The Obama administration is looking to negotiate with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the government that emerged after a war costing more than 58,000 American lives, to carry a “Welcome to America” radio program over its state radio station, WND has discovered.
If the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, or BBG, has its way, its Voice of America program will work in tandem with the Voice of Vietnam, or VOV, to broadcast the 15-minute prime-time radio program Monday through Friday across the communist nation.
BBG is looking for a distributor to do its bidding with Vietnamese national broadcasting authorities, whose approval is needed to insert the American programming on a network known as VOV Giao Thong, according to a Request for Proposals, or RFP, that WND located through routine database research.
The development comes as the administration seeks to continue strengthening ties between the two nations. In 1995, the U.S. normalized diplomatic relations with Vietnam under President Clinton, a process “dramatically upgraded” under President George W. Bush, the Congressional Research Service, or CRS, says.
Congress is confronting or will confront four major issues affecting the continued restoration of that relationship, according to the CRS report, “U.S.-Vietnam Relations in 2014: Current Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy.”
Chief among those issues are a 2014 bilateral nuclear energy cooperation agreement; Vietnam’s participation with the U.S. in the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement negotiations; and bilateral security ties, “including whether to consider relaxing restrictions on military sales to Vietnam.”
The issues are interconnected, with questions about how the U.S. can influence human rights in Vietnam, the report says.
Vietnam’s one-party, authoritarian government and its security apparatus, for example, maintain a national surveillance network enabling it to monitor Vietnamese citizens.
Although it’s constitution permits personal and religious expression, the Marxist-Leninist Vietnam government continues to target and arrest “bloggers and lawyers who represent human rights and religious freedom activists, particularly those linked to pro-democracy activist networks.”
The Obama administration has pushed Vietnam to institute human rights reforms, it is not letting rights violations greatly impede progress, particularly since U.S. businesses have become one of Vietnam’s biggest sources of foreign investment, the report said.
“Barring a dramatic downturn in Vietnam’s human rights situation, Obama administration officials appear to see Vietnam’s human rights situation not as an impediment to short-term cooperation on various issues, but rather as establishing a ceiling on what might be accomplished,” according to the report.
A resolution calling on the State Department to condemn the “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” in Vietnam has stalled in Congress.
House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Edward Royce, D-Calif., in May 2013 introduced House Resolution 218, seeking official administration condemnation.
However, the item – which received small, but bipartisan, support – continues to languish, even after being referred to the committee and two subcommittees.
“There is no religious freedom in Vietnam today,” Royce had said at the resolution’s introduction. “Instead we see beatings with batons and electric rods by police officers, contract thugs and the Religious Security Police.”
“We see refusal of legal recognition to over 600 Hmong Protestant churches, which has led to harassment, detentions and home destructions. And we see the imprisonment of 355 Montagnard Protestants for their peaceful demonstrations for land rights and religious freedom in the Central Highlands.”
Obama, during his first-ever bilateral meeting with Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang in July 2013, reiterated his concern about human rights violations while discussing trade, commerce, military cooperation and Vietnam’s territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.
Obama came under fire for casually accepting during his meeting with Sang a copy of a letter sent by Vietnamese dictator Ho Chi Minh to President Harry Truman in which Ho claimed he was “inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson.”
Many were aghast at Obama’s reiteration of Ho’s words, which conveyed an impression “to the families of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding,” according to Rick Moran at American Thinker.
Likewise, National Review’s Sterling Beard asked it it was “really necessary tacitly to praise a man who killed approximately half-a-million people in an effort to consolidate his power, or to concede ideological similarities between the founding of the United States and modern Vietnam?”
U.S. ‘cultural activities’
The selected “Welcome to America” program contractor will provide content-distribution services on behalf of the Obama administration, which wants to deliver to Vietnamese audiences “a compilation of reports on current cultural, scientific, educational, social, arts and lifestyle activities in the United States,” according to the RFP.
The show will be fully branded as a Voice of America production and will be broadcast over VOV Giao Thong, Radio 91 FM “in its entirety, without pre-emption, alteration, abridgement or excerption.”
Despite the contractual obligation, BBG will give Vietnamese censors the option “to determine whether a specific program is in accordance with the laws of Vietnam and will have the option not to air such a specific program if it so chooses.”
WND previously reported a U.S. government-sponsored radio program for Pakistani audiences in which Uncle Sam was portrayed as a bloodthirsty zombie.
The Welcome to America RFP has posted an online demonstration of its goal, mostly in Vietnamese.
In the middle of the Vietnamese-speaking host’s presentation, the names of American stars Morgan Freeman and Will Smith are referenced in connection to a Hollywood Reporter article, “Who’s the New Denzel? Hollywood Struggles to Launch Next Black Stars.”
The program takes a brief break to play the song “Happy” by American rapper Pharell Williams, which soon leads to a clip of Obama-lauding pop star Katy Perry, whom he recently invited to the White House to sing at the anniversary celebration of the Special Olympics.