International Youth Conference

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Trần Kiều NgọcOn behalf of the organising committee, I am greatly honoured to present to you the International Youth Conference entitled “Vietnam: Pathway to Humanity”, which will be held from the 7th to the 10th of September, 2017, at Fairmont Resort, Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia.

The conference will begin with the grand opening ceremony to be held at the Wesley Conference Centre on Thursday night, the 7th of September, 2017.
Each of the 3 days will have its own theme:
*    Day 1: Current status of freedom, democracy & human rights in Vietnam today
*    Day 2: Progress of various political/social movements within Vietnam & abroad
*    Day 3: Preparation and ideals for collective contribution towards real change

Each of the topics will be delivered by world renown pro-democracy activists / campaigners / speakers with extensive human rights experience in Vietnam and other countries. 

This conference is a great opportunity for all delegates to meet like-minded individuals and to share their aspirations & ideals in a fun and meaningful environment.

Our hope is that, after this conference, you will have a deeper understanding of the human rights situation in Vietnam. We also hope that your memories of the International Youth Conference will prove to be as indomitable as your spirit. Together we share an unshakeable commitment to the humanitarian path of our country, Vietnam.

Yours respectfully,
Teresa Trần Kiều Ngọc
Head of the Organising Committee



Lessons learnt: the road to humanity

Don’t give up. I believe in you. A person is a person no matter how small.” Dr Seuss

News on three consecutive terrorist attacks in London in the last two and a half months has caused great concern for people across the globe. There seems to be no safe place anywhere. Innocent people are the main target of cruel extremism.

Terrorism is one of the worst forms of human rights violations. It aims to cause maximum damage and instill fear into ordinary people to advance a political, religious or ideological goal. Through terrorist acts, millions of innocent lives are taken away, and needless to say there are serious risks to future public health and safety.

In places such as Vietnam, where Islamic extremism has not yet taken root, one would have thought how lucky the people of this country have been to not experience such atrocities. But there is a different kind of terrorism: a breed that is systematic and state-sanctioned. Ostensibly, it is under the name of Communism, and the illusion of peaceful social order. It has been brewing for many decades despite receiving little attention from the rest of the world. Until now, of course.

On 3rd of May this year, Mr Tan Huu Nguyen, 38 years of age, a member of an independent Buddhist sect named Hoa Hao, was found on the floor of a police interrogation room in Vinh Long. His head was virtually severed for what was supposed to be a suicide attempt after just one day in police custody. The police claimed that he used a letter opener to kill himself when they stepped out of the room but his family has disputed the report. His wife, brother and father do not believe that Mr Nguyen, a peace-loving and temperate man, had any reason to take his own life. Evidence at the scene and further police testimony pointed to the conclusion that Mr Nguyen had been subject to police violence, resulting in a horrific death.

In Australia, any unexpected or unnatural deaths would be subject to a Coroner’s investigation. Suicides, particularly for individuals under police custody would typically be thorough examined and reported by the Coroners’ Courts. Any attempts to conceal or destroy evidence, or any obstruction of justice, regardless of how powerful or influential the people involved are, would not be tolerated by the law.

In an official report to the Vietnamese Parliament in 2015, it was noted that between 2011 and 2014, 226 people died in remand by “suicide” or “health issues”. However, none of these deaths were formally investigated by an independent agency in Vietnam to determine the extent of policy culpability. Procedural fairness or natural justice has never been afforded to the victims or their families in the existing justice system.

I fear that the victim count of such atrocities and injustices is much higher.

The transparency and accountability in Vietnam’s political and social realms are stagnated.

A case like this in a liberal democracy could bring down a whole government.

In Vietnam, bringing down a government may not be impossible, but all state apparatus, including the parliament, judiciary and executive, as well as all media and other arms, are controlled by the one party state rule.

The fact of life is that no one is born a terrorist. Nobody is born programmed to hate. The environment shapes the individual.

I believe in humanity. I believe in you. I believe in people’s natural capacity for generosity. I understand human beings are not perfect. If God indeed created us, God must have done it in such a diverse way that no matter how small, we are still human; no matter how perfect, we are still imperfect.

Fortunately, we have the capacity to allow ourselves to grow into good people. But the first and probably most important step towards that path is to be fully mindful of the injustice that has existed long before we were born. Cultural and historical events that shape our world are ingrained; they are insidious. They develop over time, indeed over the course of human history. Whether we realise it or not, our hearts and minds are burdened with millennia of social conditioning.

We have already witnessed some of the worst forms of human cruelty throughout history, like the Holocaust or the Killing Fields. It is a lesson that we must learn, understand, and acknowledge so that history does not repeat. But it isn’t always so simple.

There still remains widespread injustice around the world, as seen in the treatment of asylum seekers, modern slavery, human trafficking, and child abuse, to name a few. We take two steps forward and one step back. Extreme nationalism and nationalist populism are threats to unity and peace. Terrorism, regardless of its varied forms, continues to threaten innocent people globally.

They say life is valuable, but is everyone’s life valued the same? In Australia we enjoy many liberties, but in a developing country like Vietnam there is no safe avenue for protest or dissent. Anyone can be subject to arbitrary persecution, by the secret police force or any state apparatus. The law is in the state’s mouth, and reinforced by its mouthpieces.

Unfortunately, because of this state sponsored terrorism, the United Nations has been unable to reach an agreed definition of terrorism and therefore an agreed framework or legislative response to the reality of what has been happening in the world. This will remain a challenge to global humanity. Consequently, state sponsored terrorism continues to exist in many parts of the world, and continues to grow even stronger in a more covert and destructive way.

I argue that state sponsored terrorism is much more dangerous than other types of terrorism because it has destroyed the basic fabric of society en masse and has made people submissive and subservient. It uproots all universal human values and turns people against each other.

Human rights violations in Vietnam are so grave that the path to reconciliation for the Vietnamese people—nationals as well as members of the diaspora—looks increasingly foggy.

But if we don’t start the road to humanity now, when will we reach the goal?

The road to humanity is no doubt challenging and full of obstacles, but it is a worthy cause to be a part of. Being part of the fight for justice has taught me that a person is a person no matter how small. I have learnt through connecting with people from different backgrounds that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. I have learnt that human dignity can only be achieved in a society that strives for justice. I have learnt that society can only flourish where there is justice. I have learnt that peace can only exist in a world that is just.

On that note, I would like to invite you to take your first steps down that track with this special conference organised by the International Youth Movement for Human Rights, titled “Vietnam: Pathway to Humanity”.

Changing the world is a matter of perception. Be open to what you see and hear today. It begins with the mind. Next, we’ll move the mountains.

Duc Pham
Melbourne 22/06/2017