May 11th each year in the United States is marked as Vietnam Human Rights Day, a designation by the U.S. Congress to highlight our nation’s support for promoting and protecting basic, internationally-recognized freedoms in that Southeast Asian nation.
May 11th each year in the United States is marked as Vietnam Human Rights Day, a designation by the U.S. Congress to highlight our nation’s support for promoting and protecting basic, internationally-recognized freedoms in that Southeast Asian nation. A ceremony and discussion forum will be held at the U.S. Capitol today, May 9, involving members of Congress, representatives of the Department of State, labor leaders, non-governmental groups, and members of Vietnamese communities from across our country.
The date marks one of the most important events in the Vietnamese people’s quest for political freedom and rights. It was on that day in 1990 that a Vietnamese physician, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, and other activists published a “Program for the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam.”
The statement urged peaceful advocacy against repression and called for Vietnam’s government to respect basic human rights. It also called for a multi-party political system and for allowing free and fair elections. The protest was a peaceful and largely symbolic one, but Dr. Que and his colleagues were arrested, tried and convicted of crimes against the state. Since 2005 the doctor has been under virtual house arrest.
Nor is he alone in suffering this kind of treatment. Every year the United States prepares a nation-by-nation review of human rights around the world to send a clear message that all governments have a responsibility to protect universal human rights. This year’s country report on human rights in Vietnam found government restrictions on citizens’ political rights and religious freedoms, measures to limit citizens’ civil liberties and corruption in the judicial system and police continue to be significant problems.
Since the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam in 1995, ties between our two nations have increased dramatically. We now have a broad-based bilateral relationship, with increased cooperation on issues such as promoting maritime security, improving public health, providing disaster relief, and expanding trade and investment ties. Human rights also remain an integral part of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship.
U.S. officials routinely make the point that America supports a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that respects human rights and the rule of law. If Vietnam’s government gives a greater say to its people, it will make the country even stronger.