Jun 09, 2011

Hmong: Thousands Petition State Department on Rights in Vietnam

New mobilization campaign through social media helps to bring attention to the Vietnamese government’s harsh response to land rights protests by the Hmong.

Below is an article published by Change.org:

In May [2011], Vietnamese authorities responded to a land rights protest by the Hmong minority group in northern Vietnam with a harsh crack down. They detained over 100 people, and hundreds more have been reported in hiding.

In response, Bruce Thao launched a petition calling on the US State Department to speak out about this human rights violation, successfully mobilizing first hundreds and then thousands of people to speak up for the Hmong.

I asked him a few questions to help get a better picture of the situation, and it became clear that this recent crack down is just the most recent incident in a multi-generational pattern of persecution. He told me, “My parents are Hmong refugees who fled Laos during the Vietnam War. They've endured war, migration, and refugee camps. I have also worked with Hmong in Thailand and have seen first hand the level of discrimination and high levels of poverty the Hmong live in Southeast Asia as a result of being ethnic minorities, and particularly given our alignment with the United States during the Vietnam War. I can never turn my back on my people."

Bruce explained the background to the situation to me saying, “a large part of the persecution of the Hmong in Vietnam is due to the history of the Hmong-Lao involvement as allies recruited to fight against Communist Vietnam with the U.S. CIA during the Vietnam War. Not a lot of people know that. That's the reason we came to America--we had to flee for our lives. Our brothers and sisters in Vietnam have been there for generations and many of them had nothing to do with the war. But just the fact that they are Hmong, they are persecuted and denied basic human rights such as religious freedom, access to proper education and access to farm land to survive and feed their families.”

And though he’s be massively successful in this effort, he’s quick to point out that he’s never mobilized people on this scale before, saying, “I've mobilized grassroots awareness campaigns around workers' rights and human rights during my college years, but that was limited to my campus community. I've never done anything on an international scale and with this level of visibility and response. The response has been fantastic and it is in large part due to Change.org's streamlined process of mobilization, direct contact with officials, and integration with Facebook and other social media. We are in this together!”

We are indeed all in this together, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting Bruce’s effort to get the US government to speak out on behalf of the Hmong suffering from this recent crackdown.