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February 25, 2012


Barack Obama

The President

The White House


Dear Mr. President:


It is a great honor for the Vietnamese-American community to know that you will meet their delegates at the White House on March 5, 2012. By doing this you respond to their voice being expressed on their Petition posted on the White House Website’s petition page. They petition you “to stop expanding trade with Vietnam at the expense of human rights”. Today, the total number of signatures has passed 80,000, and the Vietnamese Americans will continue to sign the Petition until March 5 when you meet their delegates.


As an advocate of human rights and democracy for Vietnam for the last 4 decades, inside Vietnam and around the world, being imprisoned for this cause for 20 years by the Vietnamese government, and living in exile in the US since 1998, I am delighted to be part of this petition campaign. I believe that when you meet the Vietnamese-American delegates you will reiterate your commitment for a Vietnam of prosperity, equity, democracy and human dignity. For the moment, I applaud you for your decision to meet the Vietnamese-American delegates.


On this occasion, I also want to bring to your special attention one specific issue. I am informed that your Administration plans to cut the budget of the Voice of America (VOA) to such a level that it will almost stop its operation. The Broadcasting Board of Governors proposes to cut VOA’s broadcasts to three out of five remaining communist regimes, of which the Tibetan daily broadcast will be completely terminated, while the Vietnamese program will be cut down to 2/3 of its personnel. I am very disappointed and dismayed by this timely-wrong plan. While there is no free flow of information and freedom of the press in Vietnam, VOA plays a crucial role in providing the Vietnamese people with objective and inclusive news and facts on Vietnam and the world. And while the United States have decided to focus more on the situation in Southeast Asia to defend their interest there, VOA is a sine qua non media to convey to the people in the region and in Vietnam the ideals, policy and programs of the US. The decision to cut VOA’s budget damages the new Asia Pacific policy and the American interest in the region. We are in a critical moment when China has been increasing their effort to outrun American influence in the region. We should increase, not decrease, our VOA programs to bring to Asian and Vietnamese people strong and clear messages of the American ideals of freedom and democracy. I therefore strongly call on you not to allow for any cut in VOA’s budget. I believe that the Vietnamese-American community would appreciate such a positive decision from you.


Thank you for your attention.


Respectfully yours

Đoàn Viết Hoạt

Former Vietnamese Prisoner of Conscience

Chairman, Board of Directors

International Institute for Vietnam