Dear ASEAN friends, Please reply to this email stating "[organization name] endorses this statement" and we will add you the list of endorsers. As many of you know, the ACSC/APF will take place next week in Kuala Lumpur. Independent Vietnamese CSOs, excluded from our own national process for many years, have fought hard to have a voice in the 2015 ACSC/APF. Unfortunately, our full participation is still impossible because of the Vietnamese government.
Many genuine civil society organizers are surveilled, harassed, monitored, intimidated, threatened, attacked, detained, jailed, and generally restricted in our movement. An additional obstacle is the monopolization of ACSC/APF space by Vietnam's GONGOs, who constantly fight to erase and silence our inputs, voices, issues and concerns from the conversation.
Attached and pasted below is a statement composed by a collection of 22 independent CSOs from Vietnam. We have readily and full-heartedly endorsed and supported this year's joint statement. Conversely, the GONGOs continue their disingenuous behavior by claiming to represent civil society, purposely misleading everyone about the character of the Vietnam national process, and failing to support, distribute or show any signs of solidarity with this year's joint statement. This letter calls for your support and solidarity with Vietnam's real CSO's, who are outnumbered and outmatched in resources by our GONGO counterparts.
Please review this letter and offer your endorsement if you see fit.
Huynh Thuc Vy
A Brief Statement by Genuine Vietnamese Civil Society Organizations
Vietnam, April 3, 2015
This statement is jointly issued by the following organizations including those marginalized from the so-called “Vietnamese national process for ACSC/APF 2015”:
I. First of all, we recognize the important and indispensible role of ASEAN independent civil society organizations (CSOs) in promoting prosperity, stability, and democratization for every ASEAN member nation and for all the people of ASEAN.
We also regard dictatorial regimes and their “government-organized non-governmental organizations” (GONGOs) are a serious hindrance to justice, to democratic processes, and to the development and survival of genuine civil society.
II. Therefore, representing independent Vietnamese civil society organizations, we respectfully ask ASEAN civil society organizations to support us in:
1. Urging the Vietnamese Government to release immediately and unconditionally all prisoners of conscience.
2. Urging the Vietnamese Government to stop persecution and arbitrary arrests of dissidents, human rights defenders, and unregistered religious groups.
3. Demanding that the Vietnamese Government implement a transparent and verifiable process to repeal articles of the Penal Code that violate internationally recognized human rights, such as the criminal laws against “injuring the national unity,” “abusing democratic freedoms”, and “propaganda against the state.”
4. Demanding that the Vietnamese Government reform the laws to comply with international standards regarding human rights, social justice, and non-discrimination.
5. Urging the Vietnamese Government to change the laws and social, administrative, and political institutions to facilitate the formation and activities of all independent civil society organizations.
6. Demanding that the Vietnamese Government immediately stop its smear campaigns in the news media and cyber-attacks against dissidents, bloggers, prisoners of conscience, and human right activists.
III. We have been victims of Vietnamese communist dictatorship for a long time.
Vietnamese dissidents and human rights defenders are frequently put under surveillance, harassed, persecuted and even imprisoned for their peaceful work. Human rights and dignity, and even the lives of Vietnamese men and women, are trampled on by police and security forces while GONGOs look the other way. Because the government-sponsored NGOs run by the Vietnamese Fatherland Front (VCP's instrument) continue supporting the authorities to oppose human rights, civil liberties, and the democratization of Vietnam.
IV. And now we believe that it is now time for genuine NGOs to build strong international connections to protect ourselves and to empower the underprivileged and marginalized people in Vietnam.
We do completely endorse the 2015 ACSC/APF Joint Statement. But we do not endorse the ACSC/APF official nominations deriving from the Vietnamese national process. We also have no alternate nominations. Independent CSOs hope that our position will be considered similar to the case of Cambodia where there are 2 processes for both independent CSOs and GONGOs.
Our seasoned activists are banned from travel abroad, so it is impossible for us to send our representatives to join the APF 2015 in Malaysia.
Because Vietnamese authorities maintain a hostile attitude and carry out repressive actions against the independent CSOs, we do not want to deal with them until they show some goodwill. So we will not have any interface with the government in the coming conference. We believe it cannot be a genuine interface between civil society and the government if both representatives of GONGOs and the government work for the Vietnamese Communist Party.
We also believe that the good reputation ASEAN CSOs have earned in defending human rights, achieving better living conditions for their people, and promoting education, social justice, and democracy will be undermined if ACSC/APF is occupied by GONGOs from member countries, especially from Vietnam.
Finally, therefore, we call for more collaboration among genuine ASEAN CSOs – and especially with genuine CSOs in Vietnam and other countries whose governments actively suppress civil society -- for a more people-centered, democratic, and prosperous ASEAN community.
The Undersigned Organizations:
1) Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR), coordinated by Huynh Thuc Vy;
2) Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, coordinated by Nguyen Bac Truyen;
3) Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, coordinated by Pham Ba Hai;
4) Con Dau Parishioners Association, coordinated by Lucia Phan;
5) Religious and Ethnic Minority Defenders, coordinated by Huynh Trong Hieu;
6) Brotherhood for Democracy, coordinated by Nguyen Van Dai;
7) Association of Bau Bi Tuong Than, coordinated by Le Thi Cong Nhan.
8) Cao Dai Church, Human Livelihood Sect
9) Civil Society Forum
10) Vietnam-America Evangelical Lutheran Community Church
11) Christian Mennonite Church
12) Hoa Hao Buddhists Church, Purity
13) Association to Protect Freedom of Religion
14) Evangelical Protestant Chuong Bo Church
15) Delegation of Vietnamese United Buddhists Church
16) Nguyen Kim Dien Priests Group
17) Bloc 8406
18) Movement of Vietnam Path
19) Bauxite Vietnam
20) Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam
21) Chamber of Justice and Peace, Vietnamese Redemptorist Congregation.
1) Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam, coordinated by Vu Quoc Dung;
2) Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA), coordinated by Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang;
3) BPSOS International Initiatives, coordinated by Atty. Gia Hartman;
4) People Serving People Foundation.
5) Canadian Youth for Human Rights in Vietnam