On May 12, 2000, the Vietnamese government put biologist Nguyen Xuan Tu (pen name Ha Si Phu) under house arrest and then prosecuted him for being a national traitor. This was further evidence of Hanoi's continued violations of the basic civil rights and human rights of the Vietnamese people.

Ha Si Phu is a Vietnamese dissident best known for his pro-democracy writings since the late 1980's. He has written extensively about the monopoly of power and wrong doings of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) and demanded that the VCP respect human rights and take genuine first steps towards freedom and democracy for Vietnam. Out of the conscience of an intellectual, he has voiced his opinions, in a peaceful and non-violent manner, concerning the stagnation, instability and lack of development in Vietnam. He was first arrested in December 1995 and sentenced to one year of imprisonment for having circulating former Premier Vo Van Kiet's letter to the VCP's Politburo.

The Vietnamese government's arrest of Ha Si Phu is an offense against the Vietnamese community, in and outside of Vietnam as well as the international community, mainly the US and other democracies, as it preceded the annual US-Vietnam human rights dialogue which is held in Washington DC this week.

I call upon the international community including democratic governments, international human rights organizations and the Vietnamese community overseas, to exert their pressure on Hanoi to immediately release Ha Si Phu and stop its systematic silencing of political dissent in Vietnam.

I believe that the house arrest and prosecution of Ha Si Phu should serve as a timely reminder for all individuals, organizations and governments throughout the world who are interested in helping Vietnam develop of the Vietnamese government's oppressive policies. It is my conviction that in the absence of freedom, democracy and respect of basic human rights, all types of assistance to Vietnam will in effect help consolidate the present totalitarian regime and will hinder the process of forming a civil society where Vietnamese of all faiths and political beliefs, from different localities or both in and outside of Vietnam will be free to participate in the development of the country.

Also, I maintain that unless independently owned churches, labor unions and a free press are allowed, basic civil rights and human rights will hardly be protected, and there will never be a chance for taking first steps towards the democratization of Vietnam. Therefore, I urge the international community to support the Vietnamese people inside and outside Vietnam in their struggle for those basic human rights.

Doan Viet Hoat