The 2010 Vietnam Human Rights Award was presented to workers’ rights activist Doan Huy Chuong and free lance journalist Truong Minh Duc during a solemn ceremony at the Vietnamese Cultural Center in Houston, Texas on the International Human Rights Day of 2010. The ceremony was made possible thanks to the cooperation with the Vietnamese Community in Houston, and the sponsorship of many local community-based organizations in the region.
Over two hundred people, including Vietnamese compatriots and foreign guests attended the meeting. As usually since the award was established in 2002, none of the award recipients have been allowed to leave Vietnam to accept the Award.
Following the introduction of guests by masters of ceremonies Nguyen Ngoc Bao in Vietnamese and Nguyen Phuc Anh Lan in English, and the welcome speech by the Organizing Committee Head Nguyen Phi Hiep, Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung, the Chairman of the VNHRN gave a keynote speech about the significance of the 62nd anniversary of the International Human Rights Day, commemorated at a time when human rights and human dignity have been seriously violated in Vietnam. He also mentioned the purpose of the VNHRN Award: that it not only commends the winners’ courageous contributions to the cause of human rights for Vietnamese people, but also demonstrates the solidarity of the Vietnamese countrymen around the world with all human rights activists in Vietnam.
A brief biography and commendation in Vietnamese and English of each award recipient was read out by representatives of sponsoring organizations at the ceremony.
Doan Huy Chuong was arrested and sentenced for the first time to 18 months in jail for advocating workers’ rights and founding the United Workers-Farmers Organization, the first independent union in the country. He is serving the second term of 7 year imprisonment for “instigating labor strikes and distributing anti-government leaflets.” Doan Huy Chuong’s human rights journey, although relatively short, as measured by time, has made a huge impact at home and abroad, particularly in the field of protection of labor rights and freedom of union association.
Free lance writer Truong Minh Duc has authored many articles against government corruption and injustice published in Vietnam and on websites abroad. He was arrested at his home in Kien Giang province in May 2007. After being held 10 months for harsh interrogation, he was sentenced by the people’s court of Kien Giang province to 5 years in prison in March 2008 for “taking advantage of democratic freedoms and rights to infringe upon the interests of the State”. He strongly insisted that he did not violate any law of Vietnam, and vowed to keep on protesting the sentence, working for the right cause, and fighting for basic rights and democracy, even from his cell. In spite of continuous humiliating torture he has experienced in prison over last 3 years and half, Truong Minh Duc has never compromised his own dignity of character and ideals. Journalist Truong Minh Duc’s courageous and enduring struggle for human rights is worthy of praise from all who respect human dignity and freedom.
Mrs. Thuy Huong and Mrs. Anh Trinh received the recognition certificates for Mr. Doan Huy Chuong and Mr Truong Minh Duc respectively on their behalf.
The audience attentively listened to the touching words of Mrs. Chiem Thi Tuong Manh and Mrs. Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh,(wives of Mr. Chuong, and Journalist Duc respectively), through a sound tape recorded earlier from Vietnam. The ladies thanked Vietnamese compatriots abroad for their support to the oppressed rights activists in general and their husbands in particular. They both believed their spouses would certainly be happy to learn about the good sentiment from their compatriots around the world, and would determinedly continue to pursue their just cause.
The audience also had a chance to listen to the remarks made by Father Phan Van Loi and Layer le Thi Cong Nhan, two former winners of the VNHRN prizes, also through a previously recorded sound tape, about their respect for the bravery of Mr. Chuong and Mr Duc.
Many guests were invited to express their thoughts and feelings, including Mr Phan Nhu Hoc, Chairman of the Vietnamese Community in Houston, and Venerable Thich Huyen Viet, representing the Interfaith Council. Mr. Jay Guerrero, representing Senator John Comyn, and Ms. Catherine Le, on behalf of Representative Al Green, presented to Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung their acknowledgment certificates for VNHRN activities.
The ceremony concluded with a performance of struggle songs by volunteers from Houston. Local dignitaries expressed their cheerfulness at seeing the VNHRN prize awarding to take place the first time in Texas in a solemn yet warm atmosphere. Many people also displayed their joy to learn that more activists would get involved in the fight for the people’s dignity and justice, against dictatorship, injustice and corruption.