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Vietnam pro-democracy group to rally against oppression

ICC Note: In an effort to free Father Nguyen Van Ly, who was recently arrested, the Vietnam Reform Party has organized rallies all over the world on his behalf.

3/2/07 Vietnam (Vietnam Reform Party) The Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party) said it would hold peaceful public rallies until March 11 in Paris, Oslo, Canberra, Hamburg, Adelaide, San Francisco, Sacramento, Orange County, Toronto, Tokyo and Washington.

Viet Tan said Vietnam had launched a crackdown on dissidents following a series of diplomatic successes including normalising US trade ties and joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The party, which is banned in Vietnam , highlighted recent moves against Catholic dissident priest Nguyen Van Ly, his fellow activists based in the central city of Hue , and several imprisoned pro-democracy activists.

Vietnam said this week that police in Hue had launched legal proceedings against Father Ly, 59, for acting against the state.

The moves followed a landmark January 25 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Vietnam ’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in the Vatican . A delegation from the Holy See is set to spend a week in Vietnam from next Monday.

Police raided Ly’s home and seized six computers, telephones, printers, 136 mobile phone cards and more than 200 kilogrammes (530 pounds) of documents. Ly was moved to Ben Cui parish, 20 kilometres outside Hue .

Ly has spent some 14 years in jail for his activism — including writing a protest letter about Vietnam in 2001 to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom — and was most recently freed in an amnesty two years ago.

Since then he had colluded with “political opportunists and reactionaries at home and abroad in order to oppose the state and deny the leading role of the Communist Party of Vietnam,” said the state-run Vietnam News Agency.

Vietnam expert Carl Thayer of Australia ’s National Defense University said the timing of the move against Ly was no coincidence, coming after Vietnam ’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November and WTO entry in January.

“They could not do it at the end of last year, with the world attention on Vietnam ,” Thayer said. “Now nobody is going to throw Vietnam out of the WTO.

“With APEC and WTO, Vietnam had made concessions. Now that it’s over, the question is how to go back to business as usual”.

He added that “when dissidents in Vietnam make connections overseas and plan things, the police will crack down on them at the moment of their choosing.”