Four Vietnamese-American activists urged US President George W. Bush on Tuesday May 30 to increase pressure on Vietnam to respect human rights and said the United States should support openly democratic forces working to bring change to Hanoi.
The White House meeting was meant to send a message of disapproval to Vietnam on its increasingly harsh treatment of anti-government activists.
Diem Do, chair of the Vietnam Reform Party, said that during the 45-minute visit, Bush expressed his concern about the crackdown against peaceful dissidents and asked for specific suggestions on what was needed to help improve human rights in Vietnam.
Do said in an interview that he hoped the meeting would result in action by the US government and a clear message for the regime in Hanoi: “That if Vietnam wants to join the international community, they must abide by the rules of civilised governments. They are behaving like a rogue government. They just can’t clamp down on peaceful voices.”
Last year, as Vietnam prepared to host a Pacific Rim summit and stood on the threshold of joining the World Trade Organisation, the regime appeared to have taken a new path toward a more open society. Now, authorities have stepped up their campaign to suppress dissent.
Vietnam does not tolerate any challenge to Communist one-party rule, it insists, however, that only lawbreakers are jailed.
Another of Bush’s guests, Cong Thanh Do, founding member of the People’s Democratic Party of Vietnam, has been associated with three activists sentenced recently for spreading anti-Vietnamese propaganda over the internet.
They were among six people convicted and sentenced to prison in the government’s latest crackdown. One of those convicted was charged with trying to organise anti-government demonstrations during a visit by Bush to the Pacific summit in Hanoi last year.
“The United States has been concerned by the increasing incidence of arrest and detention of political activists in Vietnam for activities well within their right to peaceful expression of political thought,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said of the meeting.
“As Vietnam’s economy and society reform and move forward, such repression of individuals for their views is anachronistic and out of keeping with Vietnam’s desire to prosper, modernise and take a more prominent role in world affairs.”
In another development, the Democratic chair of the US-Vietnam Caucus in Congress resigned Friday and introduced a resolution condemning the convictions of pro-democracy activists.
“I have been a consistent friend to Vietnam, but I cannot compromise my support for human rights,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer said. “While I have always argued that we need to judge Vietnam on the progress it makes, it is clear to me that the Vietnamese government is headed in the wrong direction on democracy and human rights.”