Nguyen Ngoc Quynh    


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 This year Vietnam Human Rights Network has the honor to select Mr. Pham Que Duong for the Vietnam Human Rights Award, along with Dr. Nguyen Dan Que. In order to know the reason for this selection, I would like to go through Mr. Duong’s biography.

Pham Que Duong, born 1931, is a former colonel in the Vietnamese People's Liberation Army.  He joined the Vietnamese Communist Party in 1948, and from 1982 was the editor in chief of Tap Chi Lich Su Quan Su (Military History Review).

In 1991, he was subjected to home search three times for allegedly distributing materials critical of the Party.  In 1995, his home was searched during a government crackdown against dissent.  In January 1999, Pham Que Duong publicly renounced his membership in the VCP in solidarity with former general Tran Do, a prominent dissident who was ousted from the party at that time, and became a democracy activist.

On May 19, 2000, Pham Que Duong joined with four other pro-democracy activists (Hoang Minh Chinh, Nguyen Thanh Giang, Hoang Tien and Tran Dung Tien) in an unprecedented joint appeal to the Vietnam National Assembly to protest the government's persecution of writer Ha Sy Phu and to call for true democracy.

On September 2, 2001, Pham Que Duong (along with Tran Khue) submitted an application to form “The Vietnamese People’s Society of Anti-Corruption”. Three days later, Pham Que Duong and Tran Khue, as well as other members of this Society, were subjected to house arrest, interrogation, threatening and defamation sessions orchestrated by local authorities in Hanoi and Saigon.

In June 2002, Pham Que Duong joined with 16 others in a petition to protest the government’s repression of peaceful voices. Besides the well-known activists, the appeal was also signed by the mothers and wives of several jailed activists.

The following month Pham Que Duong joined with 20 others in a letter to the National Assembly protesting non-constitutional actions of the party and government. The letter noted that a “democracy group” (written in lower case) would be formed with Pham Que Duong and Tran Khue as the spokesmen.

On December 28, 2002, Pham Que Duong was arrested at the train station in Saigon after visiting Tran Khue.

On July 14, 2004, under international pressure, Pham Que Duong was brought to the People Court of Hanoi and sentenced to 19 months of imprisonment on charges of «abusing democracy». He was released from prison on July 29, 2004 and has been kept under strict surveillance by state security.


Based on the biography, we know that, over the last 14 years, Mr. Pham Que Duong has continuously struggled for democracy, despite the communist government unceasing repression. Nowadays, in Vietnam, while many people wish to be admitted to the Communist Party to have better position, or at least to be safer, Mr. Duong has openly renounced the Party, even he had quite a high position, to protest improper, unconstitutional and antidemocratic acts of the Party. When he was young, Mr. Duong joined the Party hoping to have better opportunity to serve the country and its people. Now, after knowing the real nature of the Party, he has resolutely denounced it in order to defend the interest of his compatriots, despite the barbaric oppression of the Party and his old age.

To Mr. Pham Que Duong, as well as to Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, the goal of life is not his own interests, but that of 80 million of his compatriots. To reach this noble purpose, he has not only sacrificed his own interests, but is also willing to accept all the risks and dangers that might happen to him.

With his perspicacity, courage and determination to fight for democracy and human rights, Mr. Pham Que Duong really deserves to receive the Vietnam Human Rights Award.

Before concluding my speech, I would like to add few words about selecting Mr. Pham Que Duong as an award recipient. Mr. Duong and I were officers of two opposing armed forces for more than 20 years. We might have had some direct fights against each other in the past. So, will it be proper for me to proclaim him now? I think the answer is definitely “No” if he is still a member of the Communist Party and doing whatever his Party tells him to do, including oppressing human rights. But, as we know, Mr. Duong has denounced the Party and moved to the side of the Vietnamese people fighting for democracy and human rights. And his clairvoyant determination clearly deserves to be awarded.

Thank you for listening.


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