President Bush and Vice President Cheney, center, meet with, from left, Thanh Cong Do, founding member of the People's Democratic Party of Vietnam; Nguyen Le Minh, chairman of the Vietnam Human Rights Network; the vice president; the president; Diem Do, chairman of the Vietnam Reform Party; and Dr. Quan Nguyen, chairman of the International Committee for Freedom to Support the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam, meet to discuss Vietnamese democracy and human rights, Tuesday, May 29, 2007, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — Four Vietnamese-American activists urged President Bush on Tuesday to press Vietnam to respect human rights and said the United States should openly support democratic forces working to bring change to Hanoi.
The White House meeting was meant to send a message of disapproval to Vietnam on its increasingly harsh treatment of anti-government activists.
Diem Do, chairman of the Vietnam Reform Party, said that during the 45-minute visit, Bush expressed his concern about the crackdown against peaceful dissidents and asked for specific suggestions on what was needed to help improve human rights in Vietnam.
Do said in an interview that he hoped the meeting would lead to action by the U.S. government and a clear message for the Hanoi regime: "That if Vietnam wants to join the international community, they must abide by the rules of civilized governments. They are behaving like a rogue government. They just can't clamp down on peaceful voices."
Last year, as Vietnam prepared to host a Pacific Rim summit and stood on the threshold of joining the World Trade Organization, the regime appeared to have taken a new path toward a more open society. Now, authorities have stepped up their campaign to suppress dissent.
Vietnam does not tolerate any challenge to Communist one-party rule; it insists, however, that only lawbreakers are jailed.
Another of Bush's guests, Cong Thanh Do, founding member of the People's Democratic Party of Vietnam, has been associated with three activists sentenced recently for spreading anti-Vietnamese propaganda over the Internet.
"The United States has been concerned by the increasing incidence of arrest and detention of political activists in Vietnam for activities well within their right to peaceful expression of political thought," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
"As Vietnam's economy and society reform and move forward, such repression of individuals for their views is anachronistic and out of keeping with Vietnam's desire to prosper, modernize and take a more prominent role in world affairs," he said.
In another development, the chairman of the U.S.-Vietnam Caucus in Congress resigned Friday and introduced a resolution condemning convictions of pro-democracy activists.
"I have been a consistent friend to Vietnam, but I cannot compromise my support for human rights," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. "While I have always argued that we need to judge Vietnam on the progress it makes, it is clear to me that the Vietnamese government is headed in the wrong direction on democracy and human rights."