Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, March 17, 2006

Vietnam News Update

US could strike Vietnam off Religious Oppressor List: Ambassador

March 16, 2006

Agence France-Presse reports that “The United States is considering dropping Vietnam this year from a list of countries it accuses of severely violating religious freedoms, the US ambassador said Thursday.”
According to the report, even if Vietnam has to work on improving various human rights issues, the country is heading in the right direction. There are indications of progress in the Central Highlands, where many of the region’s indigenous tribes practice Christianity.

According to Agence France-Presse:

“Michael Marine said communist Vietnam was making steady progress on human and religious rights, meaning the US administration may lift the label of Country of Particular Concern (CPC) it has applied for the past two years.”"We are exploring conditions under which CPC could be lifted," Marine told a media briefing. "I think that's a possibility for this year if certain things were to happen, but a decision hasn't been made."

“Marine acknowledged that striking Vietnam off the list of worst religious offenders may help convince some Congress members to support granting the country Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status this summer.”

Hard for Vietnam to Enter WTO this Year

In related news, Vietnam has to move rapidly in forging a bilateral agreement with the United States in order to join the World Trade Organization. If this does not happen, the country may risk being excluded from WTO membership for another year or two.

According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur:

“Myron Brilliant, vice president for Asia with the chamber, met Tuesday with government officials including Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen to stress the "urgency" of negotiations later this month in Geneva if Vietnam hopes to join this year.”

“Even outside the WTO, Vietnam boasts one of the world's fastest- growing economies. Since the landmark bilateral trade agreement with the US in 2001, exports have more than doubled, reaching 32 billion dollars last year.”“However, Brilliant warned that unless Vietnam agrees to open its markets to competition, foreign investment and interest in the country could slow down.”

Nun Harassed and Expelled from her Pagoda for Membership of the Khanh Hoa UBCV representative board

March 14, 2006

The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) has received an urgent appeal for assistance from members of the provincial representative board of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) in the central province of Khanh Hoa.
Thich Nu Thong Man, a Buddhist nun, has been expelled by local officials and police. She has been superior nun for 10 years. The reason for the expulsion order is because she has "committed wrongful acts by being a member of the Unified Buddhist Church, in violation of the [State-sponsored] Vietnam Buddhist Sangha's Charter and the laws of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

According to VNCOL, a Vietnam news listserv:

“Since July 2005, the UBCV has set up 13 representative boards to defend the fundamental rights of local people in the provinces of Quang Nam-Danang, Thua Thien-Hue, Binh Dinh, Khanh Hoa, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Dong Nai, An Giang, Bac Lieu, the Hau Giang region, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the 4th, 11th and Binh Thanh districts of Saigon. The government has declared these boards "illegal" and subjected all their members to harassments and continuous Police interrogations, where they are accused of "engaging in political activities", "plotting to overthrow the government" and "advocating democracy and pluralism". The creation of these provincial boards, despite the government's ban on the UBCV, is a significant challenge to the government, for it affirms de facto existence of the outlawed UBCV. Their formation has been carried out with complete transparency by Venerable Thich Quang Do, Deputy UBCV leader and Head of the UBCV's Executive Institute "Vien Hoa Dao", who has sent letters to thecommunist authorities informing them of the creation of each new representative board.”


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