To effect change in Vietnam’s human rights policies, the Vietnamese-American community must broaden the appeal of their message, writes Asia Sentinel’s Khanh Vu Duc

Using the White House’s own petitioning system, Vietnamese-Americans have caught the notice of the Obama government in what has been one of the most important achievements by the community to date.

Barack Obama

The Obama administration has started to take notice. Pic: AP.

This achievement was the success of a petition launched from the online “We the People” petitioning system developed by the White House as a means of giving minority communities a voice they cannot command through the mainstream media. The petition, which to date has received over 150,000 signatures, called for the Obama Administration to stop expanding trade with Vietnam at the expense of human rights.

Although the ultimate objective of this petition failed to be realized—immediate change was always suspect—participants have much to be proud of in establishing a meeting with members from the Administration.

More than enough signatures

Created on February 7, the petition garnered over 140,000 signatures in 30 days—more than the 25,000 minimum required for the White House to respond. News of the petition quickly spread within the Vietnamese-American community and spilled across the American border to overseas Vietnamese communities, aided in part by social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Unable to deny the success of the petition, the White House received delegates from the Vietnamese-American community to address their concerns in person.

It is not so difficult to imagine why the petition succeeded as it did.

The Vietnamese government has been active in suppressing and violating the human rights of its citizens. Freedom of speech, religion, and assembly are paid lip service but rarely permitted. The notion that democratic and human rights activists in Vietnam will receive a fair trial at the hands of their government is wishful thinking. Vietnamese-Americans are correct in their concern for what is happening.

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