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Old Saigon Echo website
from 2008 - 2012
Director: Bai An Tran, Ph.D.


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What do 7 billion people look like?

Roman Catholic pilgrims press together while following the image of the local saint, Our Lady of Nazareth, as it is paraded Oct. 11, 2009, during the annual Cirio de Nazare procession, the country's biggest religious festival, in Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon River. More than 1 million Catholics, many from communities along the Amazon River's tributaries, converged on Our Lady of Nazareth basilica to participate in the event.

Barbara Walters comments on Jane Fonda

Thank you all.  Many  died in Vietnam for our freedoms.  I did not like Jane Fonda then and I don't like her now.

Why Bin Laden Lost ?

“It doesn’t mean anything”, she says, “because he’s been dead and gone and disappeared for years”.

Vietnamese Communists' Fear Factor is Rising

Vietnam's communist regime has recently intensified its repression of activists and dissidents, cracking down harshly on the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. 

Attack on a diplomat shows Vietnam's contempt for human rights

The writer is a physician and head of the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam. He has been imprisoned three times, for a total of 20 years, for expressing his democratic beliefs.

Dr. Nguyen Dan Que 

CHO LON, VIETNAM - Saturday, February 26, 2011 - While the world's attention is riveted on the Middle East, democracy continues to struggle to take root in other regions.

Only last summer, Vietnam and the United States celebrated the 15th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. The resumption of ties has proved profitable for Vietnam: The United States is its largest foreign investor, the countries have more than $15 billion in annual bilateral trade, and 13,000 Vietnamese nationals are attending college in America.

Despite these developments, a U.S. official in Vietnam was manhandled by a crowd last month while police stood by. Christian Marchant, a political officer attached to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, was roughed up when he attempted to visit a dissident Roman Catholic priest.

The meeting between Marchant and Nguyen Van Ly had been arranged in advance. Ly told Radio Free Asia that police prevented Marchant from entering his house and pushed him to the ground when he tried to pass them.

Some witnesses said a car door was slammed on Marchant's leg before he was taken away by police. A State Department spokesman said that day that Marchant's injury was not serious but that he was limping after the incident.

The U.S. ambassador in Hanoi, Michael Michalak, called the incident "a flagrant violation of international law." A spokesman for Vietnam's Foreign Ministry has said an investigation is being conducted - but warned that foreign diplomats should observe the laws of their host country.

Perhaps it is Vietnam, though, that needs to familiarize itself with international law. The Vienna Convention in particular makes clear that it is the responsibility of host countries to prevent assaults on foreign diplomats.

Factors contributing to Vietnam's behavior predate the signing of a bilateral trade agreement, Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization or even the resumption of diplomatic relations with Washington. At each juncture, Vietnam has promised to respect human rights and comply with international law. Each time, however, Vietnam has learned that it can reap all the benefits without honoring any of its promises.
Two days before the January incident, the hometown paper of Marchant's parents, the Richmond (Ky.) Register, published a profile noting that he was to share the State Department's Human Rights and Democracy Award in February. The article cited a State Department news release calling Marchant "a persuasive advocate for Vietnam's beleaguered dissident community, tirelessly serving as a conduit for imprisoned dissidents, their families, and the outside world."

In the profile, Marchant speaks about his attempts to find common ground with the Vietnamese. But he made clear that the United States could not be silent about abuses. In the past year, he told the paper, 25 Vietnamese have been jailed for criticizing their government.

"The big difference between the two countries," he said, "is that if people in a position of authority in the United States abuse an individual, they go to jail."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has warned Hanoi that while the United States would like to deepen bilateral relations, including trade, Vietnam's human rights record remains a stumbling block. These sorts of statements make officials unpopular with Communist authorities. But the people of Vietnam are grateful to have friends who speak out.

I met Marchant in 2009, when we discussed at length the worsening of human rights violations in Vietnam and what the United States might do. He struck me as an active, dedicated diplomat with a soft voice, a humble heart and a friendly bearing. As a Vietnamese, I am ashamed at what this man has had to endure for doing his job.

A larger question is why 15 years of closer relations have apparently not made an impression on Vietnam's Communist leaders. Their approach is clear: Take American trade and investment, but keep democracy and human rights at bay.

I wonder how the American people will respond to one of their diplomats being roughed up with the apparent approval of Vietnamese authorities. I hope Americans see this for what it is. Why should anyone expect a government that doesn't respect its citizens to respect foreigners? Other governments are watching, wondering how America will respond to this insult.

As for the communists here, the truth is that Hanoi needs Washington much more than Washington needs Hanoi. Vietnam's leaders may live to regret allowing an American official to be treated so badly. But today Vietnam looks out at a re-militarized China and an ongoing dispute in the South China Sea, not to mention domestic woes that include a sluggish economy and an outdated education system.

And if Washington is looking to Vietnam for a long-term partner for peace and regional stability, America would do well to recognize publicly that only a Vietnam that is free and democratic can provide one.

On a Serious Note......Changes are coming

Whether these changes are good or bad, depends in part on how we adapt to them.  But, ready or not, here they come.

Thousands of Catholics protest at Saigon Redemptorist Monastery

Facing the threat of Communists to punish severely Thai Ha parishioners in the up-coming trial, domestic and international protests of Catholics have out-broken.

A 'Talking' Photograph

The "talking" photograph of Rev. Ly is causing attention in the White House to the fight for Democracy and Human Rights for Vietnam.

San Jose, June 3, 2007

1.    Most of the Vietnamese residents wear masks covering their noses and mouths from dust and pollution when they go out into the streets. This image reflects a polluted morality, politics and justice, evidenced by the trial of Rev. Ly Van Nguyen in which he was gagged in the courtroom.

2.    He was prosecuted for opposing and slandering the government; however, these charges were not true because he had only opposed the Vietnamese Communist Party, not the government, when he cried out “Down with the Vietnamese Communist Party” in court.

3.    Rev. Ly Van Nguyen opposed the Vietnamese Communist Party, because:
-    This Party has dictatorially governed the country for 77 years and considered itself in equal footing to the fatherland.
-    This Party uses Marxist philosophy but it was no longer used, even by the Soviet Union.
-    This Party applies Ho Chi Minh’s idealism but he had no reputable ideas.  Even The Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that he delivered on Sept. 2, 1945 was a copy of the Declaration of Independence of the USA.
-    The Vietnamese Communist Party, as well as Ho Chi Minh, no longer exists, but the Party still tries to survive, similar to its trying to prolong Ho Chi Minh’s body from decaying by embalming it.

4.    Rev. Ly’s trial violated the defendant’s rights and the criminal procedure as stated in the criminal law.

5.    In the historical anti-communist events, there has been many “talking” photos.  For example, a young activist stood in front of a row of tanks in Tiananmen Square, the Berliners tore down the Berlin Wall, Pope John Paul II blessed the end of communism in Poland, or Boris Yeltsin rode a tank of the communists in celebration of the end of communism in Russia.  As to Vietnam, there is a photo of General Loan Ngoc Nguyen, Chief of the National Police Force, executed a Viet Cong captain in a public street, and the photo of Rev. Ly Van Nguyen being gagged at his trial.

6.    The Vietnamese refugees abroad eagerly eradicate communism in Vietnam hoping to bring freedom and happiness to their people.

7.    The "talking" photograph of Rev. Ly is causing attention in the White House to the fight for Democracy and Human Rights for Vietnam.

'Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon' Exhibit - Body without Soul

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service organized an exhibit named "Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon."

Started in 2004, the project's aim is to commemorate the 30 years of mass Vietnamese migration to the United States. As one of nearly two million Vietnamese refugees arriving in the United States, I visited the exhibit 33 years to the day that I escaped from Vietnam by boat. Many photos were meaningfully displayed, and the Vietnamese refugees appreciated and were very pleased with the great effort of the Smithsonian Institution in presenting the hardship of their journeys and the success of the Vietnamese Americans in this new land. However, there were some mistakes which should be corrected: The exhibit imprecisely stated the reason for the evacuation, insufficiently described their mass activities, and incorrectly praised some individuals.

    First, one caption stated: "As America withdrew its forces, North Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong guerillas advanced on the capital city of Saigon. The fall of South Vietnam's government on April 30, 1975, resulted in mass evacuations from the country."  This is not correct. Even though America had withdrawn its forces, North Vietnamese troops could not have occupied the South without the help of the United States. In fact, from April 20, 1975, the U.S. had already planned to evacuate all families of top officials of the South Vietnamese regime, and then, during those last days of the war, U.S. helicopters took several brave commanders away from the battle fields. As a direct result, all military forces of the South swiftly collapsed. Furthermore, the main reason of the mass evacuation was not the fall of the South Vietnam government, but the brutality of the Communist regime. Communism is something more horrible than death. Communism is something crueler than pirates. Communism is something more dangerous than Fascism. So, the most important message that the Viet refugees wanted to convey to the world was a rejection and an absolute refusal of Communism. The Vietnamese refugees were very joyful when the entire Communist regimes in Europe soundly collapsed in 1989, yet they are very saddened that Communism still exists in China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam, their homeland.

    Secondly, the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam, which is the symbol of the Vietnamese Community, was not found in the exhibit. Many states and cities around the U.S. have honored and accepted this flag as the official symbol of the Vietnamese Americans. An exhibit depicting the Vietnamese refugees without their flag is insufficient. It is similar to a body without a soul. Nor did the exhibit display many mass gatherings for worthy issues, such as huge demonstrations against violations of human rights in Vietnam, against racial discrimination toward the Viet fishermen in Texas and Louisiana, against the assimilation policy of the local Catholic church in San Jose, and against displaying the Red Flag of the Communist regime of Vietnam in Garden Grove, California.

Finally, the exhibition incorrectly praised some individuals who were not even members of the Vietnamese refugee community. For example, Mr. Vuong Duc Vu was a foreign student in the U.S. before 1975, not a refugee. Moreover, he has been acting for the Communist regime by welcoming government officials from Vietnam in the United States. He has even been praised by the Communist media. His political activities have seriously irritated the Vietnamese refugees. It is ridiculous to believe that anyone praised by the Communists would be praised by the Vietnamese refugees. Another individual is Mr. Thich Nhat Hanh who was referred to incorrectly as a "religious leader," a "Buddhist monk," and a "peace activist." In fact, none of these designations fits him. Hanh is certainly not a Vietnamese refugee in the USA because his permanent residence is in France. He became a monk a long time ago to hide his identity as a Communist spy. When his mission had been accomplished, he was secularized and got married. Now he calls himself a "yogi".

    In conclusion, it is an honor for the Vietnamese refugees to have their exodus brought to the attention of American society and to have their history documented by an organization so esteemed as the Smithsonian Institution. Despite some oversights which might hurt the feelings of the majority of the Viet refugees, the goal of the Smithsonian exhibit is admirable. Hopefully, these mistakes will be corrected in the near future. 

Vietnamese Inquisition: Catholic protesters face a show trial as Hanoi's clampdown on religious and media freedom continues

An ongoing face-off between the Vietnamese government and the Catholic Church will come to head any day now, the latest round in a continuing state clampdown on freedom of expression in Vietnam, a one-party state ruled by the Communist Party.

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