VNWHR | April 28, 2014
Under great pressure from the US on its human rights record, utterly powerless to stop and reverse the accelerating decline of the anemic economy, and unable to reach out and join the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, the Government of Vietnam (GVN) recently considered its options and did something it hasn’t done in long time. It released five well known prisoners of conscience well ahead of their jail terms. The released prisoners of conscience are: MM. Cu Huy Ha Vu, Nguyen Tien Trung, Vi Đac Hoi, Đinh Đong Đinh and Nguyen Huu Cau.
We at the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR) organization acknowledge their releases. But we wish to make the point that the GVN is still not acting in good faith to initiate reforms. We can describe the actions of the GVN this way. On one hand, they demand our attention. On the other hand, they will do more harms than good. Why? In the short term, we believe that because of these actions, the Western political class and the NGOs will relax their vigilance and concerns for human rights violations in Vietnam, while countries and organizations now actively helping the GVN will press on even more vigorously. The net results? The GVN will be able to further tighten its totalitarian grip on more than 90 million Vietnamese.
Hundreds prisoners of conscience – each and every one of them very dear to us – are being held under extremely harsh conditions. Many of them are sick, some very seriously. This is the case with Ms. Do Thi Minh Hanh whose very life is now threatened. That is the reason why our conscience dictates that we must persist in doing whatever we can to force the GVN to release as many prisoners of conscience and as soon as possible.
It is also very important to point out that of the 5 prisoners of conscience mentioned earlier none is a woman. Concerning three female prisoners of conscience we know well, namely Ms. Do Thi Minh Hang, Ms. Ta Phong Tan, and Ms. Ho Thi Bich Khuong, all available evidence points to the fact that they are subject to prison conditions that are much harsher than those experienced by their male counterparts. We believe this is due to their steely determination. Why aren’t women, and especially women who are sick, get priorities in prisoner releases for medical treatment as well as for humanitarian and other reasons?
Ms. Ta Phong Tan and Ms. Do Thi Minh Hanh are still single. The years they have spent and will spend in prison are robbing them of the best years of their lives as well as denying them the opportunity to get married and have a family. Ms. Ho Thi Bich Khuong is a widow with young children. They will sorely miss her care and guidance during the most critical years of their lives. Because a woman’s position in a family or a society is unique ant irreplaceable, to call upon the GVN, the international community and the NGOs to pay special attention to these three women is our highest priority.
We wish to affirm the following: as long as women are repressed and jailed for their human rights activities or for demanding that they have the civil and political rights to participate in the political life of the country – as Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang and Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh did – and as long as women have to divert their attention from caring for their children to caring and visiting their jailed husbands, fathers and brothers, any and all declarations made by the GVN about respecting women’s rights are meaningless.
The VNWHR organization strongly protests the artificial actions of the GVN. The GVN can’t, on one hand, release a few prisoners of conscience and on the other hand, continue to harass and arrest countless human rights activists. When the GVN acts in such a manner, it is not acting to improve the human rights conditions in Vietnam. Instead, it is engaging in an odious and inhuman exchange that is deeply offensive and detrimental to life and liberty of the entire Vietnamese people.
We must and we will continue to mobilize public opinion inside and outside of the country to pressure the Government of Vietnam to release all prisoners of conscience and especially those among them who are women. Conscience and justice demand no less.
April 28, 2014
The Executive Committee of Vietnamese Women for Human Rights