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)
Advertisements


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!



I survived cholera epidemic 2007

I feel on top of the world these days, and it’s not just because I’m leaving Vietnam in less than a month. No, it’s the fact that I managed to avoid contracting cholera despite the widespread epidemic that plagued Hanoi.

Yes, cholera. The medieval explosive diarrhea disease. Only a few news agencies were brave enough to tackle the issue, and lord knows the state media took its sweet time in even admitting there was a problem.

Reuters Article vs state media

Either way, I’m glad I avoided it (so far). I took great pains to stay as far away from dog meat, rancid shrimp paste, pork log and market veggies as I could.

I am, however, deeply saddened to have to routinely bypass my favourite ‘mien ngan’ stand on Han Thuyen Street because the woman refuses to wear plastic gloves. I mean really, they’re free!

Cholera bacterium 2



Mid-afternoon lunar eclipse
August 28, 2007, 9:42 am
Filed under: eclipse, Hanoi, media, Uncategorized, vietnam

There will be a lunar eclipse tonight (Tuesday August 28) but unfortunately most in Vietnam won’t get a chance to see it. According to Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper:

Hanoi Education University astronomy instructor Nguyen Anh Vinh said the eclipse would begin at 2.53.39pm.

The eclipse will begin in full around 4.52pm.

The eclipse’s maximum point will occur at 5.37.22pm and the phenomenon will end at 6.22.24pm, according to Vinh.

Portions of mainland Vietnam will not be able to see the eclipse at all while some areas will be able to view the last half of the eclipse after the 5.37pm pinnacle.

Soldiers on the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa Islands will be able to see most of the eclipse’s strongest parts around and after 4.52pm. Residents on Con Dao and select groups of lucky coastal viewers may be able to catch glimpses of this part of the eclipse as well.

But visibility will be very limited due to the early occurrence of the eclipse as the bright afternoon sky will most likely drown out the phenomenon in most areas.

I just looked at my clock and it’s 4:37pm on Tuesday afternoon. Outside, it’s gray and cloudy, terrible viewing conditions. 😦

Enjoy the eclipse!

Lunar eclipse



Gun Scare at Central Vietnam computer shop
August 27, 2007, 5:21 am
Filed under: consumerism, expat, media, Uncategorized, vietnam

Two men in central Vietnam Saturday pulled a gun on a computer technician in an incident that was likely related to a dispute over a USB flash drive.

At 1.20 pm, two men walked into the second floor of a computer repair shop in Danang city and one of them pointed a gun at Do Phu Thinh, 26.

The assailant shouted “Motherfu—thought I couldn’t do anything to you!”

Thinh’s girlfriend and sister were present and screamed just before shop owner and retired police officer Tran Van Tu sneak-attacked the gunman from behind. Tu pushed Thinh and himself into a nearby room and locked it from inside.

The other man wielded a sharp knife and banged on the door.

They only left after Thinh called the police from inside the room.

“I heard the gun cocking and knew it was an authentic one”, Thinh said after the quarrel.

He also said that some days earlier, a woman had asked him to repair a 1GB Sony USB but Thinh discovered it was only 128 MB and told the customer.

On Friday the woman’s husband, son and daughter came to claim that Thinh had swapped their USB, he said.

According to Thinh, the next day, two other men came and threateningly told Thinh to return the “true” USB, several hours before the gun incident occurred that afternoon.

Reported by Vu Phuong Thao – Thanh Nien – Translated by A.N.O.N

 By the way, the Vietnamese for “motherfucker” is dich me [deek-may]. Just in case anyone was wondering.

It’s funny, I’ve been in and out of this country for close to three years and this was the first gun story I ever read. Then again, there was that story about the samurai sword wielding policeman who stabbed a parking attendant. Oddly enough, that also took place in Da Nang.



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.



George Bush doesn’t care about Vietnamese shopkeepers

Hello friends, I know it’s been a while. I haven’t posted anything in ages due to the fact I’ve been levelled by a flu.Our new Swiss intern at the magazine brought me a nice, long-lasting European flu strain that had me in bed for days. The worst part was the headache — like a jackerhammer in my head for hours. Ahhh, and shivering with cold in 35 degree heat. Nice!

No worries though; today I am on the mend and I plan to get him back somehow.

The sicktime has also given me a chance to catch up on my reading — I finished re-reading Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance and started Static by Amy & David Goodman. Static is good, so far, and A Fine Balance is one of my all-time favourites.

While browsing HuffPo today, I noticed this article from the New York Times:

Unlike Clinton, Bush Sees Hanoi in Bit of a Hurry

Hanoi, Sunday, Nov. 19 — President Bush likes speed golf and speed tourism — this is the man who did the treasures of Red Square in less than 20 minutes — but here in the lake-studded capital of a nation desperately eager to connect with America, he set a record.

On Saturday, Mr. Bush emerged from his hotel for only one nonofficial event, a 15-minute visit to the Joint P.O.W./M.I.A. Accounting Command, which searches for the remains of the 1,800 Americans still listed as missing in the Vietnam War.

There were almost no Vietnamese present, just a series of tables displaying photographs of the group’s painstaking work, and helmets, shoes and replicas of bones recovered by the 425 members of the command. He asked a few questions and then sped off in his motorcade. …

Waiting for One More Star

The Hadong Silk shop in this city’s Old Quarter is the first port of call for well-heeled visitors on the hunt for the tailor-made silkwares for which Vietnam has become famous. This weekend, with heads of state from 21 countries in town for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, a parade of dignitaries streamed in for fittings of made-to-order shirts, dresses and suits.

Laureen Harper, the wife of Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, showed up on Friday, made a few purchases and signed the guestbook for Dang Thi Thu Thuy, the petite, exquisitely dressed owner. Ditto for Australia’s first lady, Janette Howard.

But Mrs. Thuy was searching for more. “We really hope that Mrs. Bush will come into our store,” she says. “We are waiting for her, but she hasn’t come.”

The walls of Hadong Silk are lined with giant framed photos of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who came to the shop during Mr. Clinton’s visit in 2000. There is a photo of Mrs. Clinton towering over three saleswomen, another of her standing next to Mrs. Thuy, both clad in silk suits, and one upstairs of her, surrounded by Secret Service agents, perusing silk blouses.

Vu Thi Thu Huong, a saleswoman, said the shop was so excited after Mrs. Clinton left, having bought 10 raw silk shirts for her husband, that the distinctive square collar on their men’s silk shirts was renamed the “Bill Clinton Collar.”

So, will there be a “George Bush Collar”?

Mrs. Thuy shrugged. “I’m not sure,” she said. She gestured to her camera, and said, “If she comes we will take her picture, too.”

Mrs. Bush visited the Temple of Literature, a monument to the legacy of Confucius, and the Museum of Ethnology, which focuses on Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups. With the spouses of other leaders, she saw water puppets. It is unclear whether she bought any silk.

Clinton in Vietnam

Just more proof Bush doesn’t care about Vietnamese shopkeepers. At least though, the women folk got a chance to see the water puppet show. No matter what anyone says, that’s some good entertainment!

Scott, have any delegates stopped by Ipa-Nima? If so, who , and what did they buy?? Inquiring minds need to know.