W♥M #124 Excerpt
In Vietnam, Việt Khang wrote and recorded two protest songs, “Việt Nam Tôi Đâu?” (Where is My Vietnam?) and “Anh Là Ai?” (Who Are You?). After posting the songs online, Vietnamese police arrested Việt Khang.
Most of the update is from the excellent coverage from vanganh.info, which I'll summarize for those who can't read Vietnamese: About 700 people (mostly Vietnamese, some Hmong, some Americans) gathered in Washington DC on Saturday 3/4/2012 to prep their meeting with the White House for Tuesday, today, March 6th.
As expected, a lot of Washingtonians was at the scene, but I was surprised to hear people from all over (Chicagoans, Californians, Minnesotans, Philadelphians) traveling out to attend and support the Free Viet Khang moment.
The event is headed by Truc Ho, from SBTN (Saigon Broadcasting Television Network), and based on the pictures and reports, everything looks well organized.
The campaign is hoping to bring light to Vietnam's terrible human rights policy (or lack thereof), and asks President Barack Obama to stop trades with countries who disrespect those rights.
Currently the number of petition signatures is more than 130,000. Everyone is happy about the coverage and support.
Los Angeles' CBS live coverage of SBTN and Viet Khang below:
UPDATE 3/6/2012, details mostly from vanganh.info. I will summarize for those non-Vietnamese readers.
White House representatives Thomas Debass (Deputy Special Representative), Eric Barboriak (Deputy Director in the Office of Mainland Southeast Asia Affairs) and Michael Posner (Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor) were there to receive the 165 Vietnamese community representives.
Two issues were raised: 1) Vietnam must re-examine their errors of imprisoning political and religious citizens and 2) illegal land confiscation by the government of Vietnam.
Hopefully there will be a resolve soon and we'll finally see Viet Khang freed. At the rate of signatures received, they are predicting that it will reach over 150,000 by March 8th.
UPDATE 3/7/2012: BBC Vietnamese has an article on this historic event. The article mention that this is the first time that more than 200 Vietnamese have been inside the White House. Three Vietnamese youths were asked to speak on behalf of the Vietnamese community: Cindy Đinh from Texas Vietnamese Rights Council, Billy Le from the Vietnamese General Association of California, and singer Quốc Khanh. There was a Q&A session, which about 20 questions were asked but because of repeated questions, only half were answered.
UPDATE 3/7/2012: Congresswoman Susan Davis via youtube to the House of Congress:
As I'm sure you are aware, this month, hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens—140,000 and counting -- have signed a petition to the White House.
The petition calls on the Administration to stop expanding trade with Vietnam at the expense of human rights.
I know it's hard to imagine for folks standing in this room... but in Vietnam, the mere act of composing songs can be sufficient grounds for the Communist government to put someone in jail.
In fact, that's exactly what happened to Viet Khang -- a Vietnamese citizen who was arrested and is currently being detained for merely composing and singing two protest songs about his own country.
I urge my colleagues to join me in urging the president to put freedom and human rights first.
UPDATE 3/8/2012: Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) spoke with the Vietnamese American communities regarding Stop Expanding Trade With Vietnam At The Expense Of Human Rights Petition, via youtube:
Two: Let's pass the Vietnam Human Rights Act.
Three: Let's send a strong message to the communist government of Vietnam that when you arrest artists, like Viet Khang, who have spoken out to say one thing: "Who Are You?" Who are you, communist government? Who are you? For people are defending their own so sovereignty, of people are defending their own freedom. And what does it say when the government is trying to suppress the culture of the arts and the culture of its people.
Update 03/11/2012: With the even more jailing of two Catholics for anti-government propaganda, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a bill to restrict assistance to Vietnam, unless the communist nation improves its record on human rights.
UPDATE 3/12/2012: A couple of new "Anh La Ai" covers came on youtube: Jimmy Pham's multi-camera and Anthony Phan's piano version. The most important video that surfaced is SBTN's Truc Ho's message that broadcasted on 3/9/2012.
I'll translate the more important portion: Truc Ho talked about the rally at Washington DC, pointing out that a 93 year old man showed up as well as people in poor health, handicap individuals came all the way from Houston to attend. He thanked everyone who showed up, including numerous musicians (none of whom I know).
Along with Vo Thanh Nhan, they talked about STBN donated/spent over $100k to house, feed, and transportations on the event. Unforeseeable expenses from hospital, sending people home early, and rental of extra buses because the turnout was larger than they expected, all added to the grand total.
In his later speech, Ho talked about how many other people were arrested, but Viet Khang stood out as the main focus. In order to continue to fight for freedom in Vietnam, Ho said it will take a lot of money (there is a long speech about how he never gave a thought about money because he was doing what he loved).
He ended saying how every one count. All the little things we say will add up to a larger voice. They promise to have one or two main contact you can reach to SBTN directly regarding the Vietnam cause.
UPDATE 03/15/12: I thought this was cool, but this video on YouTube shows Crystal Meth and Pretty Lights talking about Viet Khang. We previously covered Pretty Lights here .