president of Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam, president of Forum Asia Democracy

VO VAN AI is the founder and President of Quê Me : Action for Democracy in Vietnam, and editor of Quê Me (Homeland), a Vietnamese-language magazine on democracy, human rights and culture published in Paris since 1976. The magazine circulates in Vietnamese communities around the world and clandestinely in Vietnam. Vo Van Ai is also founder and President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, a Paris-based monitoring organisation established in 1976, and Vice-President for Asia of the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH). He is also Director of the International Buddhist Information Bureau, and Overseas Spokesman of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
Born in Central Vietnam in 1938, Vo Van Ai was first arrested at the age of 11 for his activities in the Vietnamese resistance movement for independence. In 1964, he became overseas representative of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and actively promoted the Buddhist nonviolent movement for peace and democracy. After the end of the Vietnam war in 1975, he continued to monitor human rights abuses and violations of religious freedom in Vietnam. He played a key role in calling world attention to the plight of prisoners of conscience, and drew up the first map of re-education camps in the North and South. In 1978 he helped to launch the "Ile de Lumiere", the first rescue ship to save boat people in the South China sea.
Vo Van Ai makes regular reports to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on the status of human rights and religious freedom. In 1998, he worked closely with Mr Abdelfattah Amor, UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, to prepare his visit to Vietnam. He also wages international campaigns to mobilise support for the release of prisoners of conscience and to promote democracy in Vietnam.
A member of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Vo Van Ai has contributed to several key international studies on religion e.g. “Freedom of Religion and belief : a World Report”, Routlege Press, 1997 ; “Religious Freedom in the World : a global report on freedom and persecution”, Center for Religious Freedom, Freedom House, 2000 ; “Human Rights and Asian Values”, Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, “Democracy in Asia” series, Curzon Press, 2000. He has testified at several US Congressional Hearings on religious freedom in Vietnam.
Vo Van Ai is also well known as a writer and historian. He specialises in the history and philosophy of Vietnamese Buddhism, and has written and lectured extensively on this subject in Europe, Asia and the USA. In addition to numerous reports on human rights and essays on democracy, his written works include 17 books of poetry, essays and philosophy, as well as studies on Buddhism and Vietnamese history.