Presentation of 2009 Vietnam Human Rights Awards in Washington DC
Washington DC – 12/10/2009. The 2009 Vietnam Human Rights Award presentation ceremony was solemnly held in conjunction with the commemoration of the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Washington Court Hotel in Washington DC on December 10, 2009. The event attracted over a hundred Vietnamese activists from the local community and other areas as far as California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, France and Japan.
The award was presented in absentia to Writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and Pastor Nguyen cong Chinh. Writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy’s daughter, Do Thuy Tien, coming from France, received the award for her mother from Dr Nguyen Ba Tung. In her replying speech, Ms Do Thuy Tien expressed her gratitude to the VHRN, and announced her parents’ intention of donating the award money to help ten other human rights activists in Vietnam. Venerable Thích Tâm Thọ received the award for Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh from Prof. Nguyen Thanh Trang.
Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, 43, is Deputy Head of the Mennonite Church in Viet Nam and Chair of the Vietnam People’s Christian Evangelical Fellowship. He has lived with the ethnic community in the Central highlands since he was 14, and has stood up for their right to attend religious services in their churches. He has experienced 298 forced interrogations by the police, 19 brutal beatings, 86 expulsions from his local residence, four murder attempts and six detentions. His house is under permanent police surveillance.
Writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, 49, is a teacher and writer, having published 15 books in Vietnam and six overseas. She has continuously and courageously voiced her opposition to the Vietnamese Communist regime and fought for the victims of injustice, denouncing violations of basic human rights. As a result of her reports, Ms Thuy has for years been harassed and humiliated. In April of 2007, she was arrested for “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic State.” In a closed trial, the Hanoi’s People’s Court sentenced her to nine months and ten days in prison.
Ms. Thuy was released in January 2008, but continued to be harassed and threatened by the authorities, particularly after publishing two more books overseas, and defending in Thai Ha and Hung Yen, victims whose houses had been appropriated by the government. As recently as October of this year, undercover police ruthlessly attacked her and her husband at their house, then arrested her for allegedly assaulting the police.
Sen. Sam Brownback, Rep. Ed Royce, Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez were present at the award ceremony to show their support. Also in attendance were Dr. Sophie Richardson, Advocacy Director of the Human Rights Watch, and Dr. Scott Flipse, Senior Advisor of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. They urged Vietnamese community members to continue working together and with the Congress to bring change to Vietnam.
Within its working agenda in Washington DC, the VHRN also teamed up with seven other Vietnamese organizations to campaign for the Vietnam Human Rights Act (S. 1159) introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer last May. They visited eight senatorial offices and met with senators and their staff to explain the necessity of the bill and urged the senators to support it.