Lets Go Everywhere


Democracy activist freed; others remain under arrest

Thanks go out to Hieu for letting me know one of the recently detained democracy activists was released Tuesday.

According to the AFP story:

HANOI (AFP) — Communist Vietnam deported a Vietnamese-American pro-democracy activist Tuesday, state media said, after his arrest last month with a group of other dissidents triggered protests from the United States.
Leon Truong, a member of the banned California-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform) party, left on a Taipei-bound China Airlines flight from Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport, Vietnam Television reported.
Truong was arrested on November 17 with five other pro-democracy activists, including one other US citizen, a Frenchwoman, one Thai and two Vietnamese nationals, accused in state media of plotting terrorism against Vietnam.
The arrests triggered a rally outside the Vietnamese embassy in Washington, a protest letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung from a group of Congress members, and a call to explain the charges from the US ambassador to Hanoi.
The state television report said Truong, a Hawaii restaurateur, had been released from custody at 3pm local time, having shown a “cooperative attitude with the authorities,” and had been ordered to leave Vietnam within 14 hours.
The television report did not mention the other detained activists.

I’m glad Truong is heading home to be with his family and I’m still waiting to hear news of the release of the remaining activists.

In the article, I found this part particularly interesting:

US Ambassador Michael Michalak hours earlier said he had seen no evidence to support claims in Vietnam’s state media that Truong or three other US citizens in custody in the communist country were guilty of terrorism.
“If they’re being detained because of peaceful expression of political views, we protest that most vigorously and call for their immediate release,” he said, saying Vietnam had not yet informed the US of any charges.
The others arrested were Nguyen Quoc Quan, a mathematician from California whom Vietnam accuses of having used a fake Cambodian passport, Frenchwoman Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, Thai citizen Somsak Khunmi and two Vietnamese nationals.
Two more Vietnamese-Americans, reportedly carrying a handgun and bullets, were arrested at the city’s airport on November 23, Vietnam state media said in reports that collectively labelled all the detainees “terrorists.”

I challenge apologists of the current Hanoi regime to explain to me how an American citizen could possibly fly to Vietnam with bullets and a handgun in their luggage. US customs among the most strictly supervised in the world and I can’t seriously see anyone successfully flying with a a lighter in their pocket, let alone firearms in their bags.

It just seems all too convenient.

Here’s how the local English-language media reported the situation:

VietNamNet Bridge – Eight members of Viet Tan, an anti-Vietnam terrorist organisation have been arrested by Vietnamese police. Nearly 7,000 leaflets and some weapons were seized.
On November 16 and 17 police arrested six persons on charges of terrorism. On November 23, customs officers at the HCM City-based Tan Son Nhat Airport detected two Vietnamese Americans, Le Van Phan, 55 and Nguyen Thi Thinh, 54, entering Vietnam with a gun and 13 bullets. They were arrested for illegally transporting and using weapons.
According to security agencies, these people are members of Viet Tan, a terrorist organisation. Vietnamese police will cooperate with these men’s national embassies to identify and judge them under Vietnamese law.
 

Other cases: 

 
 
Lawyers on trial, Vietnam
Photo: Le Thi Cong Nhan (R), 28, speaks as Nguyen Van Dai (L), 39, sits in a court in Hanoi May 11, 2007 in this photo of a television screen showing court proceedings. REUTERS/Kham 
 
Full BBC story: 
 
Two human rights lawyers have been jailed in Vietnam, in the latest court case against political activists.
Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan were sentenced to five years and four years respectively by the Hanoi People’s Court.
They were found guilty of spreading propaganda intended to undermine Vietnam’s Communist government.
A court in Ho Chi Minh City convicted three other activists on similar charges on Thursday.
Le Nguyen Sang was sentenced to five years in jail, Nguyen Bac Truyen to four years, and Huynh Nguyen Dao to three years.
 
Lawyers on trial, Vietnam (2)


Dissidents arrested yet again in Vietnam

 

 

Vietnam arrests foreign activists

Map

Vietnamese police have arrested six political activists, including four foreign citizens, in Ho Chi Minh City.

(BBC)

The activists – two Vietnamese, two American, one French and one Thai – were reportedly arrested after attending pro-democracy discussions.

Three of the six are members of a US-based anti-communist group.

The Vietnamese government exerts strong control over media and political activity. It has not yet commented on the arrests.

The US-based organisation Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform) said the activists were arrested on Saturday after they “participated in discussions with other democracy activists on promoting peaceful democratic change”.

It said their members were using examples of non-violent struggles around the world to “help empower the Vietnamese people.”

Vietnam says Viet Tan, which was established by a former south Vietnamese general in 1982, is a terrorist organisation and has staged a media campaign against it in recent months.

Seeking information

Among those arrested was Frenchwoman Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, a well-known campaigner and contributor to overseas Vietnamese-language media.

A press officer from the US embassy in Hanoi told the BBC the US was seeking information from the Vietnamese government regarding two US nationals.

There is no word on the charges they face.

The Paris-based campaign group Reporters Without Borders has condemned the arrests.

“We call for their immediate release since they were only engaged in peacefully promoting freedom of expression,” it said.

Vietnam has recently increased its efforts to silence political dissent and has jailed many activists who oppose the one party state system.

Watch yourself expats! The wrong word around your official minder and you’re outta here. I don’t think there’s a bribe big enough to get you out of ‘terrorism’ charges.

The government must be pretty scared if they are willing to go as far as arresting foreigners (Viet kieu, I hear) for attending a meeting, even if it was about democracy. Or maybe the country’s leaders are just used to dealing with black eyes and will do just about anything to preserve the one-party system so popular among the ruling class.

Still no word on the situation in the local English-language media… Though no big surprise there.

I tried to access the Viet Tan website but obviously it’s blocked within Vietnam. If anyone wants to send me a mirror or saved version I’d appreciate it!



There’s Nothing Nice About Martial Law

Thai leaders to relax martial law

BBC

Thailand’s military chiefs have recommended that martial law imposed after the 19 September coup be lifted in parts of the country.

The decision would affect about 40 of Thailand’s 76 provinces, coup leader and army commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said.

Martial law has been in place since the bloodless coup, which ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The decision will now be submitted to the cabinet for approval.

“Everybody wants to see peace and order in our country and the lifting of martial law will have a positive political and psychological impact,” Gen Sonthi said.

But he said the measures will remain in place in the troubled southern provinces, and in areas of the north and northeast, where support for Mr Thaksin is strongest.

Gen Sonthi said Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont could decided what to do about Bangkok.

“If we lift martial law and something happens, the prime minister will be held primarily responsible,” the French news agency AFP quoted him as saying.

Few protests

The new government has struggled to gain international recognition, not least because of its refusal to end the martial law, says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

But in practice few Thais have felt the restrictions, which have been applied sparingly.

Soldiers are still posted outside television stations in Bangkok, around 300 radio stations in rural areas have been forced to stop broadcasting, and political parties have been banned from holding large-scale meetings.

There have been relatively few protests against martial law – in fact the more widely-heard complaint against the new government is over its failure to come up with a convincing case against the former prime minister for corruption or abuses of power.

Still, the fact that martial law will remain in place in pro-Thaksin areas suggests the military is still nervous about a possible come-back by the former prime minister, who has been touring a number of nearby countries recently in a blaze of media publicity, our correspondent adds.

Monks & Tanks

It’s about time! The bad news is that Bangkok is not included.
That means it’s still illegal to gather in groups of 5 or more for a political purpose, hold rallies or broadcast news independently. However, it is legal to detain people without a warrant and without having to press charges. Hmmm.

The atmosphere is so friendly and the people so warm-hearted it’s easy to forget that the Thai government has been capable of some nasty things. Thaksin’s war against drug dealers (how many thousands dead at the hands of trigger happy police?), the southern insurgency and response (dozens suffocating in a truck for the crime of attending a rally while Muslim), historic brutal military suppression, and of course, at least one secret CIA prison — possibly for extracting information via torture.

Of course, no government is perfect. They all have blood on their hands and policies that shame their citizens, except perhaps Switzerland. I love the jai dee of the Thai people so much, and for this reason hope that martial law is entirely lifted and some form of representative democracy is restored as soon as possible.

Since I mentioned jai dee, a translation of which you can find further down somewhere, I’d like to add I noticed a picture on the Thai newswire of a demostration held in Bangkok not long ago. The demostration was against the death penalty (a brutal and frequently used punishment here) and there were six or seven young people dressed in black holding signs that called for an end to the practice. I was so impressed to see it… not only because these people were defying martial law and protesting a political policy… they were also opening eyes about an issue that gets very little play in Asia. The death penalty is not often discussed or thought about, so it’s great to see people questioning its value and usefulness. I’ll track down the photo tomorrow and post it here.

Good work protest kids, keep it up!!

***UPDATE Two Thai men who murdered tourist Katherine Horton have had their death sentences commuted to life in jail.



US citizens on trial in Saigon

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US citizens on trial in Vietnam

BBC

Vietnamese prosecutors have accused the group of terrorism

Three US citizens and four Vietnamese have gone on trial in Vietnam charged with terrorism. They are accused of attempting to set up illegal transmitters to make anti-communist radio broadcasts inside the country.

Correspondents says the case may complicate ties with the US ahead of President George W Bush’s visit next week and a Congressional vote on trade. The trial in Ho Chi Minh City is expected to last no more than a day.

All of the seven defendants are of Vietnamese origin, but three – Nguyen Thuong Cuc, also known as Cuc Foshee, Huynh Bich Lien and Le Van Binh – also have US citizenship.

Local press reports have linked them to a California-based anti-communist organisation called the Government of Free Vietnam. They are alleged to have brought transmitters and other equipment into Vietnam from neighbouring Cambodia.

They were hoping to take over local radio stations and broadcast anti-government radio messages, according to the BBC correspondent in Hanoi, Bill Hayton.

The case is being heard exactly a week before President Bush arrives in Vietnam to attend the annual Asia-Pacific summit (Apec). It may also complicate scheduled votes in the US Congress intended to permanently normalise trade relations between America and Vietnam, our correspondent says.

Senator Mel Martinez from Florida, the home state of one of the accused, has threatened to block the bill because of the case. That would be an embarrassment to both governments, which have heralded the bill as symbolising their new partnership.

If found guilty of terrorism, the accused could face sentences ranging from 12 years in jail to the death penalty. The Vietnamese government is currently trying to extradite a man it calls the leader of the plot, Nguyen Huu Chanh, from South Korea.

An earlier attempt failed. Mr Chanh was one of the founders of the Government of Free Vietnam.

———————-

Government of Free Viet Nam website (probably not accessible from within Viet Nam, but get the scoop here: Wiki article)

The Government of Free Vietnam is an anti-communist paramilitary and political organization that was established on April 30, 1995, by its founder Nguyen Hoang Dan. Its headquarters are in Garden Grove, California. The organization’s goal is to remove the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, either politically or militarily.

The Government of Free Vietnam claims 6,000 members and 100,000 supporters who were trained in secret camp locations along the Vietnamese/Cambodian border. They also claim 75 chapters in Asia, Australia, and Europe. Although the GFVN prides itself on its widespread support, many argue that the GFVN never received a true mandate to represent the Vietnamese diaspora.

They have a base of operations in KC-702, a secret base along the border between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Hoa Binh



Public Power In The Age Of Empire

As I reflect on the results of the US midterm elections I am reminded of a brilliant speech by Arundhati Roy called “Public Power In The Age Of Empire”.

Here you can listen to it in podcast format. An added bonus are folk songs by Utah Philips.

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No one’s watching

Canada #2 in maintaining personal privacy
KATIE FRETLAND
Canadian Press and Associated Press
Pub. Globe And Mail Oct 31

LONDON — Germany and Canada are the best defenders of privacy, and Malaysia and China the worst, an international rights group said in a report released Wednesday (Oct 31).
Britain was rated as an endemic surveillance society, at No. 33, just above Russia and Singapore on a ranking of 37 countries’ privacy protections by London-based Privacy International.
The United States did only slightly better, at No. 30, ranked between Israel and Thailand, with few safeguards and widespread surveillance, the group said.
The study ranks countries on various privacy-related issues. These include whether they have a written constitution with specific mention of privacy, the use of identity cards and biometrics, electronic surveillance including closed-circuit TV cameras, interception of communication, access of law-enforcement agencies to private data, surveillance of travel and financial transactions, and global leadership in promoting privacy.
On a scale of one to five, Canada scored three or higher in all categories.
Canada received the highest ranking of five for its legal limits on the keeping of private data….

This seems like good news for Canadians and Germans, and bad news for the citizens of world powers who like to talk about freedom and democracy but who violate and destroy the liberities of their own people.

I’m talking about you George Bush Jr., Tony Blair and Robert Mugabe.

At least regimes like Than Shwe’s in Myanmar don’t really claim to be into democracy or freedom. They are happy with their military junta and will only be removed at gunpoint. Vietnam transforms the word ‘democracy’ into meaning farmers can choose between one Communist member and another Communist member to represent them at the lowest level.
Freedom means you have the freedom not to be bombed to shit on a daily basis.

And then places like Thailand actually use tanks and soldiers to incite a situation they believe will restore democracy by wresting power from the hands of an elected tyrant. Freedom meaning, sometimes you have to have the will to take strong medicine.

That makes me think that the US could learn from Thailand… but I won’t get into that too deeply just yet.

Here’s the official rankings, some countries are tied.

Best Protectors of Civilian Privacy
1. Germany
2. Canada
3. Belgium
3. Austria
5. Greece
6. Argentina
6. Hungary
8. France
8. Poland
8. Portugal
8. Cyprus
12. Finland
13. Italy
13. Luxembourg
13. Latvia
13. Estonia
13. Malta
18. Denmark
18. Czech Republic
18. Ireland
18. Lithuania
18. New Zealand
18. Slovakia
24. Australia
24. Spain
26. Slovenia
26. Netherlands
28. Israel
28. Sweden
30. United States
31. Thailand
31. Philippines
33. Britain
34. Singapore
34. Russia
36. Malaysia
36. China



Kentucky Fried Communism
November 1, 2006, 9:08 am
Filed under: capitalism/socialism, consumerism, expat, freedom, Hanoi, politics, vietnam

The news in Hanoi has gone from bad to worse.
The place we all escape to in order to detox ourselves of fast food, Starbucks coffee and 7/11 slurpees is building a 2ND KFC outlet, this one in the much more central location of Ba Trieu, or steps away from the Vincom Tower mall.
While exiting the nearby Asahi Shushi restaurant Scott and I witnessed the raising of the signboard. A dubious moment in Hanoi history.

Do the Vietnamese really need a fried trans fat outlet, or does KFC Co. really need a piece of the lucrative and as of yet uneducated Asian market?
Yeah, there’s not much talk about the dangers of trans fats here. A GREAT place for a artery-clogging grease factory.

Like cigarette companies who came before them, fast food outlets, strip malls, social isolation, home invasions and perhaps eventually sidewalk crack dealers are on the horizon for an increasingly rich Vietnam.
Mo’ money mo’ problems, everyone knows that.
Quite an irony for a supposedly socialist country.

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