Open Letter on Vietnam

from Human Rights and Fair Trade Advocates

The President of the United States of America

Members of the U.S. Congress

June 15, 2006

We write this letter to urge you to demand that, as pre-conditions for granting Vietnam a permanent normal trade relation (PNTR) status, the Vietnamese communist government release all religious and political prisoners, end house-arrest practice against them, recognize all independent churches in Vietnam, allow independent labor unions, and truly free and fair trade regarding all forms of print and audio-video products.

Vietnam published a White Paper on Human Rights last year in which it promised to observe human rights including freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief, and economic rights. Reporters Without Borders comments that these statements are simply window-dressing. The human rights situation in Vietnam has not improved in recent years. Consequently, the U.S. Department of State has retained Vietnam on the list of countries of particular concern (CPC). 

On January 25 2006, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted resolution 1481 (2006) which strongly “condemned the massive human rights violations committed by totalitarian communist regimes and expressed sympathy, understanding and recognition for the victims of these crimes.” 

Thankfully, on April 6, 2006, the House of Representatives passed Resolution 320 (H. Con. Res. 320), calling on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and comply with the terms of the European Parliament resolution.  Not surprisingly, the Vietnamese Communist leaders have outright rejected these appeals.

While Vietnam enjoys the privilege of freely exporting to the U.S. all forms of print and audio-video products including cultural products, books, newspapers, magazines, other printed matters, motion picture films, records, tapes, etc, the Vietnamese government, through its state-owned enterprises, maintains a monopoly and, in effect, an absolute ban on these imports into Vietnam. This treatment is neither fair and free trade, nor the free flow of information – both core principles of a democratic, free-market economy and our recent WTO agreement with Vietnam.

Recent widespread labor unrest in Vietnam reflects the reality that labor rights in Vietnam are not protected. Their average salary is less than $1/day and working conditions are extremely poor. This state of affairs is due to the fact that workers in Vietnam have been denied the right to form their independent labor unions to protect their basic worker rights. 

We hereby call upon you to deny the communist dictatorial regime in Vietnam the free PNTR status until the aforementioned conditions are met.

Thank you for your leadership and continued support of the rights of the oppressed Vietnamese.  May God bless you and America.

Respectfully,

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