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News ::
Former Vietnamese POC will speak at mini-conference (english)
01 Mar 2003
Former Vietnamese POC will speak at mini-conference
Former Vietnamese POC will speak at mini-conference

It is our privilege to be able to have the poet Nguyen Chi Thien address our members at the
Mini-conference in Fullerton next week. He thanks Amnesty International for working on his behalf to attain his release from prison. His biography illustrates the importance of our work. He is an inspiration and his journey illustrates that there are so many political prisoners that Amnesty has been able to help and that there are so many more that we are seeking amnesty for.

Please join us on Saturday, March 1st at Cal State Fullerton for the Mini-Conference and to meet
Nguyen Chi Thien and hear his poetry.

Please see the end of this email for details. Feel free to come at any time during the day.
Admission is free!

Nguyen Chi Thien's Brief Biography

Date of birth: 27 Feb 1939 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Years in prison in Vietnam: 27

Expelled to the USA: around year end of 1995.

Originally in Vietnamese, his poems have been translated into various languages including English, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Czech.

His main published books:

1) Flowers From Hell (poetry)
2) Blood Seeds Become Poetry (poetry)
3) Ho?a Lo` (Hanoi's Hilton, or Furnace Fire)

He has been

1) nominated twice for Nobel Prize in Literature for his outstanding works.
2) awarded two year scholarship in Strasbourg and St. Lo in France by the Parliament of Writers in Europe (Parlement des Ecrivains) to write and translate his writings.
3) listed in the Who's Who in Twentieth-century World Poetry, London & New York: Routledge, 2000.
4) awarded the Amsterdam Poetry Prize and the American PEN Freedom Prize

In total, Thien spent 27 years in prison in Vietnam as follows:

1) First imprisonment: 1961-1964 (for writing poetry critical of the Hanoi regime)

2) Second imprisonment: 1966-1977 (for suspected political disturbance).

3) Third imprisonment: 1977-1991 (After he was released from the prison in 1977, he collected on paper all his poems made mentally while in prison, he sneaked into the British Embassy in Hanoi and handed to a diplomat his 3 photos and a collection of his poems made mentally while in prison. Once he left the embassy, he was immediately arrested and imprisoned for another 12 years).

Finally he was released in 1991, thanks to the interference of many international human rights organizations and governments from around the world. He was allowed to leave Vietnam for the US in 1995. In all, Thien spent 27 years in prison for being a poet who truly expressed himself in poetry.

Currently, Thien is a resident of Garden Grove, California.


As some of you may know, there is an Amnesty Mini-Conference on March 1st from 9am-5:30pm at the California State University Fullerton campus. There will be a continental breakfast at 9am and the admission is FREE! The directions are at the end of this email. NOTE: The conference is in a new building this year. If you need flyers please contact the office at 310.815.0450 or visit the website There will be various workshops and speakers. The agenda is as follows however it is subject to change:

• 9:00 - 9:20am - Continental Breakfast
• 9:20 - 10:20am - Opening Plenary
• Michelle Williams - Deputy Director of the Western Region
• Nguyen Thanh Trang from the Vietnam Human Rights Network
• Shiela Dauer of AIUSA's Women's Human Rights Network
• 10:30 - 11:50am - Workshops
• Human Rights in Vietnam
• Group Health, Recruitment and Retention
• Introduction to Amnesty International
• 12:00 - 12:40pm - Caucuses (informal discussions)
• Death Penalty
• Student/Local Groups
• 12:40 - 2:00pm - Lunch
• 2:00 - 3:20pm - Workshops
• Sex Trafficking - Overthere and Here
• Response to Crisis in Iraq
• Diversification
• Use of the Internet in Human Rights Work
• 3:30 - 4:50pm - Workshops
• Myths About the Death Penalty
• Human Rights Book Discussion - "The Tatooed Soldier" by Hector Tobar
• Domestic Violence is a Human Rights Violation: Russia and the World
• Where Did the Mandate Go?
• 5:00 - 5:30pm - Closing Plenary
• Nguyen Chi Thien (Famous Poet and Former POC from Vietnam)

Please spread the word!!!


• Cal State Fullerton is located west of the Orange (57) Freeway in Fullerton. The university is bordered by Nutwood Avenue to the south, State College Boulevard to the west, Yorba Linda Boulevard to the north, and the 57 Freeway to the east.
• Coming from either the south or the north on the 57 Freeway, exit at Nutwood Avenue. Go west on Nutwood. Turn right at the main campus entrance at Commonwealth Avenue. Follow E. Campus Drive to Parking Lot F.
• The registration desk will be outside University Hall Room 252 at the south end of the building on the 2nd floor.


The Conference Planning Committee
Red Cross volunteers share Vietnam War stories
By Pam Noles
Inland Valley Voice

February 28, 2003

CLAREMONT -- When Sharon Cummings was 21 and fresh out of college, she volunteered to go to Vietnam as a Red Cross "Donut Dollie," eager to serve her country for one year by acting as a hostess of sorts, providing a willing ear and activity books for soldiers.

"You had to be up and smiling the whole time no matter what you were feeling inside," she said. "Our main reason was to give those guys a break from the war for an hour or two."

She went in search of service and a great adventure in an exotic land. After all, her father, an Air Force veteran of World War II, was confident the government would never send her or the other women volunteers anywhere they could be hurt.

"He didn't realize Vietnam was not a place with front lines," Cummings said.

By the time her tour of duty was over in the spring of 1967, Cummings was "emotionally drained" and physically exhausted. She felt lost, but was unable to stop smiling. She was furious that it seemed people didn't realize young men were dying in jungles far away.

Cummings, a Canyon Country resident who works for a Pasadena engineering and design firm, is one of two Red Cross Vietnam volunteers who will share their stories Saturday after the Pomona College theater department's performance of "A Piece of My Heart," the story of six women who worked in the war zones of Vietnam.

Cummings, who will be joined by Linnie Stone, will speak after the 2 p.m. performance.

Cummings said she didn't realize others shared her experience nor how important her work was to the soldiers until about a decade ago, when the memorial to women in Vietnam was dedicated in Washington. That got a lot of the volunteers and nurses, whom she refers to as "the real heroes," in touch with each other.

Talking about her experience is important, Cummings said, particularly when it comes to students.

"I think oral history is important. It makes it more alive," she said. "I remember when I was their age World War II was ancient history to me. I knew my dad was in the war, but that was in parts of [school] books we never got to. To know that Vietnam holds that same status to young people today appalls me."

Cummings and Stone worked with the cast at Pomona College, answering their questions and explaining what life was like to the young actors.

"They're really wonderful women. They brought their scrapbooks and uniforms and brought videos and told stories and it was really very heartwarming and heartbreaking and really informative to us," theater professor Betty Bernhard said. "It gives a level of depth and authenticity to the production, to the acting."

It's not the first time Cummings has worked with actors portraying the Vietnam era. She served as a consultant to the television show "China Beach," working individually with actress and talk show host Ricki Lake, who played a Donut Dollie.

Pomona's actors, like others, want to know the everyday details of life as a volunteer. What was the dating scene, if there was one? What was it like to rotate out of a place every three months and leave new friends behind? How did they interact with the nurses, and what was it like to find out a befriended soldier was killed? What was it like to be under fire?

Cummings said there's one story that always gets the female actors laughing.

"When you go over you had to make sure you have plenty of tampons," Cummings said. "And then later when they got them into the PX we had to fight the guys for them because they were the perfect thing to clean rifles!",4386,174267,00.html?

Vietnam restoring massacre site to draw tourists
HANOI - Facilities at the site of the 1968 My Lai massacre are to be renovated to attract more tourists to the area, the authorities in Vietnam's Quang Ngai province said.

Mr Le Van Doi, a spokesman for the government of the central coastal province, said about US$760,000 (S$1.3 million) would be spent on the project.

It would include the construction of a two-storey museum documenting the atrocities committed by American troops and repairs to a monument to the victims, he said.

'This historical site has been damaged by natural calamities such as typhoons, so we need to restore the area.

'I hope that after the restoration, more Vietnamese and foreign tourists will come to visit,' he said.

More than 3,000 Vietnamese and international tourists have visited the area so far this year, according to the local tourism authorities.

US troops butchered 504 civilians, most of them women, children and the elderly, on March 16, 1968 in My Lai village and its surrounds in the Son My commune, now known as Tinh Khe.

They covered up the massacre, the darkest chapter of their involvement in Vietnam. Its eventual exposure helped turn the tide in favour of the anti-war effort in the US.

Construction on the museum in My Lai, which will replace the existing documentary centre that opened in 1992, will get under way on March 6, as will work on the monument, Mr Doi said. The project is being funded by the central government. --AFP

Sent: Friday, February 28, 2003 8:59 AM
Subject: [Chinh Luan] PART V: WiPC to launch freedom of _expression campaign (DL 62)


13 February 2003

WiPC to launch freedom of _expression campaign

SOURCE: Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC), International PEN, London (WiPC/IFEX) - The following is a 12 Feb. 2003 WiPC press release:




February/March 2003

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is launching a

campaign on freedom of _expression in Vietnam on 17 February 2003 as a result of the recent intensification of the repression of the right to write by the Vietnamese authorities. The campaign will focus on the ten writers in

prison or under house arrest on our current caselist: Nguyen Dinh Huy, Le Chi Quang, Le Dinh Nhan (Thich Huyen Quang), Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Vu Binh, Pham Hong Son, Bui Minh Quoc, Dang Phuc Tue (Thich Quang Do), Tran Van Khue and Nguyen Xuan Tu (Ha Si Phu).


In spite of promises to accelerate the process of political reform made by

Nong Duc Manh upon his appointment as general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party in 2001, Vietnam's human rights record remains a cause for serious concern. Many of those critical of the authorities' stances on democracy, human rights and religious freedom have been arrested or remain closely monitored.


Since the start of 2002 the Vietnamese authorities have been staging a

crackdown on the use of the internet as a means to promote freedom of

_expression and information, leading to the imprisonment of at least five

dissidents. In June, the Prime Minister instructed the Ministry of Culture

and information to tighten up controls at Vietnam's four thousand public

internet cafés to prevent customers from accessing 'state secrets',

'pornography' or 'reactionary documents', and the government blocked

approximately two thousand websites.

In August, the Ministry of Culture and Information ordered the closure of

the popular Hanoi-based website for operating an internet

site without official permission and publishing articles 'contrary to the

spirit' of the Press Law. On 16 August 2002, the Ministry announced that penalties would be imposed on internet café owners who allowed customers to view websites harmful to national security or that displayed 'depraved' or 'reactionary' content, and in October the Ministry of Culture and

Information ordered Vietnam's state-owned internet service providers to

block politically and morally unacceptable web content.

The following internet writers have been persecuted for publishing their

views online:

Le Chi Quang: Sentenced to four years' imprisonment and three years' house arrest on 8 November 2002 for publishing an essay entitled "Beware of Imperialist China" on the internet.

Tran Van Khue: Under house arrest following the online publication of an

open letter to Chinese President Jiang Zemin in February 2002.

Nguyen Vu Binh: Arrested on 25 September 2002 following the online

publication of an essay entitled "Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam

Border Agreement." Not yet sentenced.

Pham Hong Son: Arrested on 27 March 2002 following the publication of

several essays promoting democracy and human rights on Vietnamese-language websites. His sentence remains unknown.

Nguyen Van Ly: Arrested on 17 May 2001. Sentenced to fifteen years'

imprisonment and five years' probationary detention for publishing a

written testimony "Violations of Human Rights in Vietnam" on the internet.

Territorial concessions

"Following the end of the Vietnam War, in late April 1975, relations

between China and Vietnam began to deteriorate over a number of issues, not least of which [centered] on border disputes. The situation came to a head with the Chinese military campaign against Vietnam in February and March 1979.

Bilateral negotiations in 1979 and the early 1980s failed to bring the two

parties to any agreement on the many disputed issues. Following a slow

normalisation process that began with low-level contacts in the mid-1980s,

expanding to high-level meetings by the end of the decade, and gaining

momentum from mid-1991, the bilateral relations were officially fully

normalised in November 1991. China and Vietnam finally signed a Land

Border Treaty on 30 December 1999." [Taken from "The Management of the Border Disputes Between China and Vietnam and its Regional Implications", Assoc. Prof. Ramses Amer]

Following the territorial agreements, dissidents visited the China-Vietnam border and proceeded to issue public critiques of the authorities accusing the Vietnamese government of conceding too much territory. This led to several arrests. The first was that of journalist Bui Minh Quoc who was placed under house arrest on 12 January 2002 following an investigation he led concerning territorial concessions. This was followed by the arrest of writers Tran Van Khue, Nguyen Vu Binh and Le Chi Quang, whose views were published on the internet.

Promotion of democracy

A growing number of dissidents are calling for multi-party reforms in

Vietnam to counter Vietnam's one-party system. The electoral process is

currently controlled by the VCP, which screens and approves all electoral candidates. In the elections of February 2002 only fifty-one of the 498 National Assembly seats were won by non-VCP candidates.

A number of democracy activists were detained for their writings in 2002.

Pham Hong Son (see internet writers) was arrested on 27 March 2002 for

circulating the translation of an article entitled "What is Democracy?" In

July and August 2002 a group of prominent dissidents sent petitions to the government protesting the treatment of fellow dissidents and calling for democratic reforms.

Nguyen Vu Binh, arrested in September 2002 for protesting border accords (see above), was originally arrested on 21 July 2002 following the

publication of an open letter to the government on 16 July calling for

political reform and the release of political prisoners. Numerous other

democracy activists were detained prior to 2002 and remain in prison.

Nguyen Dinh Huy, a former newspaper editor and leading figure in the

pro-democracy organisation Movement for National Unity and Building Democracy, was arrested on 17 November 1993 and has been in prison for almost a decade, serving a fifteen-year sentence for planning an "illegal meeting", an "international conference for development with Vietnam".

Writer and biologist Nguyen Xuan Tu (pen name Ha Si Phu) was placed under house arrest in February 2001 for making contact with "reactionaries living abroad". He is reported to be held in total isolation, with all mail

censored and no telephone communication allowed.

Religious freedom

The Vietnamese population is officially allowed religious freedom in

accordance with the 1992 Constitution:

Article 70

"The citizen shall enjoy freedom of belief and of religion; he can follow

any religion or follow none. All religions are equal before the law. The

places of worship of all faiths and religions are protected by the law. No

one can violate freedom of belief and of religion; nor can anyone misuse

beliefs and religions to contravene the law and State policies".

However, only six closely monitored religious organisations are allowed bythe government. Vietnam's rulers are regularly criticised by human rights observers for religious repression, including that of ethnic minority

Christians in the northern and central highlands, members of the banned

Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), and Hoa Hao Buddhists in the south. Furthermore, at the beginning of 2003, the Communist Party of Vietnam resolved to increase state control over religious affairs in an effort to reduce ethnic unrest and dissent. It called on religious followers to foil attempts to undermine the regime by "hostile forces".

Those detained for their writings on the restriction of religious freedom


Le Dinh Nhan (religious name Thich Huyen Quang), acting head of the

outlawed UBCV, arrested on 29 December 1994 and held under house arrest for the publication of an open letter criticising government policy on freedom of speech and religious _expression.

Nguyen Van Ly (see internet writers), a priest, scholar and essayist, was

arrested on 17 May 2001 and sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment and five years' probationary detention for publishing a written testimony

entitled "Violations of Human Rights in Vietnam" and writing to a United

States Congressional Committee urging lawmakers not to ratify bilateral

trade agreements until Hanoi agreed to loosen religious restrictions.

Dang Phuc Tue (religious name Thich Quang Do), Buddhist monk, writer,

scholar and secretary general of the UBCV, was arrested on 1 June 2001 and sentenced to two years, three months' house arrest for announcing his

intention to escort Thich Huyen Quang to Ho Chi Minh City for medical


For further information, contact the WiPC, International PEN, 9/10

Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7AT, U.K., tel: +44 207 253 3226, fax: +44 207 253 5711, e-mail: intpen (at), Internet:

The information contained in this press release/alert is the sole

responsibility of WiPC. In citing this material for broadcast or

publication, please credit WiPC.




489 College Street, Suite 403, Toronto (ON) M6G 1A5 CANADA§ion=LOCAL&

Friday, February 28, 2003

Royce pushes news in Vietnam

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, on Thursday introduced a bipartisan measure that would overcome what he called communist Vietnam's "concerted effort to bar the free flow of news and other information into the country." Royce wants to boost U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia radio broadcasts to Vietnam by providing a stronger transmitter and extra airtime. The bill also contains measures to combat Internet censorship in Vietnam. Royce represents parts of Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam. Co-sponsoring the bill is Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose. Her district is home to the country's second-largest Vietnamese population.

- Julian Pecquet

(202) 628-6381
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