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)
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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!



Helmets: Not Just For Common Folks Anymore
November 24, 2006, 6:19 am
Filed under: Brangelina, celebs, expat, ho chi minh city (saigon), Uncategorized, US, vietnam

A message to ‘Brangelina’:

Whilst in Vietnam, please refrain from riding your fancy-boy Nouvo scooter without a helmet. Sure, no one else is, but that doesn’t mean you have to be wreckless and stupid. Not to mention, wise or not, you are role models. Do to the Viets a favour and slap on a rice-cooker.

Sincerely,

Moi

Brangelina

Hollywood movie stars Brad Pitt (C) and his partner Angelina Jolie ride on a motorcycle on a busy street in downtown Ho Chi Minh city, 23 November 2006. The two are on a discrete stay in the Vietnamese Southern economic hub after a surprise visit to Cambodia where Angelina Jolie pledged to set up a new conservation project. Jolie and Pitt flew to Southeast Asian countries for the filming of “A Mighty Heart” in Mumbai, India. AFP PHOTO



President Bush in a pretty silk dress
November 20, 2006, 10:37 am
Filed under: APEC, bush, capitalism/socialism, empires, expat, Hanoi, News and politics, Uncategorized, US, vietnam

What you’ve all been waiting for… United States President George W Bush in a silk ao dai.

 Picture pops! Re-jiggered and in proportion.

Bush in ao dai

Howdy to Ao Dai

“The colourful, elongated tunics of Vietnam’s traditional dress, the
Ao Dai, are worn with much grace by Vietnamese women and men – and
extreme unease by the US president George Bush. Donning the costume
over his suit for the obligatory “family photograph” alongside 20
other leaders of Asian and Pacific nations, Mr Bush grimaced
repeatedly and shifted from foot to foot, a portrait of embarrassment
in turquoise blue brocade with yellow trim. It was obvious he couldn’t
wait to get it off and sure enough, moments after the official
photographs were taken, he strode away, ripped it off and folded it
up, according to reports. His fellow leaders showed more restraint and
waited until they were out of sight.”

The Guardian



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.



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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