Ladies and Gentlemen:

I solemnly salute all of you gathering there on Capitol Hill, home of the U.S. Congress in Washington DC, to commemorate Vietnam Human Rights Day this year. I regret that my condition does not allow me to be there with you in person.

This year, the commemoration takes on a special meaning because our country is undergoing significant changes. The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) congress in April has shown its inability to introduce appropriate development policies, or choose competent personnel, to address the urgent challenges our country is facing. For example, the shortcomings of an obsolete political system; rampant corruption on every level of the bureaucracy; a widening gap between rich and poor, between rural areas and urban areas; farmers reclaiming confiscated land, worker strikes for higher wages, better working conditions, and independent unions, drug abuse, trafficking of children and women, etc. Worst of all, health care and education have been neglected due to excessive budgets for public security and the military.

All of those challenges, in additional to the inefficient, half-baked measures of the domestic market economy while foreign trade has expanded, have brought the deficiencies of the Vietnamese society to a critical stage. There must be fundamental changes to address these social problems as soon as possible.

Once Vietnam joins the World Trade Organization (WTO), Vietnam’s economy will have to be transformed into a genuine market economy through reforming the state-owned sector while liberating the private sector. We must coordinate the national economic interests with the people’s demand for democracy and human rights. We must combine the effects of the Vietnam-U.S. Bilateral Trade Agreement and the WTO to completely privatize state-owned enterprises.

The Vietnamese people have been disappointed with the Vietnamese Communist Party’s congress for its anemic personnel and lack of a vision for Vietnam’s future. The people have recognized that people power will determine the process of democracy in Vietnam, not the VCP politburo.

Hardship is certain, sacrifice unavoidable, but we must make a firm commitment.

The Nation wholly trusts that the overseas Vietnamese compatriots, a strong force with abundant capitals: financial means, human resources, technical knowledge, management skills, and experience with democratic practices, will contribute their utmost in the campaign to bring freedom to the Vietnamese people.

With heartfelt congratulations, I remain.

On behalf of the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam

Nguyen Dan Que, MD.

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