Blog Action Day 2013– We Must Not Ignore Human Rights in Vietnam

Today is Blog Action Day, and here in Bloomington, Indiana, it’s job-hunting season. There are interviews to go to, applications to fill out, and big picture questions to ask. Amid the flutter of freshly pressed suits, papers, and grade-point-averages, the most daunting uncertainty that most of us students face is where exactly we will be in six months. While yes, this is a daunting reality that no one ever is fully prepared to face, thankfully, we don’t have to worry about our freedom to choose what to pursue in life or how to pursue it.

The same cannot always be said for some Vietnamese students.

Many Vietnamese university students and myself share several common attributes—an academic field of interest, an uneven cash flow, confusing relationships, and never being fully caught up on sleep. What happens after graduation, however, could be markedly different.

Some of my Vietnamese friends will have to work for causes and people they don’t believe in in order to support their future families, or perhaps even to stay out of jail. Some will avoid participating much in public life altogether. Some will have to watch loved ones, neighbors, colleagues, one by one be intimidated, questioned, leave, or maybe disappear. And some will join in the movement of bloggers, entrepreneurs, journalists, scholars, military officials, moms, grandpas, artists, musicians, and other activists that is making its way into international headlines.

Freedom of expression is a human right, and this is what is at stake in Vietnam right now.

The peaceful movement against the oppressive Vietnamese state has led to 46 arrests this year. The Vietnamese government recently handed down a 30-month sentence for “tax evasion” to well-known blogger Le Quoc Quan. Additionally, students Nguyen Kha and Phuong  Uyen were arrested earlier this year after handing out informational pamphlets. Uyen was released, but Kha is still in prison. Even as recently as last week, 12 activists who had been abroad for training were detained and questioned at the airport upon their re-arrival. These kinds of human rights violations will continue if Vietnam’s absolute authority is left unchallenged.

Much will happen in these coming six months—students will order caps and gowns, gear up for graduation, and get a rejection letter or two along the way. I will most likely move away, start over, and keep growing up. For some of my Vietnamese friends, moving away or starting over will be out of the question. All they’ll be able to do is keep growing up, waiting to inherit a country where human rights are overlooked and overshadowed by economic gains.

There, they will be watching, waiting, and worrying about being completely forgotten by political negotiations over trade, resource battles, and a world that decides which rights are important enough to matter or not.

I want the US to make human rights a mandatory part of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.

I want to see Le Quoc Quan and his accountant, Nguyen Kha, Nguyen Tien Trung, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, and all imprisoned, peaceful activists, free before their next birthdays.

I want to see my Vietnamese friends graduate with more opportunities than those who have come before them.

Freedom of expression is a human right, and this is what is at stake in Vietnam and everywhere else in the world—a world with few opinions covering up many vital voices.

To take action for Nguyen Tien Trung–

To take action for Le Quoc Quan–