Arts & Culture 
 Human Rights 
 U.S. Asian Policy 

Home > Southeast Asia > 

Don't Let Ignorance and Greed Trump Human Rights for Vietnam
Tell Congress to vote down the Vietnam PNTR bills
Curry Kenworthy

Soon, Congress will be voting for whether to grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Vietnam. This will pave the way for that country to enjoy maximized trade with the U.S. as it enters the World Trade Organization. It's all being timed conveniently before President Bush's visit to Vietnam in December as it hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

There's only one problem with all this. It's a huge mistake and a moral wrong to grant PNTR to Vietnam.

Many people see this as patching up relations from the Vietnam war; if the war is over, why not be on the friendliest possible terms in trade? And wouldn't more trade help the Vietnamese?

But this reasoning is based on a mistaken view that war itself was the only problem in Vietnam. As terrible as war is, there was and is another huge problem for the Vietnamese: The Communist Party, the dictators of Vietnam. When the war was over and the U.S. withdrew and abandoned its cause and its allies despite a military victory, the Communist government reigned freely. It butchered those it perceived as enemies within Vietnam, and since then the government has ruled without regard to human rights or freedom. To this day, ethnic and religious groups are persecuted and killed in unthinkable ways, and political dissent is crushed.
But hey, don't take my word for it. Listen to those who have fled from Vietnam and can speak freely. Look at what the Vietnamese human rights organizations are publishing. [[In fact, I'd like you to listen to the Vietnamese themselves talking about persecution, so below I'll include a link to a video that you can watch after reading this.]]

Establishing PNTR with Vietnam won't help; it will hurt everyone. It will give the government more money and power to use for its own selfish and brutal interests. It will delay the cause of freedom in Vietnam.

All this has been tried before in China. Politicians said free trade would bring about freedom. It was a catchy slogan, but faulty logic. They said trade would democratize China, that human rights and freedoms would progress. So far, that hasn't happened. Instead, the enormous flow of money has helped the Chinese government move toward its goal of being a Communist superpower. The human rights and democracy aren't happening except in the wishful thinking and hopeful imagination of the politicians and their powerful corporate interests. At the China Support Network we publish news of China's continuing abuses of human rights and suppression of freedom, and they aren't slackening up. China's brutal dictators are still the same brutal dictators, only more powerful than they were before PNTR.

There is faulty logic and misguided reasoning behind PNTR for Communist states, and no doubt some of its supporters have good and selfless intentions, only mistaken ones. But I'm sorry to say that the biggest reason for this misguided support is financial. Powerful corporations are hungry for trade in these countries, even if it isn't the healthiest kind of trade in terms of human rights and even in terms of economy and industry. Money is a powerful incentive to accept the nice-sounding slogans about free trade bringing about freedom, even if the facts suggest otherwise.

Misunderstanding and greed are a powerful combination. PNTR for Vietnam has been promoted heavily by very powerful groups of businesses, while politicians have undertaken the steps toward "reconciliation." Bush Senior, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have helped paved the way, and the U.S. and Vietnam have already concluded their bilateral WTO agreements. Now Congress is under pressure to grant PNTR, and whether the U.S. will take a principled stand or repeat a huge mistake is in the hands of the legislators.

And it's in your hands. The legislators, after all, answer to you.

[[I have two action options for you to choose from, but please act without delay.

The first option is to contact your own senators and representatives in Congress.

To find a representative in the House:

To find a senator:

The second option is to donate to the Vietnam Human Rights Network. They have a campaign raising money to place an open letter ad to Congress in USA Today. Checks payable to "VNHRN" can be sent to Vietnam Human Rights Network, 14550 Magnolia Street, Suite 203, Westminster, CA 92683. Organizations and groups are also encouraged to join this campaign.

One way or the other, be sure to let Congress know what you think, and pass on the news to people you know. You can also pass on the link to this video about persecution by the Vietnamese government, produced by the Montagnard Foundation:
Now I leave you with a list of some of the very powerful and influential members of the corporate lobby behind this unwise, unethical, shameful trade deal with Vietnam's Communist Party, and a list of Congress members who have sponsored the bills supporting PNTR for Vietnam. I encourage you to protest to those businesses, organizations, and Congress members and let them know how you stand on this issue.]]

If PNTR is granted for Vietnam, it will be a grave setback for human rights and democracy efforts. Congress has heard from the corporate lobby. Now let it hear from you! Write your legislators today.
[[Again, the links to contact Congress:


Protest to the Corporate Co-Chairs of the U.S.-Vietnam WTO Coalition:

2. AES Corp
3. American International Group
4. Amway Corporation
5. Anheuser-Busch
6. The Boeing Company
7. Cargill
8. Citigroup
9. Diageo
10. FedEx Express
11. Ford Motor Company
12. General Electric Company
13. JC Penney
14. Liberty Mutual Group
15. Merck
16. New York Life International
17. Nike
18. Procter & Gamble
19. Target
20. Time Warner
21. UPS

Protest to the U.S. Senators who introduced the Vietnam PNTR bill in the Senate:

1. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
2. Gordon Smith (R-Oregon)
3. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
4. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
5. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)
6. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)
7. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska
8. Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Protest to the U.S. Representatives who co-sponsored the Vietnam PNTR bill in the House:

1. Biggert, Judy (IL)
2. Blumenauer, Earl (OR)
3. Boswell, Leonard L. (IA)
4. Brady, Kevin (TX)
5. Cardoza, Dennis A. (CA)
6. Case, Ed (HI)
7. Cramer, Robert E. (Bud), Jr. (AL)
8. Crowley, Joseph (NY)
9. Cuellar, Henry (TX)
10. Davis, Artur (AL)
11. Dicks, Norman D. (WA)
12. Dreier, David (CA)
13. Emanuel, Rahm (IL)
14. Eshoo, Anna G. (CA)
15. Evans, Lane (IL)
16. Gilchrest, Wayne T. (MD)
17. Herger, Wally (CA)
18. Hinojosa, Ruben (TX)
19. Hooley, Darlene (OR)
20. Jefferson, William J. (LA)
21. Johnson, Eddie Bernice (TX)
22. Johnson, Nancy L. (CT)
23. Kind, Ron (WI)
24. Kline, John (MN)
25. Kolbe, Jim (AZ)
26. Leach, James A. (IA)
27. Lewis, Ron (KY)
28. Maloney, Carolyn B. (NY)
29. Matheson, Jim (UT)
30. McCrery, Jim (LA)
31. McDermott, Jim (WA)
32. Meeks, Gregory W. (NY)
33. Moran, James P. (VA)
34. Ramstad, Jim (MN)
35. Ryan, Paul (WI)
36. Serrano, Jose E. (NY)
37. Skelton, Ike (MO)
38. Smith, Adam (WA)
39. Tauscher, Ellen O. (CA)
40. Thompson, Mike (CA)
41. Weller, Jerry (IL)

Curry Kenworthy is executive director of the China Support Network. Begun as the American response group in 1989, CSN represents those who are "on the side" of the students in Tiananmen Square - standing for democratic reform, human rights, and freedom in China. For dissident news, to support a stronger China policy, or get more information, see

© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR