Vietnam: Dissidents Protest Being Excluded from Meeting with Obama

US President Barack Obama speaks at a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative town hall event in Ho Chi Minh City on May 25, 2016. Obama fielded questions on May 25 on everything from rap and weed smoking to leadership and his good looks at a lively town hall-style meeting with …

President Barack Obama appeared to receive a warm welcome from the Vietnamese, with hundreds lining the streets to celebrate the American president’s visit. Excluded from the festivities, however, were political dissidents, often silenced in the communist country.

Lining the roadways, Vietnam’s Obama supports waved signs and shouted, “We love you” as the president’s motorcade went by. A young Captain America even made an appearance to greet the president as he passed. Outside of approved supporters, however, dissidents were detained and silenced by the government for their political views, Reuters reports.

Quang A, a well-known intellectual who ran for parliament in last week’s election in Vietnam, was one of the many prevented from attending a meeting with President Obama. Another citizen who was prevented from the meeting was Ha Huy Son, an outspoken lawyer. According to Reuters, “Before he was taken away, Quang A posted on Facebook a photograph of himself dressing for the meeting with Obama, with the message: ‘Before going. May be intercepted, arrested. Advising so people know.'”

USA Today reports that President Obama did meet with six activists while on his trip to Ho Chi Min City. However, reports of Vietnamese officials preventing other dissidents from meeting with Obama is an “indication of how the single-party state operates.”

On Monday, President Obama repealed the lethal arms ban that had been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. This move highlights the concern of the current administration in regard to the assertiveness of the Chinese government in the region.

The lift is seen as a very important step forward for relations between the two countries. USA Today reported, “Obama noted during his visit that the communist-run country has a long way to go in improving its human rights record and ensuring citizens’ freedoms. Upholding these rights is not a threat to stability but actually reinforces stability and is the foundation of progress.”

Following the lifting of the ban on Monday, President Obama held a open forum for young Vietnamese entrepreneurs. This forum explored and highlighted the ins and outs of the very controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) project. Vietnam is one of the twelve Pacific Rim nations that would be part of the TPP. The two countries have been strengthening their economic ties.