May 16, 2012

Khmer Krom: U.S. Congress Urged to Intervene

The U.S. Congress has been called upon by human rights activists to aid the release of political prisoners who have been arbitrarily detained in Vietnam for issues such as expression of political and religious beliefs.

Below is a press release issued by Action for Democracy in Vietnam:

Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of Paris-based Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam and the Vietnam Committee for Human Rights called on the United States today [15 May 2012] to press for the release of political prisoners arbitrarily detained in Vietnam. Mr. Ai was speaking at a Hearing on “Vietnam: Continuing abuse of Human Rights and Religious Freedom” at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission at the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. Speakers on the panel were Mr. Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy and Labour, Dr. Robert George, Commissioner at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Mr. Vo Van Ai and Mrs. Mai Huong Ngo, wife of pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan who was recently arrested in Vietnam.

Mr. Ai described the “Orwellian” nature of Vietnam’s legal system, gave an overview of the situation of religious and political prisoners, including the case of blogger Dieu Cay, whose trial was to be held today Vietnam. It was postponed after President Obama raised the case in a statement on Press Freedom Day. Mr. Ai presented Congress with a list of 177 prisoners detained in Vietnam for the expression of their political opinions and religious beliefs.

Stressing that “human rights are meaningless if human rights defenders are not free. Democracy cannot develop if democratic voices are stifled”, Mr Ai. urged the United States to make the release of political and religious prisoners in Vietnam an urgent priority. He also called on the U.S. to press Vietnam to revise vaguely-worded “national security” laws which are used to suppress peaceful dissent; re-establish the legal status of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and all other “non-recognized religions and release UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do; re-designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern for religious freedom violations; adopt the 2012 Vietnam Human Rights Act which links US-Vietnam trade relations with respect for human rights; and not support Vietnam’s stand for membership of the UN Human Rights Council for 2014-2016 which will be debated at the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2012.