Demonstrating his concern over ongoing human rights abuses by Vietnam's rulers, Congressman Ed Royce has sent a letter to Hillary Clinton asking the secretary of state to pressure the communist nation on the topic during an upcoming trip to Hanoi.
"While Secretary Clinton will likely exchange typical diplomatic niceties with her Vietnamese counterparts, she needs to press Vietnam hard on its recent crackdown on human rights," the Fullerton Republican said in a press statement.
At a glance, Royce's letter seems odd because Garden Grove Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez
--whose neighboring Orange County congressional district includes the largest concentration of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam--had already sent Clinton a letter seeking a tougher stance with Vietnam's officials.
Her letter attracted 19 co-signers from both major political parties, but not Royce. Sanchez didn't sign Royce's letter either.
Indeed, representatives Dana Rohrabacher, Joseph Cao and Frank Wolf signed both the Sanchez and Royce letters.
So is there a feud within the Orange County congressional delegation over how to treat Vietnam?
No, says Caroline Hogan, press secretary for Sanchez.
"I'm not sure why Royce didn't sign Congresswoman Sanchez's letter," Hogan told me. "But I wouldn't read too much into it. I know that they are both concerned about what is happening in Vietnam."
Audra McGeorge, Royce's press secretary, said her boss was aware of the Sanchez letter and noted that they have co-signed many letters pertaining to Vietnam in the past, but current conditions called for an extra effort.
"Representative Royce hopes he is wrong, but feels it's unlikely that Secretary Clinton will take the representatives' good advice and raise these human rights issues on her trip," said McGeorge. "The Obama Administration hasn't shown much interest in aggressively pushing human rights in Vietnam to date."
But, according to McGeorge, it's more than just policy that motivated Royce to send his own letter to Clinton. She said Tran Khai Thanh Thuy's husband had recently urged the congressman to intensify pressure on the administration.
Tran is a pro-democracy Vietnamese journalist who was allegedly beaten in the head with a brick by police and then imprisoned in February.
Though the Sanchez and Royce letters share similar content there are slight differences. Sanchez wants Clinton to convince Vietnam to allow its citizens access to Facebook (and other social websites). Royce wants Clinton to threaten Vietnam with a return to the Countries of Particular Concern list, which would hamper the country's economic development if it continues totalitarian practices.
In April, Vietnam refused to allow Sanchez's entrance into the country. She later described that country's officials as pimps
, claiming that they allow their own women and children to be sold into foreign slavery for prostitution. Vietnam's officials in the U.S. didn't return my calls for a reaction.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly