Sanchez asks Rice to help Vietnamese detainees

Three lawmakers write letter after two U.S. citizens arrested in Ho Chi Minh City.

WASHINGTON – Rep. Loretta Sanchez and two other members of Congress sent a letter Tuesday to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to persuade the Vietnamese government to release two U.S. citizens arrested Saturday in Ho Chi Minh City.

“We are disappointed to hear that the government of Vietnam has arrested United States citizens in Vietnam for reportedly having a peaceful discussion,” Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, wrote to Rice. “Not only do we ask you to work to return these United States citizens to the United States, but we ask you to convey to the government of Vietnam that the arbitrary detention of United States citizens is unacceptable.”

According to news reports, Vietnamese police arrested six political activists, including citizens of France and Thailand. Sanchez and Lofgren this month testified before a Foreign Relations subcommittee about what they said was an increased crackdown on political expression in Vietnam.

The two U.S. citizens arrested were Nguyen Quoc Quan, a co-founder of the Vietnamese Professional Society who lives in Sacramento, and Truong Van Ba, a community activist who lives in Honolulu.

The House earlier this year passed a bill that would tie future aid to Vietnam to the country’s human-rights record. The bill has been stalled in the Senate.

Reuters reported Tuesday that a Vietnamese government official declined to comment on the arrests. A U.S. embassy official said it had confirmation of the arrest of one U.S. citizen and had asked Hanoi for access.

Reuters also reported that Viet Tan, the Vietnamese Reform Party, said that the arrests occurred after the two U.S. citizens, one French citizen and on Thai citizen “participated in discussions with other democracy activists on promoting peaceful democratic change.”


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