October 12, 2006


Open Letter


To Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung

Socialist Republic of Vietnam

01 Hoang Hoa Tham

Ba Dinh –Hanoi - Vietnam


Re: Vietnamese Government’s Refusal to Grant me Entry Visa


Mr. Prime Minister,

My name is Son Van Tran, naturalized US citizen holding a US passport # 210986978, currently residing at San Diego, California, USA. On 2 August 2006 I sent an application to the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington D.C. for an entry visa to Vietnam. I intended to return to the country and visit my siblings. My elder brother lives in Nha Trang and is 80 years old, and my elder sister, 77, lives in Hue. Both are of poor health and do not have many years ahead of them.

On 11 August 2006 the Embassy replied informing me that the Entry-Exit Management Directorate (the Directorate) of the Vietnamese Police Department was not yet in a position to approve, and for this reason the Embassy was unable to grant the visa requested. The Embassy advised me to inform my relatives in Vietnam to contact the Directorate and seek guidance on visa applications. If there results an approval, it will be forwarded to the Embassy and the visa will be granted subsequently. Despite my surprise -- for in accordance with international practice, the granting of entry visas is part of the Foreign Affairs Department’s jurisdiction, not that of the Police Department -- I still contacted my brother asking him to proceed with the paperwork.

My 80 years old brother took the pain to personally visit the Directorate in Saigon to lodge a sponsorship form for my entry visa application. On 18 September, through official document No. 1189/P2 the Directorate replied to my brother that pursuant to Clause 8(d)(1) of the Decree on Entry Visas, dated 28 April 2000, it was not yet in a position to approve my request. As possible reasons for not granting visas, Clause 8(d)(1) reads in part : “For reasons of protection of national security, for other special reasons in accordance with the decision by the minister of police.” This led me to the conclusion that the Vietnamese Government refused to grant me entry to visit my relatives and my country because it considered my presence in Vietnam a threat to national security.

Mr. Prime Minister,

I am no threat to national security. I believe that the Vietnamese Government is not happy with my views on the present situation in Vietnam through my dissertations and commentaries, or my views expressed in interviews with broadcasters such as the BBC and the VOA. I have written since 1991 under the pen-name Tran Binh Nam and my views are published openly on my webpage www.tranbinhnam.com.

I returned to Vietnam twice in the past, in 1999 and 2001. I rejoiced at the Vietnamese Government’s liberal policies and readiness to listen to dissenting views in order to move our nation forward.

In April 1975, as a member of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Vietnam’s Congress, I was in a position to leave the country when Northern troops invaded the South. But I decided to stay. Deep inside, I had thought the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) would implement policies of national reconciliation, mobilizing the entire people’s strength to rebuild the nation after a long internecine war. I was ready to contribute my abilities to the nation-building task.

I concede that CPV’s policies in the aftermath of reunification were somewhat more lenient and humane than those of its counterparts in the Soviet Union, Communist China, and Communist Cambodia. Nonetheless, they were not national reconciliation policies but rather, punitive and discriminatory measures. Consequently I left the country in 1979. My wife and children, afterwards, either fled or were sponsored and were reunited with me in the USA. All members of my family are now US citizens. In the USA, my family has carried out all responsibilities of citizens, working hard, paying taxes and abiding by the laws, while remaining grateful to this great nation and its tradition of tolerance. I have no greater wish but to hope that Vietnam and the USA would cooperate and together with other nations, build peace and security for the world.

With regards to Vietnam, I was, like the majority of Vietnamesese living here, involved in political activities aiming at demanding the establishment of a democratic regime in Vietnam. In recent times however, partly because world communism under the control of the Soviet Union has collapsed, partly because I have reached my seventies, I ceased all political activities to focus on writing commentaries.

My desire toward the end of my life is to live my final days in Vietnam, and die and be buried there. This year, I intended to return to Vietnam to prepare for proper accommodation, and the Vietnamese Government refused me the permission to return.

I know the Vietnamese Government did so because of my political views.

During my 2001 trip to Vietnam, I went to the Chinese border to visit the Nam Quan Pass and realized that the CPV has ceded it to Communist China, and I informed the world of the fact. I simply called on those responsible for the conduct of State affairs to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers to protect our territorial integrity, and more recently, in the footsteps of soldiers who lost their lives in the border wars of February 1979.

I have called on the CPV to abolish Article 4 of the 1992 Constitution guarantying CPV monopoly over political power , establish a pluralist democracy to mobilize the people’s strength for nation-building. The CPV has repeatedly acknowledged corruption as a national calamity. But you and your colleagues are unable to stamp out corruption because your hands are tied by Article 4, which entrusts power to the CPV. The CPV controls the Government, the Congress and gives directions to the Courts. Through this it eliminates two most powerful weapons to fight corruption: freedom of the press and an independent judiciary.

To prepare for the 10th Congress of the CPV early this year, the CPV asked for suggestions from all sectors of the nation inside and outside Vietnam. Many submitted suggestions. On my part, I suggested that on the occasion of the 10th Congress, the CPV would decide to amend the Constitution, abolish Article 4, and allow a number of appropriate opposition political parties to stand for elections, together with the CPV. If the CPV won, it would have the popular mandate to lead, and together with other political parties, and the whole people, would build a modern and prosperous nation. But the CPV threw all suggestions into the rubbish bin and proceeded with the Congress as per your initial agenda which was to eliminate all well-meaning cadres, and promote to leadership roles those bent on maintaining political monopoly by the party. The people of Vietnam were once again duped. And I wrote, simply to voice the truth.

The CPV does not wish to listen to dissenting opinions. It suppresses opposing views inside Vietnam and now it wishes to burn all bridges back to Vietnam for those who have earlier spoken on freedom and democracy.

For a 73-years old whose only wish is to return to live in the land of his birth, and die and be buried alongside his parents, you and your colleagues still hold such fear. How, then,  can you trust the youth of our nation ? With such narrow-minded policies, how can you and your colleagues implement national reconciliation , which is a prerequisite to the task of nation-building ?

I earnestly call on you, Mr. Prime Minister, to instruct the Directorate to rescind its senseless, undemocratic decision, and I will be grateful for your action.


Yours sincerely,


Son Van Tran

Pen-name: Tran Binh Nam




Copies to:

Embassy of Vietnam to the United States (Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien)

US Department of State – Political Affairs Bureau (Mr. R. Nicolas Burns)

US Embassy in Vietnam (Ambassador Michael Marine)

Senators of the State of California (Senators Dianne Feinstein & Barbara Boxer)

Local Congressman, 52nd Congressional district (Representative Duncan Hunter  


Trần Bình Nam