Tuesday, April 03, 2007

BBC interview on Fr. Ly trial

The transcript of a brief BBC interview with me on issues related to the trial of Father Nguyen Van Ly can be found by clicking here.

Our conversation was in English, but the above transcript is the Vietnamese translation.

Update: Here is the English translation of the Vietnamese translation, courtesy of a good friend. The transcript did not include all my comments, for example on the unfair nature of the political trial of Fr. Nguyen Van Ly.


Father Ly's trial on March 30 continues to get attention from
governments and media around the world. The observers described Fr.
Ly's trial, with the sentence of 8 years in prison, as part of the
Vietnamese Communist Party's campaign to slam on dissidents.

Not as in the past, Vietnam authorities have allowed diplomats and foreign
reporters to attend the trial.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr. Steve Denney, an expert on Vietnam
matters of the Amnesty International USA, said this action of Vietnamese
authorities seems to indicate that Vietnam will not tolerate organized opposition activities.

SD: I think they want to say they do not hesitate to continue with
the current policy. That means when they see people inside Vietnam
make connections with overseas groups to form anti-government groups,
then the government will crush them with all means. Perhaps the
government wants to send a message to the world, especially to the US
government and other countries who have raised their concerns about
human right policy in Vietnam.

BBC: Beside the case of Fr. Ly, other dissidents were recently also
arrested, in your opinion how will those actions affect the VN-US

SD: At this point in time, the main concern of the Bush Administration is
trade, and Vietnam is not a priority for the U.S. in Asia and the Middle East.
However, the US Ambassador in Vietnam did a good job in expressing
his concern over prisoners of conscience. In the US Congress there is
also some pressure to push the US government to react and Bush
Administration could become tougher on the issue of human rights with
Vietnam because of this pressure.

BBC: With current US policy, do you think it is based on the concept
"economic development first, then human rights and democracy will

SD: At certain level, saying so is okay; in a broad view, which has
some truth in it. It means when the economy in Vietnam becomes more
and more capitalist, the dictatorship system, as existed before Doi Moi,
can not be maintained. More trade relations will increase individual

However, at the same time, the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) still wants to maintain its control of the political system. Therefore, from VCP point of view, they must have the power to crush (purge) any individuals or groups which has the potential to become an organized opposition movement.

BBC: With the development of recent events, do you think US
government will change its policy towards Vietnam ?

SD: It is too soon to know. Fr. Ly's trial could only be sign of the
beginning, because the government has also arrested others and could
bring them to trial. Therefore it depends on the Vietnam government's next move.
At a certain point, I think U.S. will have its reaction. US Sec. of
State has said human rights is a top priority.

BBC: Most people agree that the dissidents are only the minority in
Vietnam society. There are observers who said more attention should
be given to the open-minded members within the VCP because they are
in the positions to push for wider reform. What do you think?

SD: I think we can do both. One should not forget the dissidents.
Even though they are relatively small, they are getting braver. In my
opinion, we should pay attention to both dissidents and the reformers
in the Party.


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