VIETNAMESE DEMOCRACY ACTIVISTS
MET WITH NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL OFFICIALS

In a one-hour long meeting, which took place from 12 noon to past 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27, 2007, the representatives of various organizations advocating democracy for Vietnam were debriefed by some high-ranking officials of the US National Security Council (NSC) on President George W. Bush’s meeting last Friday with President Nguyen Minh Triet of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 

The Vietnamese advocacy organizations represented at the debriefing included: the International Committee to Support the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam (Mr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, MD and Ms. Nguyen The Binh, MD); the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans (Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Bich); Boat People SOS (Mr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, PhD); the Vietnam Reform (Viet Tan) Party (Messrs. Do Hoang Diem and Hoang Tu Duy); the Vietnam Human Rights Network (Mr. Le Minh Nguyen); the Democratic Party, Century XXI (Mr. Nguyen Van Ngai, MD). Two other democracy advocates among the invited guests, Mr. Do Thanh Cong of the People’s Democratic Party and Mr, Doan Viet Hoat, PhD, of the International Institute for Vietnam, could not attend because they had been on a business trip. Also in attendance were Ms. Y Lan of the Paris-based Que Me [Action for Democracy in Vietnam] and the representatives of two Washington DC-based leading human rights organizations, Mrs. Sophie Richardon of Human Rights Watch and Mr. T. Kumar of Amnesty International. 

The debriefing began with a detailed presentation by an official of the US National Security Council which was followed by an exchange of views and suggestions by the participants on the subsequent US-Vietnam dialogue in the coming weeks, to be focusing on human rights and democracy for Vietnam. Discussed topics ranged from the possibility of reinstating Vietnam in the US list of “countries of particular concern,” to effective ways to exert increasing pressure on Ha Noi to respect human rights, Mr. Triet’s views and understanding of a variety of issues which contrast sharply with ours regarding US-Vietnam relations, to Hanoi’s distorted reporting on Triet’s recent visit. One example was that the issue of human rights was, according to VN Express’s news account, mentioned only once. Another example was President Bush’s reminder of [respecting] “human rights, freedom and democracy,” which was translated [into Vietnamese] to mean, “There’s a need to have political and religious freedom”. Another example was Triet’s own statement on “democracy and human rights,” when referring to remaining differences [between the US and Vietnam], which was changed to read “on the issues on democracy and religion”. The worst example was that newspapers inside Vietnam quoted President Bush on the issue of Agent Orange as saying: “We are ready to provide money” while he simply said: “US Congress has recently appropriated funding in support of dioxin and orange agents measures.” 

Other issues brought up by the representatives at the meeting were: Vietnamese college students in the US; Decision No. 83/2007 QD-TTg, signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, which regulates the training of approximately 22,000 cadres and government employees to deal with religious matters “according to the programs dictated by the Ministry of Interior [and] the Ho Chi Minh National Institute of Political Administration”; Hanoi’s recent plan to bring the training of labor inspectors to the village level in order to prevent future disturbances caused by farmer and worker strikes.

The NSC officials finally expressed their understanding that similar NSC-hosted debriefings would be needed on a regular basis between representatives of the Vietnam democracy movement and the White House.

The debriefing ended after more than one hour, a little over than originally scheduled.