Vietnam must free democracy activists
A Honolulu man is among 6 people arrested in Vietnam for stuffing pro-democracy fliers.
Vietnam's intolerance of liberty has led to the arrest of a 54-year-old Honolulu man and five other persons whose stuffing of pro-democracy fliers was outrageously misconstrued as terrorism. The State Department should heed the request by Rep. Neil Abercrombie and two U.S. representatives from California and demand their release.
Vietnamese authorities reportedly have arrested at least a dozen activists this year on charges of "propaganda against the Socialist Republic," which can lead to prison terms of up to 20 years. The raid of a Ho Chi Minh City house on Nov. 17 was said to be different because those arrested included foreign citizens -- two U.S. citizens, including Vietnam-born Leon Truong, 54, of Honolulu, a French woman and a Thai national.
A Vietnamese state-owned Web site says the six were arrested on charges of terrorism as members of Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform). Time magazine reported they were distributing a booklet, "From Dictatorship to Democracy," a summary of peaceful activism from Eastern Europe to Indonesia and the Philippines.
Since President Clinton announced formal normalization of relations with Vietnam 12 years ago, diplomatic ties and economic activity between the United States and Vietnam have grown, including a bilateral maritime agreement signed in March. Political exchanges have been broadened through regular dialogues on human rights, according to the State Department.
It should be made clear that such reckless behavior by Vietnamese authorities could seriously damage those relations. The U.S. Embassy has said it is investigating the incident. It should be unrelenting in its demand that the Viet Tan members from abroad be sent home.
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