Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Official criticizes US human rights concerns

Deputy Minister of Public Security Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Huong questioned U.S. concerns over the imprisonment of dissidents and other forms of human rights violations in Vietnam. His comments took place during a meeting in Hanoi with deputy head of the US mission, Jonathan Aloisi. According to Thanh Nien, Huong asked Aloisi to elaborate on "why the US was interested in some criminals imprisoned in Vietnam, and on the connection between the US’s interests and theirs." For his part, Aloisi said "..many people in the US and in the administration do not understand the way Vietnam deals with people jailed because of their political opinions.”

Huong said that Vietnam "has never banned people from expressing their points of view freely either on the media, in public forums, or anywhere else, even if they are critical of the government." However, he added:

“There are thousands of organizations and groups in Vietnam and no one interferes with their meetings. But we do mind those people who illegally found an organization. The laws must correct their activities.

“For example, the Vietnamese Constitution states that Vietnam has a one-party political system. It’s illegal if some people want to establish another party, not to mention secretly inciting other people to join their organization and aim to overthrow the existing government."

Huong described the dissidents in Vietnam as obstacles to improved bilateral relations, and noted with some irritation that U.S. ambassador Michael Marine was not present at the meeting:

“We know the US ambassador could not make it here today because he is in Soc Trang. We are aware that he has posed in-depth query about some monks who are related to some incidents there. We could consider that an interference with Vietnam’s internal affairs. But as we are willing to help him understand the real situation, we’ve done our best so that he could meet those ‘people of interest to the US’.."

Huong went on to describe the case of Fr. Nguyen Van Ly, who according to press reports is likely to be tried on charges of violating Article 88 of Vietnam's Criminal Code:

“We did release Ly and permit his nephews to migrate to the US. Ly pledged that after his release he would conduct religious activities and not participate in political protests. But as soon as he was released, he contacted Nguyen Cong Bang, Ngo Thi Hien, and others in the US to set up the so-called ‘Bloc 8406’. Then he set up the ‘Lien Dang Lac Hong’ organization that incited religious followers to wage demonstrations against the government.

“Ly was released on parole but after his release he ignored [the parole] regulations. So it is impossible to say he is fighting for freedom of speech or religion. He is a conspirator planning violent activities to cause public disorder..."

Actually, there have been no allegations as of yet that Fr. Ly planned any kind of violent activity. Huong also claimed Fr. Ly is not currently under detention, which would seem to contradict other press reports.

Huong also mentioned the cases of Phan Van Ban, who he said could be released if he agrees to go to the U.S. to be reunited with his family; and Nguyen Vu Binh, who Huong said could be given amnesty this year "if he could show any progress this year." Binh has been reported by by human rights groups to be seriously ill and is considered an urgent action medical case by Amnesty International.

He also commented on the cases of recently disbarred lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Ngan:

“Vietnam will continue to take action against people who incite others to act against the Vietnamese state. They include Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan, and some others about whom Vietnam has informed the US.

“We want security for both Vietnam and the US. We will inform you about the illegal activities of people violating the law and how we’ll deal with them.”

Huong asked that the U.S. mission in Hanoi inform Rice that the two sides were working closely to address her concerns on human rights. But he warned it did not mean Vietnam would accept things at any cost.

Source: Thanh Nien, March 20.


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