Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sad On A Happy Day

Tran Quoc Viet (Danlambao) – The United Nations announced that March 20th 2013 will be the first International Day of Happiness around the world. So everyone’s happiness can be based on a common platform. This platform, after all, is Freedom.  Freedom provides wings for humans which they then can chase their own dreams of happiness.

The people living in totalitarian regimes can not be happy because they do not have true freedom. Thus the first International Day of Happiness is a sad day in their lives when they compare themselves to free citizens in democratic countries. Has anyone dared to assert that the people of North Korea are happier than the people of South Korea or the Vietnamese are happier than the Thai?

Only totalitarian regimes are happy on this day because they are still able to rule their citizens through imprisonment and violence.  Sadly, this is the happiness of animals practicing cannibalism.  Somewhere in the fully-equipped, air-conditioned room, they are toasting wine to this happy happy day, while citizens will continue to suffer.

For reasons mentioned above, we the slaves in Vietnam, would like to ask the United Nations not to rub salt into our wounds by naming this day International Day of Happiness Of Free Citizens in the coming years.

Without freedom, our lives are just sad named and unnamed days.


What would you do in my situation?

Phạm Thanh Nghiên  Translated by Lê Anh Hùng (Defend the Defenders) – When I pose that question to you, I don’t mean that I expect you or any other Vietnamese to go through what I have experienced. It is simply that I expect your sympathy. I believe that life will be very interesting and lively when we imagine ourselves in other peoples’ circumstances and think and feel what is in their hearts. The circumstances I suggest here may make you feel bad and think, “Wow, that is so unlucky.” If so, just stop reading. However, I still want you to take part in this “funny test” in order to let me understand you more. Just let me know your feelings so that we could come closer together. Below are the situations that you would encounter if you were me.

In just nearly 6 months after your release from prison, you received more than ten summonses from the local authorities. Repeatedly, they came to your home to annoy you for various reasons: checking registered residence, questioning, or just paying a visit. These self-proclaimed people’s police would knock strongly on the door if you did not let them in. It was no pleasure at all when they visited while you were away to terrify your almost eighty-year-old mother time and time again. Even more, late at night and during power outages, they opened your house gate arbitrarily and forced your mother to open the door to let them “check registered residence.” A whole pack, uniformed or not, searched all over the house by torchlight, from private rooms to toilets.

You came back from prison in exhaustion; you needed to go to the hospital for treatment but the local authorities kept thwarting you. You asked, “What if unfortunately, I had a severe disease which needed emergency aid, and the hospital was located in another ward or district?  According to ‘your laws,’ I would still have to write a petition to submit to you at the ward level, and then wait for you to submit it at the district level, and continue to wait until you reply, before I am permitted to save my life myself. What happens if, unfortunately, I die then?” And you would receive the answer from the mouth of the Vice-Chairman of People’s Committee of the Ward, “When it comes to laws, it must be enforced. No other way!”
Your private residence was always blocked, guarded and surrounded by the police in order to terrify your mind and hinder your freedom to travel. Moreover, they caused public tumult at night, affecting your family’s as well as your neighbors’ sleep.
On 5th day of the Lunar New Year, the police came to your home to “recommend” that you do not go anywhere and then guarded your house right away, making your guests and friends anxious and scared.
When you paid a visit to one of your acquaintances, you fall victim to a sudden raid by the police. They then took you to several public buildings at their fancy and questioned you for hours. After all, you would be “granted” a fine worth 1.5 million VND for the so-called “breach of regulations on obligations of persons under surveillance punishment.”
And the story I want to share with you is as follows.

I have endured four years in prison under the laws of the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and returned home in very poor health. Never have I accepted the sentence as well as other illogical laws that the authorities foisted upon me. This means I will face many difficulties, even accepting those risks that I cannot anticipate. Anxiously, my mother advised me to “write a petition” to inform the authorities of my trip to Hanoi for a medical examination. Previously, she had been “reminded” by the police that if I went on my own free will, they would bear no responsibility if I experienced any “incidences” during the trip. I then wrote a petition, informing them of every necessary detail they required. And the answer was: At 23h30 on 3rd October 2012, a group of policemen (Dong Hai 1 ward) rushed to my house to “check registered residence”, just several hours after I submitted my petition. They gave me an “oral command” that I stay put at home. Additionally, they told me that my petition was “wrong” because there was no “DON XIN” (a humble word asking for favors) as well as no “Socialist Republic of Vietnam/Independence – Freedom – Happiness” at the head of the petition letter.

Finally to exercise my apparent right, I had to manage the trip myself, considering every possible way to get to the hospital unscathed. The doctors at the Viet Tiep Hospital concluded that I only had a sore throat, with no risk at all, whereas I frequently had a slight fever. They failed to give an explanation for this. An opthamologist diagnosed me with papilloedema and degeneration of purpurogenous membrane. He gave me a prescription. However my illness didn’t ease up but instead got more severe. I then went to a very well-known and prestigious doctor in Hanoi. She diagnosed me with aesthenopia and “optic atrophy at temple’s side.” Following her method of treatment, I felt my illness easing up. Nearly two months later, however, I felt the pain again. Time and again, I felt my eyes were about to blow up, very uncomfortable. Worse yet, this was accompanied by slight fever that persisted from day to day. I was really worried. I needed to go to Saigon for medical examination and treatment.
Again, for the second time, I wrote a petition. It was not that I acquiesced with that “lawless law,” but that I did not want them to take my absence as a pretext to terrify my mother. Moreover, the right to medical services is self-evident for anyone to exercise (without permission). No normal government or state would want their citizens to be ill or sick. With that in mind, I was sure that they would let me go. I was wrong!
On 19 February 2013, I submitted my petition to ask for permission to go for medical examination.
On 22 February, I felt unwell and had to go to a clinic for a tonic injection. The doctor asked me to go on treatment the following days.
On 23 February, the police began guarding my house. The treatment was then disrupted.
On the morning of 24 February, the police came to my house to give me a summons which required that I go to the headquarters of the People’s Committee of the Ward to hear “the answer for your petition.” In the afternoon, unable to go to the former clinic, I had to go to a smaller one near my home. My blood pressure as checked here did not reach 80/50 levels. While I was in bed for a tonic injection, the police stood guard outside the room.
On 25 February 2013, while I was in bed for a tonic injection, the policeman in charge of my neighborhood went right to the spot for “inspection” and then called his superior to report the situation.
In the morning of 26 February, I went for working sessions with the local authorities. The police at ward, district and municipal levels all informed me that they had received my petition and promised to address it. I requested that they reply in written form as stipulated by the law. Both Mrs La Thi Thu Thuy, representative of the Hai Phong Municipal Public Security, and Mr Nguyen Van Ky, Vice-Chairman of the People’s Committee of Dong Hai 1 Ward, promised me to reply in written form.
At 10am on 28 February, the police of the ward came to my home to give me a summons, requesting my presence at 10h15am the same day to hear their official answer. I asked them to cite whatever legal stipulations which authorizes the police to summon a citizen in just 15 minutes (the time to open the gate and listen to their explanation alone already exceeds 15 minutes). They got back to their office and minutes later came back with another summons, which requested me to go to the headquarters of the People’s Committee of the ward the next day “for a working session.”
On 1 March 2013, I went for a “working session” with “authorized agencies”, which include:
1) Mr Nguyen Van Ky, Vice-Chairman of the People’s Committee of Dong Hai 1 Ward;
2) Lieutenant Colonel Luu Van Thi, Deputy Head of Dong Hai 1 Ward Public Security;
3) Mrs La Thi Thu Thuy, Team Head, Political Security Department (PA67), Hai Phong Municipal Public Security;
4) Captain Nguyen Manh Tung, Head of Criminal Sentences Enforcement Team, Hai An District Public Security, Hai Phong;
5) Lieutenant Colonel Mac Tu Khoa, Team Head, Criminal Sentences Enforcement Department, Hai Phong Municipal Public Security;
6) Do (or Dinh) Van Thuan, Head of Dong Hai 1 Ward Public Security;
7) A policeman not in uniform and not introduced himself;
8) A policewoman from An Hai District Public Security, not in uniform, named Nga.
These “authorized agents” orally replied me as follows, “You are not permitted to go (for medical examination); if you go deliberately, you will be arrested.” The justification for them to prohibit me was that I was a “special target,” quoting Mrs La Thi Thu Thuy’s words verbatim. When I asked them to deliver their promise and also to abide to (their own) laws by replying to me in writing, Captain Tung answered, “We have explained very clearly, you can remember yourself. No need for written documents.”
Mr Luu Van Thi asked me to pay “the debt” (fine) worth 1.5 millions VND. He also said that, because I did not go to the ward authorities to “show up and report [my] observance of regulations of surveillance” every month, even tore a summons before the police. So from April 2013 on, even if I want to go to the headquarters of the People’s Committee of the ward, I have to call to “ask for permission” in advance and wait for their assent before “showing up”. Otherwise, I just wait for their summonses to arrive home and go as specified by the summonses. He did not forget to “reprimand” me for daringly using the word “Don yeu cau” (Letter of Request) instead of “Don xin” (letter asking for permission) when writing the petition.
I don’t want to tell more about the conversation I had with these people. But I remembered telling them before going home that, “You do not give me any reason to respect you. If you want others to respect you, respect yourself first.” Glancing up at certificates of credit (which state “heroic forces…”) hung on the wall, I said: “Hanging these certificates of heroism doesn’t turn you into heroes right away. Rather, getting them down will make you feel less ashamed.” I then stood up, pushed the chair aside forcefully, and left through the door. The policewoman named Nga rushed after me and offered, “Let me take you home, sister Nghien.” I reluctantly expressed my gratitude and went home on foot. It wasn’t until 5 March 2013, after 12 days guarding my house, that they quit.
When I type these letters, my eyes are still awfully painful. Slight fevers still follow me persistently, and how awfully I wish one day I could get rid of these chronic, constant headaches!
Thank you so much for your patience in reading my incoherent and uninteresting story. And, after all, just let me know: What will you do to remain a free man?

Police Forces Lay Seige To Dr. Nguyen Dan Que’s House

[Editor’s note: Dr. Nguyen Dan Que is an endocrinologist and well-known pro-democracy advocate in Vietnam.  Dr. Nguyen has served several prison sentences totaling over 20 years for various state security charges related to his activism.  In 1995, Que was given the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The Center praised his work “promoting greater freedom of expression and human rights in Vietnam.”  This post details the most recent injustice perpetrated on Dr. Nguyen by the Communist government.]

For the last two days, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que’s home has been been surrounded by police forces, isolating his family from the rest of the outside world.  This raises much concern about the imminent raid on his house, and also the arrest awaiting Dr. Que . Dr. Nguyen Dan Que is a leading dissident in Vietnam, and also one of the first to sign the Declaration of Free Citizens.

An urgent news report from the Association for Democracy said, “Beginning the evening of 7/3/2013, a police force was mobilized to block and surround the home of Dr. Nguyen Dan Que at 104 / 20, Nguyen Trai Street, Ward 3, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon.”

The latest information coming in on March 8, 2013 is that police forces continue to pour in. All four roads leading into the home of Dr. Que police are blocked.

According to the Association for Democracy, the pressure being applied to Dr. Que is probably due to the fact that he was involved in signing many of the Declarations of the Movement for Democracy in Vietnam. Dr. Que was one of the first to publicly put pen to sign a statement of support of the People of Freedom.

Additionally as of late, Dr. Que has had many meetings with the younger generation of activists fighting for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.  He has hosted many visitors who support bringing democracy to the country of Vietnam.

The group Rallying for Democracy is concerned that “with a large force, the police could burst into and the search home of Dr. Que at any moment, as has happened on 3/2011.”

On February 25, 2012, more than a dozen policemen raided his home and arrested him after he published his popular appeal ‘Stand Proudly Declared : Freedom or Live Flesh!’  He made this statement during the Arab Spring when the people of the Middle East were fighting to remove dictators in those countries. The case increased his reputation, brought attention to his struggle, which finally forced authorities to release him after three days in custody.

Dr. Nguyen Dan Que is the founder of Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam.  He is considered one of the pioneers in the democracy movement in Vietnam and is internationally known. Throughout his life as an activist, he has been jailed by the Communist regime for more than 20 years. In recent years, many reputable individuals from around the world have nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.



Reporters Without Borders Awards Vietnamese blogger Huynh Ngoc Chenh

Reporters Without Borders, with support from Google®, Thursday awarded its 2013 Netizen of the Year award to Vietnamese blogger Huynh Ngoc Chenh.
Reporters Without Borders chose the nominees from more than 40,000 Internet users who visited their YouTube® site from around the world. They selected the winner on the Reporters’ YouTube Channel. The award ceremony will take place in Paris on March 12 at the Google office on the occasion of the World Day against Cyber ​​Censorship.
Huynh Ngoc Chenh is one of Vietnam’s most influential bloggers. His blog attracts about 15,000 visitors per day, even though readers must use software to circumvent censorship to gain access. Chenh criticizes the government and defends freedom of expression. He focuses on issues of democracy, human rights and the territorial disputes between Vietnam and China. Authorities have threatened him numerous times for his articles and police monitor his communications.
“This award represents an inspiration to me as well as for all bloggers, independent journalists in Vietnam, those who face the restrictions about the right of freedom of expression,” Huynh Ngoc Chenh said by telephone from Hanoi.
“It demonstrates the world community’s support and will make us more audacious in raising our concerns and continue our struggle for freedom of information. It will help people who are scared of speaking out.”
Vietnam is on the list of “Enemies of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders and is the 172nd out of 179 in the latest World Press Freedom Index. Bloggers and other netizens are facing particular repression. Their relatives are also harassed and threatened. The authorities have stepped up efforts to increase surveillance and remove “sensitive” content. On January 9, 14 dissidents – including 8 bloggers and citizen-journalists – were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3 to 13 years.
With 31 bloggers and citizen-journalists currently behind bars, Vietnam is the third largest prison in the world for netizens behind China and Oman.
“We are pleased to award this prize to a courageous Vietnamese blogger and thereby recognize the activities of online news providers in a country marked by draconian censorship and growing surveillance of dissidents,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Despite the risks, bloggers and netizens continue to inform their fellow citizens. In Vietnam, they now fill the void left by the state-run media, which are subjected to very strict news control and relay the government’s views. By tackling subjects that are sensitive but of general interest, Huynh Ngoc Chenh helps freedom of information to progress in his country. He is an example for netizens all over the world to follow.”
Today, according to Google, some 40 countries are engaged in Internet censorship. Google was the first company to publish a transparency report that shows interruptions to the flow of information from our tools and services. Google also is a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder organization — including human rights and press freedom groups, investors, academics, and companies — whose members commit to protect online free expression.
“We’re proud to support Reporters Without Borders with this important prize that highlights the pressure many governments around the globe are are putting on the Internet,” said William Echikson, Head of Free Expression for Europe, Africa and Middle-East at Google. “Our 
 in more than 
services. Initiatives such as the Netizen prize shine a light on those who stand up in support for online free expression.”
Reporters Without Borders launched the World Day against cyber-censorship back in 2008 in order to protect a single Internet, free and accessible to all. Google has partnered with Reporters Without Borders in 2010 to award the annual Netizen who recognizes a user, blogger, or cyber-dissident who has distinguished himself by his advocacy of Internet freedom of expression.
Reporters Without Borders will release on March 12 the 2013 Enemies of the Internet report, a special issue dedicated to online surveillance that points out to a selection of countries and companies.

Declaration of Free Citizens

[Editor’s Note: Recently, Vietnamese Communist Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong stated on national television that any call for a multi-party system in Vietnam is unacceptable.  In response, journalist Nguyen Dac Kien posted on his blog that Trong has no right to speak on behalf of the people of Vietnam and that what people want is more freedom.  Because of his article, he was terminated from his position at The Family and Society newspaper.  His firing has ignited a wave of calls for democracy.  Below is the declaration that is being disseminated throughout the online community.]

We, the undersigned, call upon our fellow citizens to join us in declaring:

1. We not only want to abolish Article 4 in the Constitution, but also to have a Constitutional Congress to establish a new constitution that truly reflects the will of our people, not the will of the communist party as currently in the constitution in force.
2. We support a pluralistic and multi-party system, and all political parties who fairly compete for the advancement of freedom, peace, and prosperity of the people of Vietnam. No political party has the right to control, and to tyrannize this nation.
3. We not only support a democratic system which upholds the independence of the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, but also wish for a government that decentralizes its power by empowering the autonomy of local levels of government, and eradicates the state-sponsored consortium, and all state-owned corporations, which misuse national budget, breed corruption, destroy the people’s faith, will and the spirit of our national unity.
4. We support for the military becoming non-partisan, free from the party affiliation. The military is to protect the people, the land, and defend national sovereignty, not to serve any political party.
5. We assert the right to declare the above and that all our fellow Vietnamese citizens share the same right.
We affirm that we are exercising our fundamental human rights which constitute the rights of free thoughts and free expression. These are natural rights that are inherent in every human being at birth. The Vietnamese people recognize and respect these universal rights. These rights are not granted to us by the Communist party and hence, the communist party has no right to dispossess us of them nor to judge them. We deem any judgment or accusation aimed at us an act of defamation. We believe anyone who opposes these human rights is also against our national interests and mankind’s civilization.
Let us join hands to turn this Declaration of Free Citizens into an unbreakable tie that bonds together millions of Vietnamese hearts. Let us raise our voice by signing our names at the following email address: