Activists Urge Trump to Press Visiting Vietnam PM Phuc on Rights

2017-05-30
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Vietnam's Prime Minister Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) is greeted by a deputy prior to the opening of the annual summer session of the National Assembly in Hanoi, May 22, 2017.
Vietnam's Prime Minister Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) is greeted by a deputy prior to the opening of the annual summer session of the National Assembly in Hanoi, May 22, 2017.
AFP

Vietnamese human rights and religious freedom activists have appealed to the Trump administration to take up the cases of jailed colleagues when Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visits the White House on Wednesday.

Phuc, who will be the first Southeast Asian leader to meet U.S. President Donald Trump is believed to be seeking a bilateral trade pact to replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would have reduced tariffs for Vietnamese exports to the United States but was scrapped by Trump. Hanoi also seeks enhanced security cooperation with Washington in the face of expansive Chinese territorial claims and artificial island building in the South China Sea.

In a statement issued on Tuesday Duy Hoang, a Washington-based spokesman for Viet Tan, a Vietnamese pro-democracy party with members inside Vietnam and around the world, said Phuc "comes to the White House following a crackdown against peaceful activists and citizen journalists in Vietnam."

"In the short run it might be possible for the U.S. to pursue a transactional relationship with Hanoi. But a 'comprehensive relationship' that’s in the long-term interests of the United States requires an open and free Vietnam," he said.

"The Hanoi government desperately wants a Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. President Trump has the opportunity to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Vietnam that significantly improves on the TPP. To ensure fair trade, Hanoi needs to respect worker rights and stop censoring American internet companies which is a de facto trade barrier," Hoang added.

On Friday, five Vietnamese activists and Amnesty International met Matt Pottinger, senior advisor to Trump on Asian affairs, the activists told RFA's Vietnamese Service.

"During the meeting, I presented three issues: the first is the environmental disaster caused by Formosa, the second is the Dong Yen parish being persecuted, the third is the two priests Dang Huu Nam and Nguyen Dinh Thuc, who are being harassed by the authorities who also organized protests to threaten the two priests," said Nguyen Van Thong, from a Catholic student group in the diocese of Vinh.

An April 2016 waste spill by Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group’s steel plant, which killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen jobless in four coastal provinces, has spurred a serious of protests by people who lost their livelihoods or who disagree with the scope and pace of Formosa's promised payment of $500 million in compensation.

Many of the protests have been spearheaded by local Catholic priests, who have been punished by authorities with arrests and beatings.

"All of us raised issues of democracy, human rights, and we focused on religious freedom," Nguyen Dinh Thang, executive director of Boat People PSOS, told RFA.

"We have given Matt Pottinger a list of nearly 100 religious prisoners to ask Trump ... to ask Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc or senior officials of the Vietnamese delegation, to consider," he said.

Thang also said the group raised the issue of land he said was seized by authorities from Con Dau Parish in the coast city of Danang, and sold to private investors to build a five-star resort that will be the site of the Asia-Pacific Economic (APEC) cooperation that Trump will attend.

"We called on President Trump to raise his voice about this. In addition, President Trump should explain to Mr. Phuc how Magnitsky law should be applied," said Thang, referring to U.S. legislation that punishes officials who commit human rights abuses.

"We presented a number of issues such as how Vietnam should have a clear policy for political and social change, such as changes in civil society, fundamental rights like freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of protest, freedom to use the Internet," The Binh, president of Vietnam For Progress, told RFA.

"We understand that President Trump is very concerned about human rights violations, so we want him to put human rights (ahead of)  business benefits with Vietnam," added The.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam announced that the U.S. Coast Guard in Honolulu, Hawaii had transferred a High Endurance Cutter to the Vietnam Coast Guard.

The cutter, commissioned in 1969 and decommissioned last month, will be renamed CSB 8020, and is expected to help the Vietnam Coast Guard’s improve maritime domain awareness and boost its capacity to perform maritime law enforcement operations, search and rescue and humanitarian activities, the embassy said.  On May 22, the Vietnam Coast Guard received six 45-foot Metal Shark patrol boats from the United States.

Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written by Paul Eckert.

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Hate Communist

from ghet bac Ho

Welcome back Ms. Pham. Sounds like you didn't learn a thing during your time of absence from the Net!
Want to explain why VN currency is worthless? Why both Cambodian and Laos $$$ are better than VN?
Ya know, may be it'll worth more if Ho's face isn't on there!

May 31, 2017 04:11 PM

Mary Pham

from USA

Stale menu, offered by these aging cooks from the same gourmet kitchen of South Vietnamese exiles! Vietnam signs 17-billion purchase agreement to salesman Trump and throws a few trouble-making priests over the fence to votes-seeker officials in Congress... A win-win powers formula for this 21st century and a good handle for Vietnam to maintain 6.7% growth - approaching G20 economy by 2030. Thank America First thingy!

May 31, 2017 10:25 AM

Hate Communist

from ghet bac Ho

Once again, I dare to say that VN misses another opportunity!
Trump regime isn’t going to assist VN. This isn’t Trump agenda. Trump has no empathy toward a 3rd world country that can’t control it destiny. This regime is ignoring scientific data and killing the EPA; hence; it isn’t going to scream at Formosa and or at Taiwan! Since Trump’s mantra is America First, I dare to say (I’m doing lots of these!) he isn’t going to care for a few harassed priests either! Please, read ‘the writings on the wall’.
Unless VN; once again – foolishly and a last ditch effort; offers its land and ports to launch a stance against the Chinese! Even that; I can see it now; all the Pentagon generals just cringe in their seats – we have been there and done that. So, it’s thanks but no thanks!
Sadly, VN has little to offer – no bargaining chips here (Under this regime and economic time)! I can see the wheels in Trump head are turning; why flood our markets with more cheap junks from Asia that has no quality controls and sleuths of unfavorable baggages ? China has mastered this market already.
The saving grace for these sadistic goons is to reverse their courses on governing, being good worldly citizen by ‘playing nice’ (Vote with the world against communist countries in UN is a start!), and joining with other Asian nations; if not leading it for VN have the most to lose; to head off China Pacific expansion. That’s how VN can get the world attention by put the first good step forward!
Enough with these half-baked ideas; like doing ‘something nice’ (release a few prisoners – really!) whenever they need some attention from the free worlds. These are weak effort as if laughable and certainly not sincere.
It’s time to do the right thing! The worlds will eventually come.

May 31, 2017 09:44 AM

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