Outcome of Appellate Review for Vietnamese Activists: Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Van Minh, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh

13 DECEMBER 2014

The appeal of three Vietnamese human rights activists was held in Dong Thap Province on 12 December 2014, resulting in their convictions being affirmed. We denounce the results as a violation of fair trial standards under Vietnamese law and the international human rights standards and call on the Vietnamese authorities to release the Defendants immediately.

Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang, along with her co-Defendants, Mr. Nguyen Van Minh and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, had been arrested on 11 February 2014. On 26 August 2014, they were convicted and sentenced to 3 years, 2.5 years and 2 years imprisonment under Article 245 for causing public disorder.

Read More

Appeal Trial of Vietnamese Activists: Bui Thi Minh Hang & Others

On 26 August 2014, in a one-day trial, three human rights defenders were sentenced in Dong Thap Province, Vietnam under Article 245 of its Penal Code for “causing public disorder.” Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang, a defender for land-lost farmers and religious groups, was sentenced to three years imprisonment, while her co-defendants, Mr. Nguyen Van Minh and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, both religious workers of the independent but outlawed Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, were sentenced to two-and-a-half years and two years’ imprisonment, respectively. The defendants were 3 of 21 individuals who were beaten and detained while attempting to visit a fellow activist, human rights lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen. With the upcoming appeal to be held on 12 December 2014, we would like to call on the Vietnamese government to ensure that the appeal proceedings are carried out in a way which complies with Vietnamese laws as well as the international law and standards on fair trial.

Read More

Jason Kenney: Sứ Giả của Niềm Tin và Hy Vọng

Có lẽ tên tuổi của ông còn xa lạ với nhiều người Việt ở trên thế giới, nhưng đối với các đồng bào tỵ nạn muộn màng của chúng ta, những người đã bị thế giới lãng quên từ hơn một phần tư thế kỷ thì Jason Kenney có thể được xem là vị Sứ Giả của Niềm Tin và Hy Vọng! Bởi vì ông chính là người đã đem tin vui đến giữa đời tuyệt vọng của hơn 400 thuyền nhân tại Phi Luật Tân vài năm trước, và mới đây nhất là gần 100 đồng bào tỵ nạn sống vất vưởng ở Thái Lan!
Jason Kenney: Sứ Giả của Niềm Tin và Hy Vọng - Nam Lộc
Bộ Trưởng Jason Kenney
Quả thật như vậy, ngay từ khi nhậm chức Bộ Trưởng Bộ Di Trú và Nhập Tịch (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) của chính phủ Canda vào năm 2008, ông Kenney đã không quản ngại tiếp xúc và nâng đỡ các cộng đồng thiểu số phát triển đời sống, văn hoá, giáo dục cũng như công ăn, việc làm tại xứ sở tự do giầu lòng nhân đạo này. Nhưng đặc biệt là mối quan tâm của ông đối với cộng đồng người Việt tỵ nạn Cộng Sản. Và đó cũng chính là lý do mà ông dành nhiều thời gian để gặp gỡ, để lắng nghe nguyện vọng của đại diện các tổ chức, hội đoàn cùng những cá nhân đã kiên trì tranh đấu và vận động cho các thành phần tỵ nạn VN thiếu may mắn nói trên, mà kết quả là chính quyền Canada đã mở rộng vòng tay tiếp đón họ trong cuộc hành trình tìm tự do dài vô tận, tưởng như đã tuyệt vọng.

Sau 5 năm đảm nhiệm vai trò Bộ Trưởng Di Trú, vào tháng 7, 2013 vừa qua, ông Jason Kenney đã được bổ nhiệm vào một chức vụ quan trọng hơn trong nội các đương quyền của chính phủ Canada, đó là Bộ Trưởng Bộ Lao Động và Phát Triển Xã Hội, kiêm Bộ Trưởng Đa Văn Hoá (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism). Tuy nhiên dù với chức vụ nào, thì con người hiền hòa đầy nhiệt tâm và thiện cảm của ông đối với cộng đồng người Việt tỵ nạn vẫn không thay đổi. Điển hình là vào ngày Chủ Nhật 30 tháng 11, 2014 vừa qua, Ông Kenney cùng các nhân viên phụ tá đã đích thân đến Tu Viện Hoa Nghiêm để thăm viếng Thượng Toạ trụ trì cùng đồng bào vừa từ Thái Lan đặt chân đến Canada. Hơn 30 người tỵ nạn hiện đang sống dưới sự bảo lãnh của Thầy Thích Nguyên Thảo cũng như của các nhà bảo trợ giầu lòng hảo tâm tại đây đã có mặt để tiếp đón ông Jason Kenney, trong số đó còn có sự hiện diện của quý vị chủ tịch cộng đồng cùng đại diện của các cơ quan đoàn thể người Việt tại Vancouver, Toronto và các tiểu bang khác.

Tôi đã hân hạnh được tham dự buổi hội ngộ hiếm quý này và vô cùng xúc động khi nghe những lời chia sẻ chân tình từ một người bộ trưởng đầy quyền lực. Ông Kenney nói: “Không hẳn vì là bộ trưởng di trú tôi mới nhúng tay vào những hành động nhân đạo này. Mà đây là bổn phận của bất cứ công dân nào sống trong một đất nước tự do, dân chủ. Chúng ta có nhiệm vụ phải tranh đấu để bảo vệ cho quyền lợi cùng sự an sinh của những người đang bị ngược đãi bởi các chế độ độc tài đảng trị. Và đó chính là lý do thúc đẩy tôi vận động với chính phủ Canada để nhận hết những người vì tự do đã phải bỏ nước ra đi vì không muốn sống trong gông cùm Cộng Sản!”

Quả là những lời vàng thước ngọc, đáng cho những kẻ thờ ơ suy ngẫm. Nhưng có lẽ điều làm tôi cảm phục ở ông nhiều nhất là khi ông “bật mí” rằng, ba năm trước đây, khi nghe Thượng Toạ Thích Nguyên Thảo, luật sư Trịnh Hội cùng đại diện tổ chức VOICE cũng như của cộng đồng người Việt tại Canada trình bầy về hoàn cảnh của hơn 100 đồng bào đã trốn các trại tỵ nạn Đông Nam Á để tránh bị cưỡng bức hồi hương, và đang sống vất vưởng ở Thái Lan, thì ngay sau đó, chính ông đã âm thầm bay sang Thái Lan để tiếp xúc và trình bầy với chính quyền sở tại, đồng thời can thiệp để xin họ cấp giấy xuất cảnh cho toàn bộ đồng bào trong danh sách mà tổ chức VOICE đã nộp cho Bộ Di Trú Canada, mà ngày hôm nay, những nỗ lực đó đã trở thành hiện thực. Nhưng ông kiên quyết khẳng định rằng thành công đó sẽ không thể xẩy ra nếu không có sự tiếp tay, đóng góp và chung sức đấu tranh của người Việt tự do tại Canada nói riêng và ở hải ngoại nói chung.
Buổi thăm viếng đồng bào tỵ nạn VN tại tu viện Hoa Nghiêm diễn ra tuy ngắn ngủi, nhưng tràn đầy ý nghĩa. Ông Kenney đã tỏ ra vô cùng trân quý món quà kỷ niệm do TT Thích Nguyên Thảo trao tặng, đó là bức tượng Phật bằng ngọc thạch. Ông ôm chặt vào lòng như một báu vật đã mong ước từ lâu mà bây giờ mới có được. Trước khi chia tay, ông Bộ Trưởng Bộ Lao Động và Phát Triển Xã Hội, kiêm Bộ Trưởng Đa Văn Hoá Jason Kenney đã xin yêu cầu được chụp một tấm ảnh chung với các trẻ em tỵ nạn VN, mà ông nói rằng chắc chắn trong số đó sẽ có em trở thành Bộ Trưởng trong chính phủ Canada tương lai, và ông nhắn nhủ, hy vọng vị bộ trưởng đó sẽ không quên những kẻ thiếu may mắn hơn mình.
Riêng cá nhân tôi, trên chuyến bay trở về Hoa Kỳ, đầu óc tôi vẫn còn vang vọng câu nói của chị Kathy Nga, người phối trí cho buổi viếng thăm Phật đường Hoa Nghiêm của ông Jason Kenney cùng phái đoàn, chị nói: “Nếu mỗi quốc gia tự do đều có một người Bộ Trưởng Di Trú có trái tim Bồ Tát như ông Kenney, thì có lẽ thế giới này sẽ không còn nạn nhân của loài quỷ Đỏ”..
Nam Lộc
Canada, lập Đông 2014

Vẫn còn lắm chông gai – Nam Lộc

Sau gần 30 năm miệt mài, cuộc hành trình tìm tự do đầy cam go và nhục nhằn của 97 người tỵ nạn VN cuối cùng tại Thái Lan vẫn còn gặp phải những chông gai, trở ngại vào giờ thứ 25! Mặc dù đã được chính phủ Canada cấp giấy phép nhập cảnh, mặc dù đã được Cao Ủy Tỵ Nạn LHQ hoàn tất toàn bộ hồ sơ tỵ nạn, mặc dù đã cầm vé máy bay trong tay, tuy nhiên nhóm người tỵ nạn đầu tiên dự trù đặt chân đến phi trường Vancouver, Canada vào ngày Thứ Năm, mùng 9 Tháng 10, 2014 vừa qua vẫn chưa được chính phủ Thái Lan cấp giấy phép xuất cảnh!

Read More

Call for Release of Vietnamese Human Rights Defenders

On 26 August 2014, three activists in Vietnam were sentenced to long prison terms for “disturbing the public order.” Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang (DOB: 1964), an outspoken and long-time advocate for land-lost peasants and religious groups in Vietnam, along with Mr. Nguyen Van Minh (DOB: 1980) and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh (DOB: 1986) who are both religious workers of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, were arrested on 11 February 2014.

The 3 activists were among the 21 individuals who were beaten and detained while attempting to visit a fellow activist, human rights lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen who defends victims of forced evictions. As known human rights defenders, these activists were targets of regular government harassment and surveillance. Ms. Bui has been arrested and detained several times without trial, most recently resulting in a five-month detention in November 2011.

Following the 10-hour trial on 26 August, Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, while Mr. Nguyen Van Minh and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh were sentenced to 2.5 and 2 years imprisonment, respectively. During the trial, 51 human rights defenders were arrested outside the court, some were beaten, and many were physically blocked from supporting the defendants in the area outside of the court. None of these individuals were allowed into the courtroom itself and the witnesses on behalf of the Defendants were prevented from taking part in the trial.

The procedures and results of the trial are emblematic of the on-going crackdown on human rights defenders that is taking place in Vietnam. We urge that the international community together with independent civil society members in Vietnam come together to call for the release of these peaceful activists and to demand that the Vietnamese government, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, uphold its international human rights obligations, including to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

SIGNED:
Freedom House
Civil Society Forum
United Workers-Farmers Organization of Vietnam
Association of Political & Religious Prisoners of Vietnam
Brotherhood for Democracy
No-U FC of Saigon
Hoa Hao Buddhist Church West Branch
Vietnam Path Movement
Aggrieved Citizens Struggle Alliance Movement
VOICE.

Project Freedom at Last

PRESS RELEASE

First three of 100 Vietnamese refugee families stranded
in the Philippines for almost 20 years arriving 
in Calgary and Vancouver

Three Vietnamese refugee families will finally arrive in Canada to begin their new lives after being stranded in the Philippines for almost 20 years: one family in Calgary on March 6, and two families in Vancouver on March 7.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, an estimated million and a half people fled the newly established Communist regime in Vietnam, mostly by the sea, in small leaky boats, to neighbouring countries. About half a million of these people never made it to the shore of freedom, having perished at sea, due to starvation or drowning in the rough, treacherous South China Sea, or having been killed by pirates. Among those lucky enough to survive this ordeal, about one hundred families remain stranded in the Philippines because no country wanted to accept them.

On May 10, 2007, after 5 years of working with lawyer Hoi Trinh, a Vietnamese-Australian refugee rights advocate, and the SOS VietPhi Refugee Support Group, the Vietnamese Canadian Federation succeeded in obtaining a special arrangement with the federal government, whereby the government would facilitate the immigration of these people based on humanitarian and compassionate consideration. Those who do not qualify for admission to Canada under either the Family Class or the Federal Skilled Worker Class would be assessed based on this consideration.

Following this arrangement, the Vietnamese Canadian Federation established Project Freedom at Last and worked with VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment), a non-profit and charitable organization with offices in Washington, D.C., and Manila, and other Vietnamese – Canadian organizations, to assist these refugees with their application process and their resettlement in Canada.

So far, over $500,000 has been raised in Canada, the U.S., and Australia, and 41 community supported groups formed across the country to help these refugees rebuild their lives. At present, 24 families and individuals have been issued entry visas and three first families will arrive this week: one, sponsored by their relatives, will resettle in Calgary and the other two supported by the Hoa Nghiem Buddhist Temple in Vancouver.

Mr. Ed Komarniki, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, will be on hand to greet the two families arriving inVancouver, on behalf of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Diane Finley.

“Our government and our Prime Minister support the Vietnamese community in Canada and we are pleased to welcome these Vietnamese families to our country,” said Minister Finley. “We would also like to commend the Vietnamese Canadian Federation for their efforts to organize community support across Canada.”

On behalf of the Vietnamese community in Canada and elsewhere, the Vietnamese Canadian Federation wishes to thank all those who have helped make this happen. Special thanks are extended to Minister Finley, Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration under the current and previous Parliaments for their continuing support, and to all those who have made generous financial contributions to Project Freedom at Last.

-30-

For immediate release: March 6, 2008
Can D. Le
General Coordinator, Project Freedom at Last
Vietnamese Canadian Federation
Tel. (613) 230-8282

Vietnamese families given ‘chance to rebuild their lives’ in Ottawa

Jessey Bird (jbird@thecitizen.canwest.com), Ottawa Citizen

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ottawa – Just after 11 p.m. Thursday night, Loan Thi Le stood at the bottom of the arrival escalator at the Ottawa International Airport. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she clutched a tissue and waited. She hadn’t seen her sister in nearly 20 years. The first of several Vietnamese families moving to Ottawa arrived late last night, after nearly two decades of living in limbo in the Philippines. Nhan Thanh Nguyen, 55, and his wife, Hue Thi Le, 46, descended the escalator right on time, where they were greeted by a group of anxious and excited members of Ottawa’s Vietnamese community. Loan Thi Le, who travelled from Los Angeles to greet her family, raced in to Hue Thi Le’s arms, before she even had the chance to step off the stairs. “I’m very, very, happy,” said Loan Thi Le, breaking in to sobs. “This is my sister.”

“This is a chance to rebuild their lives,” said Can D. Le, national co-ordinator of the Vietnamese Canadian Federation’s project Freedom at Last. Canada recently granted stateless Vietnamese people living in the Philippines permanent entry on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese fled, mainly by boat, with many arriving in the Philippines. Though a number were able to settle in other countries, those who remained in the Philippines were considered stateless.

Freedom at Last has raised more than $500,000 to support families immigrating to Canada as well as the United States and Australia. In March, families began to arrive in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. “They had no status,” said Can D. Le. “They were not allowed to work, their children were not allowed to go to school, so many had to get by by buying and selling things illegally.” “They live on a day-to-day basis without hope,” he said. Haquyen Nguyen has lived in Canada since 1981. Though she has never met the family, she decided to make it her mission to help. Her organization, Ottawa Friends, is one of 41 across the country taking part in Freedom at Last. She rallied 19 people to raise enough money to grant the family of six a fully furnished rental unit in Kanata, as well as job opportunities the minute they are settled and ready to work.

In their years in the Philippines, Hue Thi Le was the only one to find employment, said Haquyen Nguyen. For the last several years, she worked as a chef for the non-profit group VOICE (Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment). Established in 1997 in Manila, the group has assisted thousands of stateless Vietnamese in the Philippines. While Hue Thi Le could afford to send her children to school, they would not receive any official certification because of their lack of status. “The whole family lived in one room,” said 22-year-old Vi Hoai Nguyen, a 22-year-old Ottawa resident who travelled to Manila to volunteer with VOICE in late 2007. “They had two big mattresses on the floor, and that was all that they had.”

“We are going to support this family,” said Haquyen Nguyen, adding that her husband fled Vietnam by boat in 1975. He was then stranded in Hong Kong for several months, until a Canadian family sponsored him and brought him to Toronto. “He really appreciated what those people did for him,” said Haquyen Nguyen. “So we think since Canadians can do that … why can’t we help our own people?” “They have been waiting 20 years,” said Can D. Le. “Their situation was so hopeless before, and they didn’t know what was going to happen to them.” “I am really touched by everyone that is here to support us,” said Hue Thi Le, through a translator. “For many years I was a street vendor and it was really difficult, because my children, after school, would have to help me sell things on the streets,” she said, in tears. “I am really happy to have freedom after so many years.”

The federal government accepted 89 applications based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, representing 160 stateless Vietnamese, said Danielle Norris, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada. So far, only one application has been denied, and they are expecting the arrival of 159 people in the coming months. “This is something that is important to the government,” said Ms. Norris. “Let’s say you live in Canada and you don’t have Canadian citizenship,” she said. “You don’t have health care, you can’t go to school, and getting a job is difficult.” “It is really not a way to live.”

Vietnamese families finally find homes

PRESS RELEASE

Local association sponsors refugees after
nearly 20 years stranded in the Philippines

Jennifer Yang, The Edmonton Journal
Published: 1:31 am

EDMONTON – Nearly two decades after they climbed into boats on the coast of Vietnam and pushed off for freedom, three families found a new home Wednesday in Canada.

After escaping persecution at the hands of Vietnam’s Communist regime, they had been living in the Philippines without status for up to 20 years.

“I feel like my dream really has come true,” said Vinh Luong, moments after stepping off the airplane with his wife and eight-year-old son. “It has been 20 years and this is the only date I’ve been waiting for.”Luong’s family were among the millions of so-called Vietnamese “boat people,” many of whom landed in the Philippines. Some were able to move on and find citizenship in new countries, but 2,500 became stranded when camps were shut down and refugee screening procedures tightened.

The Philippines government allowed them to stay, but only as stateless people.

“It’s like they have been on this boat for 18 years and they’ve finally found a harbour,” said Lisa Nguyen, executive director of VOICE, a non-profit organization that worked with the Vietnamese Canadian Federation to bring families to Canada.

“It’s incredible. It really is incredible.”

VOICE has been helping stateless Vietnamese people find new homes in recent years, and has resettled 2,300 in Australia, Norway and the United States. In 2005, the Canadian government announced a program to help them move here, as long as they had a Canadian sponsor.

For Luong and the other families, their sponsor was Edmonton’s Vietnamese community.

Despite a five-hour flight delay, members of the Edmonton Viets’ Association and Truc Lam monastery anxiously awaited Wednesday at the International Airport, clutching Canada flags and big yellow signs that read Freedom at Last! Welcome to Edmonton.

“They’ve been looking for a place to settle down,” said Edmontonian Dan Ngo, who came to Canada as a boat person in 1986. “It was harsh for them because they could not see their future.”

Edmonton’s Vietnamese community raised nearly $50,000 through fundraisers and dinners. They want to bring at least five more families from the Philippines.

Vietnamese businesses in Edmonton have already lined up jobs for some of Wednesday’s arrivals, who will live temporarily at Truc Lam monastery.

For Ngo, it is only right that the Edmonton community should throw them a lifeline.

“It’s our Canadian duty to help another immigrant,” Ngo said. “To be here to see them, it’s like deja vu when I put my first step on Canadian soil.”

jyang[at]thejournal.canwest.com

© The Edmonton Journal 2008