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.
Also see:

Rice Asserts U.S. Plans No Attack on North Korea

The New York Times
Published: October 11, 2006

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the United States did not intend to invade or attack North Korea, but she warned the North’s leaders that they now risked sanctions “unlike anything that they have faced before.”

Even China, North Korea’s most important ally, said Tuesday that tough measures were in order, though its representatives said the punishments might not necessarily be the harsh ones that Washington was proposing.

“For China, we need to have a firm, constructive, appropriate, but prudent, response,” said Wang Guangya, the country’s ambassador to the United Nations. “There have to be some punitive actions, but also I think these actions have to be appropriate.”

The United States, Britain and France all want a resolution drafted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which makes sanctions mandatory and poses the possibility of military enforcement.

While both China and Russia have spoken of the importance of taking serious action against North Korea’s reported nuclear test, they are traditionally against invoking Chapter VII and have not indicated whether they would end their opposition.

The United States wants agreement on sanctions this week. But even as the administration sought to push tough language into a Security Council resolution, the White House expressed doubts about the capacity of North Korea’s nuclear program, based on evidence that the reported test had a smaller yield than expected.

Sanctions sought by the United States include international inspections of all cargo moving in and out of North Korea to detect weapons-related material. But that might prove difficult for China and Russia to accept, in part because their coastlines and borders would be affected.
The diplomatic moves came a day after administration officials responded with shock and outrage to an official announcement from North Korea that it had detonated a nuclear device.

In an interview on CNN, one of a series of television appearances, Secretary Rice stressed that “the diplomatic path is open” for the North, and that giving up its nuclear program would “lead to all kinds of benefits for North Korea.”

But she said the North’s decision to pursue its nuclear program meant that it would face “international condemnation and international sanctions unlike anything that they have faced before.”

The United States has imposed economic curbs on North Korea since the opening of the Korean War in 1950, though President Clinton lifted a few of them toward the end of his time in office, when relations seemed to be thawing.

Now, in its bid to tighten sanctions, Bush administration officials say, the United States is pursuing a two-track approach: trying at the United Nations to persuade other countries to cut off economic ties with the North, and using American banking laws to punish banks overseas that deal with North Korean companies.

At the United Nations on Tuesday, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Japan, met twice to work out differences on the sanctions proposed Monday by the United States. John R. Bolton, the American ambassador, reported the group was making headway and would meet again Wednesday.

“I think there is convergence on many issues, more than I would have predicted perhaps a day or two ago,” Mr. Bolton said. “That’s not to say we’re there by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m pleased by the positive nature of the discussions and look forward to more progress tomorrow.”

Mr. Bolton said he had discussed the proposal for North Korean ports separately with Mr. Wang, the Chinese envoy.

As for Russia, Mr. Bolton began the day complaining that Vitaly I. Churkin, the country’s ambassador, had arrived at the morning session with no instructions from his government. He said it had left “a hole” in the conversations.

But after the afternoon session, he said Mr. Churkin had heard from Moscow and was able to take part in the debate. “We’ll have some areas to discuss there and he raised some issues we had not thought of entirely, but by and large his comments were supportive,” Mr. Bolton said.
Mr. Churkin left without making any comment.

Mr. Bolton declined to discuss specifics of the talks but said one amendment suggested by Japan — a ban on travel by members of the North Korean government — had attracted particular support.

Asked if he would limit the American demands in the interests of speeding the process of drafting a resolution, he said: “We want firmness and swiftness, and I think we can have both. That’s our objective.”

In television interviews and briefings for reporters, Secretary Rice and other officials reiterated past assurances that the United States was not moving toward occupying North Korea or toppling its government.

She said the administration’s policy was still that the diplomatic path would be multilateral, through the stalled six-party talks, and not the two-way dialogue that North Korea has sought with the United States.

But even as the administration sought to unify its international allies, there were signs of fissures among over whether Washington should negotiate directly with North Korea.

Representative Heather Wilson, a New Mexico Republican and former Air Force officer who has played a leading role on national security issues, advocated bilateral negotiations, within the context of the six-party talks. “The idea here is to open a path for this rogue regime to walk back from the edge of the ledge,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with straight, tough talk with countries that are not our friends.”

In the administration’s quest for tough sanctions, much of the effort is focused on China, Japan and especially South Korea, which supply most of North Korea’s imports and investments.

Indeed, South Korea has invested heavily in the Kaesong Industrial Park, an economic enclave in the North that employs thousands in factories that produce shoes, cosmetics and other export goods.

The United States has tried, without much success, to get South Korea to limit its involvement in the enclave, arguing that North Korean financial institutions that are involved in it are also involved in illicit activities. In the wake of North Korea’s latest nuclear steps, persuading South Korea may be easier, American officials say.

The unilateral drive by the United States is likely to expand on existing efforts that American officials maintain have already had a damaging effect on North. Indeed, the sanctions may have propelled North Korea to walk away from negotiations on its nuclear program and test a weapon, some experts say.

Now, with the enactment of American laws and executive orders after Sept. 11, 2001, new tools have become available, and they are likely to be expanded in coming weeks.

Under the U.S.A. Patriot Act, signed into law shortly after the 2001 attacks, the United States labeled a bank in Macao, Banco Delta Asia, as a “primary money-laundering concern” and declared that any bank doing business on American soil — virtually every big bank in the world — could not do business with it.

Administration officials say the ban on Banco Delta Asia badly disrupted North Korean activities, effectively froze the personal accounts of North Korean leaders and sent a message throughout the international financial system that the United States was prepared to do more.

Backing up that threat, President Bush has accused several North Korean trading corporations of being involved in nuclear proliferation and missile activities, often in conjunction with Syria, Iran and Pakistan. American officials have also visited banks in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to tell them that dealings with those entities could jeopardize ties with American banks.

The aim, according to Stuart Levey, under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, is to put the international community “on notice about a particular threat” and get them to voluntarily end their dealings with North Korean entities.