Open Letter to the President of Vietnam – Mr. Truong Tan Sang on the International Human Rights Day – December 10, 2011

Embassy of Vietnam Att.: Mr. Truong Tan Sang, President of Vietnam 1233 20th St NW, Suite 400 Washington, DC 20036 Dear Mr. President: Today, people around the globe are celebrating the International Human Rights Day to pay tribute to all human rights defenders and commemorate the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 63 years ago. Taking this opportunity, I would like to congratulate you as the President of Vietnam. Hopefully, with your new leadership, the people in Vietnam, especially the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples, would have a fundamental freedom as stated in the UDHR. This year, millions of people around the world – from Tunis to Madrid, from Cairo to New York – have organized peaceful demonstration movements to demand for their rights and change. As you know, “Ở đâu có áp bức, ở đó có đấu tranh – Wherever there is oppression, there is resistance” and with the current human rights violations against the human rights activists in Vietnam, I believe that the peaceful demonstrations to demand for basic rights and change would continue to happen everywhere in Vietnam. I am sure that you would not want to see that happen. I would like to bring up the following human rights violations against our people to your attention: On April 22, 2010, Mrs. Tran Thi Chau was arrested and later sentenced by the Court of Tra Vinh for two and half years in prison. Mrs. Tran Thi Chau had a land-grab dispute with the local authority at the Nhi Truong market in Nhi Truong village, Cau Ngang district, Tra Vinh province. The authority arrested her on her way to Wedding and then accused her with an allege crime to take over her land. On March 31, 2011, Mr. Chau Hen was sentenced for two years in prison by the Court of Tri Ton district, An Giang province. Mr. Chau Hen used to organize peaceful demonstrations to demand returning the Khmer-Krom’s confiscated farmlands in Tri Ton district in 2007 and 2008. Because of leading the demonstrations to exercise his rights, he was accused of public disturbance and face injustice imprisonment. On February 8, 2007, more than two hundred Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks organized a peaceful demonstration to demand for their rights to freely practice their Theravada Buddhism. Unfortunately, that peaceful protest was oppressed. Nineteen Buddhist monks was arrested and defrocked. Five Buddhist monks were sentenced to imprison. One of the Buddhist monks who were imprisoned and now live in Sweden is from Tra Set temple in Vinh Hai village, Vinh Chau district, Soc Trang province. Because of that reason, this temple is treated as the “enemy” of the government. Last week, the local authority, led by Mr. QUÁCH VŨ XUÂN of Vinh Hai village framed a case to arrest Venerable Ly Sol with allege crime of raping a Khmer-Krom lady, Mrs. DANH THỊ TÚ, at 8pm in his temple, when all the monks in the temple did not sleep yet. According to Mrs. DANH THỊ TÚ, the local police forced her to finger printed on the complaint letter that was already written by the local authority to file complaint against Venerable Ly Sol so the authority has a reason to arrest and defrock him. This is an unjust action that is used to smear the good repute of our religion, especially to make people to distrust the Buddhist monks at Tra Set temple. Two weeks ago, our organization received information regarding to the land rights violation against the CheAng Krom temple at Ta On commune, Chau Lang village, Tri Ton district, An Giang province. The local authority built a school on the temple’s land without the consent of the Abbot, Buddhist monks and the committee members of this temple. The representatives of the temple ask the local government to pay the compensation for taking the temple’s land. The local authority refused to pay compensation. Near that school, there is an old Pali school that is torn out. The authority wants the temple to destroy it to make spaces for their school, but the representatives of the temple refused. They are worrying that one day the authority may use forces to destroy the Pali school and take temple’s land. When a Human Rights violation happens in Vietnam, the Khmer-Krom people have nowhere to ask for help. They have to contact our organization asking for help to raise their issue to the world to seek justice for them. In celebrating the International Human Rights Day, I would like to ask for your assistance to: • Release Mrs. Tran Thi Chau and Mr. Chau Hen without any condition because they just exercise their basic rights to demand returning his confiscated lands. • Allow our Buddhist monks to form an independent Theravada Buddhist organization to promote our rich and unique history, religion and culture. • Allow our people to have freedom of press, freedom of expression, and freedom of belief, especially freedom from FEAR. Also allow the freedom to organize the associations that are already stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (and even in Vietnam’s constitution). • Allow our people to freely defend themselves in front of the Vietnamese judicial system. Vietnam should stop accusing our people for “disturbing the Vietnamese society” and imprisoning them because of they just stand up to demand for their fundamental rights or just asking to return their confiscated lands. • Allow human rights organizations to operating in Vietnam to help protecting and promoting the basic rights of the people in Vietnam. Yours sincerely, Signed Thach Ngoc Thach KKF President