Has Loretta Sanchez Created a "Big Bugaboo" in Vietnam?

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Protected worker?
A highly successful American businessman who lives in Hanoi says that Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin have "overblown" the need for worker rights in Communist-run Vietnam, according to a July 13 Voice of American (VOA) article.

"From my point of view, worker rights are excessively well-protected in Vietnam, extremely well protected," said Anthony Salzman, who has owned the sole Caterpillar (construction equipment) dealership in that country.

It's no secret that Sanchez, who represents the largest concentration of foreign-living Vietnamese, holds the opposite view. 

"It's pretty clear that the Vietnamese government is really a bad player when it comes to human rights," Sanchez told VOA. "[Vietnam] is a very, very repressed place, with respect to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of political parties, freedom of religion [and] freedom of collective bargaining,"

Salzman--known in international business circles as "Mr. Vietnam" and this year was awarded the Friendship Medal by Vietnam's president--hints that claims against Vietnam are cheap political theater.

"Trade unions are a mandatory component of every business, albeit to be balanced about it, a trade union must have a representative of the Communist Party in the union," he said. "But, that's not a particularly big bugaboo, so I'm not really sure what the issue is."

On April 30 in the Little Saigon section of Orange County, Sanchez--who is facing a November general election challenge from Republican Van Tran--described Vietnam's rulers as glorified pimps based on her claims that the country quietly allows its own women and children to be sold into slavery and prostitution in foreign countries.

My attempts to get a response to that charge from Vietnamese government officials in the U.S. have not been successful.

According to the VOA article by Ira Mellman, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--a Sanchez pal--is scheduled to visit Vietnam next month. Hanoi is hosting the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ministerial Meeting from July 19 to July 23. U.S. Government officials say Clinton will celebrate the 15th anniversary of normalization of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations. She is also expected to discuss the U.S. military's Agent Orange/dioxin poisoning that continues to harm innocent Vietnamese three decades after the war.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

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