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VCP SECRETARY-GENERAL NONG DUC MANH VISITS EUROPEAN COMMISSION IN BRUSSELS: VIETNAM COMMITTEE AND PROMINET EURO MPS URGES ROMANO PRODI TO DEMAND THE RELEASE OF THICH HUYEN QUANG, THICH QUANG DO AND PHAM QUE DUONG

Whilst the Vietnamese Communist Party Secretary-general Nong Duc Manh made an extremely “discrete” visit to Brussels today, Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights sent a letter to EC President Romano Prodi calling on him to raise Vietnam’s serious human rights violations during their meeting at 5.30 p.m. this afternoon. Stressing that Vietnam’s communist regime “would probably be unable to survive without the massive financial aid granted by the European Union and its member states“, Vo Van Ai urged the EC President to demand the immediate and unconditional release of three prominent dissidents, i.e. Buddhist leaders Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do, and communist party veteran Pham Quê Duong. Mr. Ai’s demand was echoed by seven prominent Euro MPs, who sent letters from Strasbourg, where the European Parliament held its plenary session this week, urging Mr Prodi to press for the urgent release of the three dissidents. Amongst the MEPs were six members of the Italy-based Transnational Radical Party, Marco Pannella, Emma Bonino, Marco Cappato, Benedetto Della Vedova, Olivier Dupuis and Maurizio Turco, and Paulo Casaca from the European Socialist Party. Emphasizing that the 1995 EU-Vietnam Cooperation Agreement is based on the respect of democratic principles and human rights, Mr. Ai deplored the fact that Vietnam continued to systematically abuse its citizens’ rights “in grave violation of its international obligations”. Specifically, he said, “in October 2003, the Vietnamese authorities launched a brutal crack-down on the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). Repression was so fierce that it has threatened the very survival of the UBCV, which has a 2,000-year tradition in Vietnam”. Since this crack-down, UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang, 86, and his Deputy, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Quang Do, 75, both of whom have spent over 20 years in detention, have been detained incommunicado in their monasteries without justification or charge, respectively at the Nguyen Thieu Monastery (Binh Dinh Province) and the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. In his letter to the EC President, Vo Van Ai also raised the case of former People’s Army Colonel Pham Quê Duong, journalist and renowned military historian, who was arrested in December 2002 for advocating democratic reforms. Pham Quê Duong, 73, had applied to set up an anti-corruption association to investigate endemic corruption within VCP ranks, and signed petitions calling for reforms such as the abrogation of Decree 31/CP on “administrative detention” and the creation of a Constitutional Court. Last month, the Vietnamese authorities announced that he would soon be brought to trial on charges of “espionage”, a crime punishable by 12 years to life imprisonment, or the death penalty. Expressing concern that Pham Quê Duong “would be subjected to an unfair trial”, Mr Ai said : “The denial of the basic right to a fair trial is unworthy of a state partner of the EU”.





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