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Vietnamese President Satisfied With President Bush Meeting

Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet says he is satisfied with his meeting Friday with President Bush at the White House, where the two leaders discussed human rights and economic ties. In his comments Sunday in an interview broadcast on CNN's Late Edition program he also defended Vietnam's human rights record. VOA's Stephanie Ho reports.

President Triet said he and President Bush had what he called a "direct and open exchange of views" on human rights. He spoke in an interview with CNN's Late Edition program.

"I think that the United States and Vietnam have different histories, have different legal systems, and that is why it is natural that we have certain different perceptions on different things," said Nguyen Minh Triet.

Mr. Triet added that although the issue was discussed, both sides agreed not to publicly divulge whether the U.S. side raised specific human rights cases to the Vietnamese side.

One of the most notorious cases involves Catholic priest, Nguyen Van Ly, who was jailed earlier this year for eight years on charges of disseminating information to undermine the state.

Pictures of the dissident, with a guard physically muzzling him at his trial, were prominently displayed as Vietnamese-Americans demonstrated against the Vietnamese president outside the White House gate Friday.

President Triet said the dissident priest was arrested for violating the law, not for religious reasons. In reference to the picture of Ly being muzzled, he went on to say that a guard acted on his own volition when he tried to prevent Ly from uttering what the Vietnamese leader described as "violent and bad words."

"I can assure you that covering somebody's mouth like that is not good," he said. "We would take a good measure in order to take care of this matter. And this is a mistake made by staff right there. It is not the government's policy of doing such a thing."

At the same time, many critics accuse Hanoi of engaging in what has been described as the worst crackdown against dissent in decades.

On Thursday, Mr. Triet faced questions about his government's human-rights record in a meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. At a news conference nearby, activists publicly read out a letter Vietnamese dissidents signed and addressed to President Bush, urging him to keep up human rights pressure on Hanoi.

"For too long, Vietnam has been an authoritarian state, that denies freedom and systematically tramples on basic human rights," said the letter in part.

Meanwhile, the country continues to maintain its pace as one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

In Singapore Sunday, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung told a regional economic forum that his country posted 8.2 percent growth last year, and is on track to meet an economic growth target of eight to 10 percent annually, through 2015.

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