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.

A short interview with Bo Trung, Bui Thi Minh Hang’s Son, seeking justice for his mother

-Mrs. Bui Thi Minh Hang (aka. Bui Hang, b. 1964, a resident of Vung Tau City, Viet Nam) is a famous human rights activist in Viet Nam.
Bui Hang was one of the prominent protesters in the anti-communist China protest rallies in Hanoi and Saigon in 2011 despite brutal suppressions by the Vietnamese communist police. Bui Hang, along with other patriots, exercised their freedom of opinions by protesting against China’s aggressive invasion of Southeast Asia. Through the protests, Bui Hang and others asserted national sovereignty and condemned hegemonic China and the communist state of Vietnam.
-In addition to exercising her own rights, she is protecting and promoting human rights for all. She enthusiastically takes the lead in every demonstration and protects people who were victims of police suppression and arbitrary detention. For this reason, she herself was arrested in November 2011 and taken to Thanh Ha re-education camp, one of countless prisons in Vietnam disguised as “re-education centers”.-Upon her release in April 2012, she fearlessly continued her fight for human rights. She did so by taking legal actions against the Hanoi mayor Nguyen The Thao, advocating for liberal democracy in the state, and reporting on human rights violations in Viet Nam. A major accomplishment of hers is helping countless farmers, who lost their lands unlawfully to the communist government, fight for property rights. As a result of protecting and promoting human rights, she also suffered from hatred and repression by the police-dominated authorities.

-On February 11, 2014, Bui Hang and two Hoa Hao Buddhists named Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Quynh were arrested by the Dong Thap police in a fabricated case of “disturbing public order” on their way to visit former political prisoner and lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen. They were arbitrarily and unlawfully detained for five months before they were prosecuted in July 2014. As a result of being unfairly put in a re-education camp in the past as were many others, Bui Hang now faces a sentence which may reach seven years of imprisonment. This trial is scheduled to take place in Dong Thap on August 26th.

-Bui Hang’s children, her friends and companions, and human rights activists in Viet Nam continuously struggled against the authorities’ wrongdoings on her case. Bui Hang’s son, Tran Bui Trung (aka. Bo Trung), started his advocacy campaign in the United States of America on August 4th 2014 for the release of his mother and her two companions, Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh.
For justice and human rights to be respected in Viet Nam, let us stand by them – Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh – in the forthcoming trial.

 

 

Vietnam Prepares for UN Human Rights Review, Activists Lobby for Pressure

Tra Mi, Trung Nguyen/VOA – Representatives from the Vietnamese government will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Wednesday for a review of its human rights record amid mounting criticism that Hanoi does not tolerate opposition voices.

Rolando Gomez, spokesman for the council, told VOA’s Vietnamese service the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which takes place every four years, is “a significant occasion for Vietnam.”

“It will provide a unique opportunity for the government of Vietnam to spell out what steps they have taken in the country to advance human rights,” he said. “The idea would also be for them to spell out the challenges that remain.  It is also an opportunity for other U.N. member states to propose recommendations to Vietnam in a constructive manner.”

Meanwhile, activists who accuse Vietnam of conducting a crackdown on critics are also gathering in Geneva to offer their perspective and put pressure on Hanoi.

Blogger Nguyen Anh Tuan said a delegation of activists is meeting this week with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other U.N. bodies.

“This is the first time a delegation of rights defenders from Vietnam has made such a campaign trip to Western countries to provide the international community with real facts and information on human rights in Vietnam,” said Tuan. “We hope the international community will make greater efforts in pushing Hanoi to respect and improve human rights.”

Another critic of the government in Hanoi is Dang Xuong Hung, a former Vietnamese diplomat who is seeking asylum in Switzerland.  Dang, who left his post in Geneva after withdrawing from the Vietnamese Communist Party in 2012, says minor reforms will not be enough.

“I would like the world to pay closer attention to Vietnam’s human rights to help bring Vietnam back to the international community, back to the civilized world, and to a brighter future,” said Hung.

Last year, Vietnam was chosen to join the U.N. rights body in a move that angered many activists, who said Hanoi should first improve its record.

Hanoi, which has said it has full respect for human rights, has dismissed the activists’ attempt to pressure the government.  Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh was recently quoted by local media as saying that “there are forces and people who always attempt to criticize Vietnam to serve their own purposes.”

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.)

Vietnamese Activists Tour US, Europe for Human Rights

TRAMI/VOA WASHINGTON — A group of Vietnamese bloggers and human rights activists is touring the United States, Europe and Australia to advocate for pressure on Hanoi to improve its rights record.

The delegation has been invited by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and NGOs. It consists of representatives from groups such as VOICE, Vietnamese Bloggers Network, Dan Lam Bao, Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, and relatives of current political prisoners.

At a hearing of a U.S. congressional commission this week, blogger Nguyen Anh Tuan told VOA’s Vietnamese service that the group has been very busy.

“Our campaign started with visits to foreign embassies in Vietnam lately, and on this U.S. trip, we’ll meet with U.S. State Department, U.S. lawmakers, international rights groups before we fly to the EU on the same mission to ask the international to press for Vietnam’s rights improvement,” he said. “Our trip is made before Hanoi’s Universal Periodic Review at the U.N. Human Rights Council on 2/5 in Geneva, which is also one of our stops during the campaign.”

Also at the hearing Thursday was the mother of jailed Vietnamese labor rights activist Do Thi Minh Hanh, Tran Thi Ngoc Minh.

Appearing earlier on “VOA Express”, she said Vietnamese authorities should spend more time learning from activists.

“Prisoners of conscience in Vietnam are patriotic Vietnamese who stand up against injustice and violent power. Instead of listening to them, the authorities use oppression, beating, abuse, discrimination and other means to put them in prison.”

Her daughter is a 28-year-old labor rights activist who was imprisoned for seven years in 2010 for distributing leaflets in support of workers demanding better pay and conditions.

Delegation members say they are aiming to provide the U.S. and the U.N. full and accurate information on the current human rights situation in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has not commented on the activists’ trip.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.

Press release: Activists start UPR tour around the world

12/1/2014 – Invited by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other INGOs, a delegation advocating for human rights in Vietnam will visit the United States, Europe, and Australia starting from 12 January 2014. The delegation consists of representatives from VOICE, Vietnamese Bloggers Network, Dan Lam Bao, the Vietnam Path Movement, Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, No-U Vietnam, the Association of Political and Religious Prisoners, and relatives of current political prisoners in Vietnam.

The delegation will meet with OHCHR and other UN bodies related to the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam which will take place on February 5, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland, a process that occurs every four (4) years. In addition, the delegation will meet with representatives of the US Congress and Department of State, the European Union Parliament, the Australian Parliament, Amnesty International, Frontline Defenders, International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), and other INGOs as well as the overseas Vietnamese communities. Furthermore, the delegation will participate in side events related to the UPR with representatives from the Permanent Missions in Geneva, international human rights organizations and the media.

With assistance from OHCHR and the international organizations mentioned above, this delegation consisting of Vietnamese activists from in and outside of the country, aims to provide full and accurate information on the current human rights situation in Vietnam. It is hoped that our advocacy will inspire further changes resulting in the Vietnamese Government to respect and protect human rights as a new member state of the Human Rights Council.

For more information regarding the delegation and its activities, please contact our representative, Ms Ann Pham at +1.714.325.8276 or vietnamupr@gmail.com.

SIGNED:
Vietnamese Bloggers Network
Dan Lam Bao
Vietnam Path Movement
Hoa Hao Buddhist Church
No-U Vietnam
Association of Political and Religious Prisoners of Vietnam
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

Program Manager Position – Manila, Philippines

VOICE is seeking a lawyer who is passionate about human rights and social justice to volunteer in its office in Manila to:

  • Coordinate our Civil Society Development internship program;

  • Use legal skills to draft briefs and reports regarding human rights abuses to be submitted to a variety of international bodies;

  • Assist with social justice projects (such as grant applications and liaising with NGOs and INGOs); and

  • Draft and collate refugee resettlement applications for stateless Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia.

Essential minimum requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Law; and

  • Minimum of two years experience in a relevant field.

Desirables:

  • Strong commitment to human rights protection and social justice;

  • Well developed legal skills (especially in advocacy, drafting and research);

  • Well developed communication (verbal and written) and interpersonal skills;

  • Ability to work and take initiative, independently and in a team; and

  • Good management and organisational skills; and

  • Adaptability and flexibility to live and work with a small team.

Location: Manila, Philippines

Start Date: ASAP

Duration: 12 Months

Benefits: Roundtrip airfare, food, travel insurance, accommodation, work-related expenses and local salary

For more information, please contact us at voiceinmanila@gmail.com