“On Oct. 10, police in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa arrested a popular blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, who writes under the pen name Mother Mushroom. She is co-founder of a network of independent bloggers who often find themselves in the crosshairs of a regime that strictly controls the news media and does not tolerate dissent. Radio Free Asia quoted the network as protesting that Quynh is an “activist who has advocated for human rights, improved living conditions for people, and sovereignty for many years.”
Most recently, Quynh had been blogging extensively about a chemical spill in April that devastated marine life and left fishermen and tourism industry workers jobless in four provinces. In June, a Taiwanese-owned company acknowledged it was responsible for the pollution and pledged to clean it up, but the spill has provoked protests by Vietnamese who criticize the government for remaining silent about the cause of the spill at the outset and then failing to provide information about health and environmental dangers. Many of the protests were mobilized on Facebook.”
Nguyen Ngoc Bich, who directed the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia, dies at 78
Nguyen Ngoc Bich, who fled Vietnam during the fall of Vietnam, looks through an old album of pictures and Vietnamese government passes with his picture on them. (Frank Johnston/The Washington Post)
By Bart Barnes April 11, 2016
“Nguyen Ngoc Bich, a Vietnamese emigre who directed the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia, translated and wrote about Vietnamese poets, and taught Vietnamese culture and literature, died March 2. He was 78.He died of a heart attack while on a flight from Washington to Manila, where he was scheduled to participate in a conference, said a brother-in-law, John Schwankhaus.
Mr. Bich fled Vietnam after the 1975 fall of Saigon to the Communists. In the period immediately before the fall, he was director general of the Vietnam Press Agency and a special envoy of South Vietnam President Nguyen Van Thieu to the U.S. Congress in a last-ditch campaign for more war aid in the face of the Viet Cong’s last offensive.
“HONG KONG — The authorities in Vietnam said on Tuesday that they had arrested a popular blogger who has criticized the country’s one-party government over politically delicate topics, including a dump of toxic chemicals that devastated fishing communities and set off protests.The blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, was detained on Monday in Khanh Hoa, a south-central province. She was accused on Tuesday of distorting the truth and spreading propaganda against the state, according to the Vietnamese news media. The charges carry a maximum prison term of 12 years. No trial date was given.
Ms. Quynh, who writes under the pen name Mother Mushroom, is a co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, one of the few independent writers’ associations in Vietnam. The country’s news media and publishing industry are heavily controlled by the governing Communist Party, and writers who stray outside the system and challenge the party are frequently imprisoned under vague national security laws.Pham Doan Trang, a dissident writer in Hanoi and a member of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, said that the authorities might have arrested Ms. Quynh to intimidate younger bloggers who have been inspired by her online crusades — via Facebook and independent blogs — against corruption, social injustice and police brutality. But Ms. Trang predicted that the tactic would fail.“She has a lot of supporters,” Ms. Trang said of Ms. Quynh in an interview via Facebook Messenger on Tuesday. “Many of them will replace her or follow in her path.” ”
“Many people have characterized my novel, “The Sympathizer,” as an immigrant story, and me as an immigrant. No. My novel is a war story and I am not an immigrant. I am a refugee who, like many others, has never ceased being a refugee in some corner of my mind.Immigrants are more reassuring than refugees because there is an endpoint to their story; however they arrive, whether they are documented or not, their desires for a new life can be absorbed into the American dream or into the European narrative of civilization.
By contrast, refugees are the zombies of the world, the undead who rise from dying states to march or swim toward our borders in endless waves. An estimated 60 million such stateless people exist, 1 in every 122 people alive today. If they formed their own country, it would be the world’s 24th largest — bigger than South Africa, Spain, Iraq or Canada”
“LOS ANGELES — THURSDAY, the last day of April, is the 40th anniversary of the end of my war. Americans call it the Vietnam War, and the victorious Vietnamese call it the American War. In fact, both of these names are misnomers, since the war was also fought, to great devastation, in Laos and Cambodia, a fact that Americans and Vietnamese would both rather forget.
In any case, for anyone who has lived through a war, that war needs no name. It is always and only “the war,” which is what my family and I call it. Anniversaries are the time for war stories to be told, and the stories of my family and other refugees are war stories, too. This is important, for when Americans think of war, they tend to think of men fighting “over there.” The tendency to separate war stories from immigrant stories means that most Americans don’t understand how many of the immigrants and refugees in the United States have fled from wars — many of which this country has had a hand in.
Although my family and other refugees brought our war stories with us to America, they remain largely unheard and unread, except by people like us. Compared with many of the four million Vietnamese in the diaspora, my family has been lucky. None of my relatives can be counted among the three million who died during the war, or the hundreds of thousands who disappeared at sea trying to escape by boat. But our experiences in coming to America were difficult.”
“There’s a great comic interlude in Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel “The Sympathizer” when the unnamed narrator, a Vietnamese Army captain exiled in Los Angeles, critiques the screenplay of a gung-ho Hollywood movie about America’s heroism in the Vietnam War.
By this time, a lot of things have already happened. Saigon has fallen. Chaos has closed in. The captain has secured the bloody, terrifying extraction of his boss, a pro-American general, on one of the last flights out (were there any other kind of flights in Saigon in 1975?). Working as an aide and sometime hit man for the general, now a California liquor-store owner, the captain applies himself to his real job: spying on the general, and other members of the Vietnamese diaspora, for the Communists who seized power back home.”
“LOS ANGELES — Viet Thanh Nguyen has been wrestling with “Apocalypse Now” for most of his life — as a boy, a college student, a scholar, a writer of fiction. The movie was initially a source of pain, then a puzzle to be understood, and finally an inspiration for his novel about a Vietnamese spy, “The Sympathizer.”
Even now, after a rapturous reception for the novel, his first, that included the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Mr. Nguyen’s feelings about Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 war epic are still somewhat raw.“‘Apocalypse Now’ is an important work of art,” Mr. Nguyen, 45, said in an interview at his house here. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to bow down before it. I’m going to fight with it because it fought with me.””
“Los Angeles — EVEN today, Americans argue over the Vietnam War: what was done, what mistakes were made, and what were the lasting effects on American power.This sad history returns because of Bob Kerrey’s appointment as chairman of the American-sponsored Fulbright University Vietnam, the country’s first private university. That appointment has also prompted the Vietnamese to debate how former enemies can forgive and reconcile.What is not in dispute is that in 1969 a team of Navy SEALs, under a young Lieutenant Kerrey’s command, killed 20 unarmed Vietnamese civilians, including women and children, in the village of Thanh Phong. Mr. Kerrey, who later became a senator, a governor, a presidential candidate and a university president, acknowledged his role in the atrocity in his 2002 memoir, “When I Was a Young Man.”Those in the United States and Vietnam who favor Mr. Kerrey’s appointment see it as an act of reconciliation: He has confessed, he deserves to be forgiven because of his efforts to aid Vietnam, and his unique and terrible history makes him a potent symbol for how both countries need to move on from their common war.I disagree. He is the wrong man for the job and regarding him as a symbol of peace is a failure of moral imagination.”
“As I long time Vietnam resident (23 years) I cannot agree with Bob Kerrey’s appointment to the Fulbright University. It is a divisive issue here and I am at a loss to understand the lack of sensitivity in this appointment.
I understand Mr. Kerrey has been supporting fundraising for this project for a number of years. A role he can continue to undertake, but not full-time in Vietnam.
I can understand that Mr. Kerrey is trying to atone for past deeds, but his past actions will always be in the background during his tenure at Fulbright which will make his task more difficult and perhaps less effective.
I see the major benefit of the Fulbright as not just delivering “free-market values” to Vietnam but also being an open education model that will slowly force the State higher education institutions to reform and adopt teaching methods that will produce graduates with enhanced innovative thinking capabilities.
I do not agree with Mr. Nguyen regarding a memorial to the Thanh Phong victims at the Fulbright as this idea is directly related to Mr. Kerrey’s appointment. In my opinion, and if there is to be a memorial, the Fulbright should consider erecting a “generalized” memorial to all atrocity victims from this period so that the Fulbright stands as a symbol of reconciliation.
Similarly, Mr. Nguyen’s scholarship proposal should not just focus on Thanh Phong, it should assist as many disadvantaged students as possible from all over the country.”
“HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — President Obama told a gathering of young Vietnamese on Wednesday that the country need not worry about losing its most talented people, but then he proceeded to describe conditions for emigration that fit Vietnam perfectly.“
The places that lose talent, it’s where there’s a lot of corruption,” Mr. Obama said in Ho Chi Minh City at a town-hall style meeting of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, a United States-sponsored mentoring program.Mr. Obama said that people despair of having to pay bribes to start businesses or do the things they want to do, so they leave.Vietnam is deeply corrupt, and development agencies and businesses say they must pay bribes to government officials for anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent of the cost of a project to get it completed.Another reason people leave their home countries is environmental issues, Mr. Obama added. “No job is so important that it’s O.K. if your children have asthma and they can’t breathe.
”Photo President Obama greeting the crowd after the gathering in Ho Chi Minh City. Credit Doug Mills The New York Times
The United States Embassy in Hanoi, the capital, recently installed air pollution monitors, and during Mr. Obama’s speech, the level of the most dangerous particles in Hanoi was 158, which is considered unhealthy. High pollution levels substantially increase the risk that children grow up with asthma and weakened lungs. Heavy pollution also increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes in adults.”
HANOI, Vietnam — President Obama won enthusiastic applause here on Tuesday with a supportive reference to Vietnam’s disputes with China, saying in a speech that “big nations should not bully smaller ones.” But several activists who had been scheduled to meet with him before the speech were prevented from doing so, underscoring the gulf with Hanoi on human rights.The White House had requested the meeting as a signal to Vietnam’s Communist government that the United States cares about human rights here. Mr. Obama spent more than his allotted time with the six Vietnamese civil society leaders who did attend the meeting at a JW Marriott hotel, but he said that several others had been prevented from coming.
“Vietnam has made remarkable strides, the economy is growing quickly, the Internet is booming, and there’s a growing confidence here,” Mr. Obama said when a group of reporters were briefly allowed into the meeting. “But as I indicated yesterday, there’s still areas of significant concerns in terms of areas of free speech, freedom of assembly, accountability with respect to government.”