The Rights of Man


To the Editors of The Crimson:

Bill Carter wonders why I did not express my indignation about the fire-bomb attack against Ngo Vinh, Long (Crimson 8 May). Unlike Carter, I did not witness the incident. I did not learn of it until after I had mailed my letter to the Crimson. The letter therefore referred specifically and exclusively to the Crimson report on the Vietnam panel in which both Ngo Vinh Long and I took part.

I have stated publicly and privately (and to Carter as well) that I wholeheartedly condemn all forms of terrorism. I have further argued that, if my father's death of slow starvation in a Vietnamese reeducation camp is to have been at all worthwhile. I hope it has served the cause of free speech and human rights through out the world, including Vietnam. These rights belong to Ngo Vinh Long as well as to every other human being.

I find it most interesting that Carter did not address himself to the violations of human rights I detailed in my letter. Since writing it, I have learned that Long's attacker had been in a reeducation camp where he had been atrociously tortured. On 6 May, I had the occasion to meet members of a high-level Vietnamese delegation headed by Phan Anh, the head of the Legal Commission of the Naitonal Assembly. I brought up the case of my father's arrest for advocating the observance of human rights in Vietnam, and his subsequent death of starvation. One member of the delegation wished to let me know that he "admired my father very much" and was "very sad that he had died." However, he wished to inform me that rumors that my father had died of starvation were a pack of lies, it had been a mere natural illness. He did not take up my offer to read to him my mother's letters written over two and a half years. Must I believe she lied to me?

At the panel, I took exception to Long's description of people who were, or had been held in reeducation camps. Unlike Long's brother, my father never belonged to South Vietnam's security forces, nor was he ever any kind of "war criminal." Long's attempts to explain away the continued incarceration of vast numbers of Vietnamese rival those I witnessed on 6 May. It was explained that camps' inmates could not be released in 1979 because of the war with China, and this year because there were not enough trains!

So let us put things in perspective. I deplore any attempt to deprive others of their rights to freedom of expression. I am glad that Long was unhurt, and that he is alive and well in the U.S. But nothing will bring my father back to life: he has been silenced forever. Will Bill Carter and Hgo Vinh Long join me in deploring and mourning his death? Will they also express concern at the possibility that all those who are still in reeducation camps may face the same grim fate as my father? Hue Tam Ho Tal   Assistant Professor in   Sino-Vietnamese History