictest systems of control over public use of the Internet in the world. Many web sites with information on freedom and democracy are not available in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese people do hot have freedom of religion and worship. Religious organizations which were not established by the state such as the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Church, the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, the Cao Dai Congregation, and the Menonite Church of Vietnam are all prohibited from operating. Many Buddhist monks and Christian priests are placed under “administrative restrictions,” i.e. under detention in their own pagodas or churches.

So we applaud and thank the President of the United States on his planned trip to Vietnam. And we want the U.S. economy to share in all the benefits of Vietnam.

But let’s not abandon Mrs. Foshee, human rights and our American values in the process.
American citizens interested in this issue should contact their Congressman and Senators.
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