Sunday, May 5, 2013

• When and where is going to a picnic in the park against the laws?



As a Vietnamese person living abroad, I often follow various events back in Viet Nam with keen interest, and with a somewhat diffrerent viewpoint. Today such an event occured in Viet Nam which made me think hard, especially when I compare it to similar events in the country where I am now redising.

For the last few days, Facebook was buzzing with the news that there would be Talk About Humans Rights Picnics held in 4 main cities, spreading from the North to the South, namely Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Nha Trang and Saigon (we refuse to call it Ho Chi Minh City... what a yucky name for such a magnificent city !) The aim was to encourage all Vietnamese people, young and old, and from all walks of life, to gather at the park, to meet new people, to make new friends, to discuss about various aspects of human's rights, to above all, to have fun !





Unfortunately, the Communist Government seemed to have a different idea of fun. Instead of encouraging its people to engage in such healthy and stimulating event, the Government sent out hundreds of policemen and guards, both in uniforms and in civil clothing, to try to prevent people from attending it. I was shocked and amazed at the various “low class” tactics that these government servants used against its own people, as reported by those who tried to attend the event as well as passer-bys. 

How ironic that where I live, the completely opposite happens. Here the Government tries so hard to organise such events and goes to great length to encourage its people to attend. The Government here would be ecstatic to see its people wanting to learn more about world wide issues like human's rights, citizen's rights, religious freedom.. as it improves the people' s knowledge and leads to a better civilisation.They would be much more concerned to see their people spending the weekends drinking or going to the casinos. A few weeks ago, there was an invitation from the Government for the people who were interested in human's rights to attend a public discussion about the situation in Syria. The event was broadcasted on national television with the whole country watching and many experts joining to make comments. 

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But today in Viet Nam, from as early as 7 o ' clock in the morning, droves of policemen arrived on their police cars at the sites where the picnics were to be held. They erected barbed wires and metal bars to prevent people from even just getting close to the place. They then paraded the area, harassing anyone who tried to take a picture and threatening to confiscate cameras and cell phones.

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At around 9:30 am, when the crowd started to gather and fliers about The World's Declaration of Human Rights were distributed by a few bloggers, the police sprung into action. They had already detained various bloggers and writers as soon as they left their houses earlier and forced them to have a picnic somewhere else, under the supervision of the police, of course ! Back at the main gathering points, the police was seen harassing people, threatening them with violence, snatching their cameras and cell phones to actually beating and making arrests. 

A witness upsettly reported that he saw 3 to 4 guards beating up a young student, forcing him against the side of a police car then kicking, kneeing and punching him in the face. The uniformed policemen actually formed a circle around the guards and the student, preventing people from jumping in to help the poor victim. The beating went on for more than 20 minutes. When concerned passer-bys enquired as to why he was beaten up so savagely, the police bluntly told lies that he was a drug seller then bundled him up into a sedan and sped off.

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Another student complained that as soon as he sat down on a bench with a group, trying to make friends and to start a conversation about human's rights, the police ordered a park cleaner to spray them with dirty, stinky water so that they had to flee. This happened to several people. A friend of mine who attended the event later told me that he himself was surrounded and threatened by 4 policemen. One of them raised his hand to punch him while the other tried to snatch his camera. Quick thinking, he screamed “ Robbers ! Help me ! Help me “. At that the police backed off and let him run away. 

That was not all, there were also reports that the police had already harrassed several well known bloggers like Me Nam, Thanh Nghien the day before... by guarding their place of residence 24/24, preventing them from leaving the house and disconnecting their cell phone service. Mrs Thuy Nga Tran, a mother with 2 young children aged 3 years and 5 months old, were last night ordered by police to leave the hotel where they were staying, forcing them to spend the night out on the street in the cold, just because they were on their way to attend the picnic this morning.

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Later in the day the police arrested blogger Hoang Vi Nguyen, just for distributing fliers printed with the Declaration of Human's Rights to the passer-bys. She and several others were bundled up into police cars and took away. No one knows where they are being held and what may have happened to them. 

Despite the massive effort by the police to sabotage the event, many people gathered to chat amongst themselves, to march around holding placards announcing that the ability to gather in crowds is their right and that the Communist Government should respect the people 's freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Many pictures and stories were posted on Facebook and other public media. The pictures that particular touched my heart were of two mothers, one supporting her daughter, blogger Thanh Nghiên, by having a picnic at home (they were prevented from leaving the house) and the other was at the park, kneeling down on the pavement to sign her name on a sheet that read “I protest against the government 's violation of our human's rights".

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People from free countries like myself may find it hard to comprehend why a Government need to use such measures to prevent its people from discussing a healthy and simple topic. But if one follows the news, one would know Viet Nam is one of the worst offenders of human's rights in the world. Recently, the Human's Rights Watch Committee recommended that Viet Nam be put back on the CPC (Countries of Particular Concern) list because of its brutal treatments of various religious sectors. Many bloggers simply writing about true events in Viet Nam were also jailed if what they wrote upset this Government.

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On the placards held by the attendees, there are several mentions of the words TU DO, which means freedom. Freedom is severely lacking in Viet Nam in its current regime, where the people tries their hardest to talk about it, and the Government tries its hardest to shut them up.

Freedom for Viet Nam !


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