I deeply regret that I cannot be with you in Washington DC today to take part in this World Day of Gandhian Nonviolent struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam. Unfortunately, I am bound by a prior engagement to give a conference in Los Angeles about the Vietnamese democracy movement. I am therefore sending this brief message, in the hope it can convey all the feelings and solidarity that I hold towards this bold and compassionate initiative launched by the Transnational Radical Party and supported massively by our Montagnard friends, by concerned people and Vietnamese in so many different countries today.

This demonstration takes me back to the times of the Vietnam War, when every week, in capitals around the world, hundreds of thousands of people thronged the streets to protest for peace in Vietnam. The war ended on April 30th 1975, some 27 years ago. But it did not bring peace to Vietnam. On that same day, April 30th 1975, the Communist Party and the government began a new form of war against its people. In the first years of this merciless, silent war, two million people were thrown into reeducation camps, two million more risked their lives to flee for freedom on the South China seas. How many died ? We shall never know. But statistics at the time revealed that at least one million men and women perished in the prisons and on the seas in those dark and desperate days.

No peace for Vietnam, because Hanoi went to war against its own people. No freedom either, for the Party feared that freedom would be their end. No democracy, for the Party saw democracy as its enemy, and stopped at nothing to suppress the people’s will.

Yet the world seemed indifferent to our suffering. When the war ended, the demonstrations ended too. The peace movement turned its back on our people, and a shroud of silence descended on Vietnam.

I am therefore so happy that today, for the very first time since the end of the Vietnam war, people around the world are uniting to demonstrate for freedom and democracy in Vietnam. Some 4,000 people from 102 countries have endorsed the Transnational Radical Party’s Appeal, and demonstrations are taking place before the Hanoi Embassies in capitals cities ranging from Paris to Pretoria, Buenos Aires to Brussels, Moscow to Washington, Rome to Madrid, San Francisco to Ottawa, and so on. We must multiply these demonstrations, and keep on demonstrating until we have brought down the dictatorship and won freedom and democracy for Vietnam.

When I first heard of the World Day of Nonviolent Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam, I sent a message to the Transnational Radical Party expressing my wholehearted support. I am sending this message to the demonstration in Washington DC today, and hope that you will accept it as a gesture of solidarity. The Message runs as follows :

“I am deeply moved by the Transnational Radical Party’s initiative to organize this World Day of Gandhian-Nonviolent Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam.

“Once again, the Transnational Radical Party is awakening the conscience of the world.

“Public demonstration is the act of conscious beings, for only they are aware of the interdependence between Humankind and themselves. In today’s world, we are pressured by the perpetual race towards economic globalization, increased consumerism and the quest for ever-cheaper manual labour. So much so that we forget what is perhaps most important of all - the globalization of democracy and the fulfilment of each and every human being.

“The weakness of the powerful is this: to think only of oneself whilst blinding ones eyes to all those in suffering and oppression.

“So let us choose the power of the weak : awareness and active engagement to support others.

“The Transnational Radical Party has engaged in so many causes for the oppressed peoples of Afghanistan, Tibet, Tunisia, Chechnya etc. Today, this World Day of Gandhian-Nonviolent Struggle for Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam gives us the chance to be the voice of the voiceless, to speak out for the millions of Vietnamese who are reduced to silence by a totalitarian regime.

“I hope that many people will join us in relaying the Vietnamese people’s cry for help”.