Monday, August 24, 2015

Vietnam Event at Prominent US Think Tank Causes Stir

Although most think tank events go off without a hitch, there is often lots of behind-the-scenes scurrying to help avoid a whole host of obstacles that can cause potential problems for a think tank and/or its attendees.  But even the best of think tank event planning is often not enough.  Highlighting that fact is a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) which reportedly caused quite a stir.  Here is more from The Rushford Report:
...When Dr. Binh T. Nguyen, a prominent Vietnamese-born physician (and an American citizen) showed up to hear the secretary general’s speech [referring to Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam Secretary General of the Communist Party], she was informed that she was persona non grata.
Binh, an invited guest, cleared CSIS security at the entrance, as she had on several previous occasions. But when she went upstairs to join the audience, a CSIS senior fellow was waiting. Murray Hiebert, accompanied by a CSIS security guard, insisted that Binh leave the premises. An obviously uncomfortable Hiebert explained that he was so sorry, but the communist security operatives simply would not permit Binh to hear Trong’s speech. The apologetic Hiebert told Dr. Binh that he had tried his best to reason with the Vietnamese security officials, but to no avail. They were not interested in negotiating, and were adamant that Binh would not be allowed to hear Trong’s speech, Hiebert related.
Hiebert apologized sincerely to Binh, admitting that it was wrong for CSIS to have given into the pressure. Ejecting her had ruined the event for him, Hiebert told the doctor. I spoke with Binh twice, for nearly an hour, going over the facts carefully, in great detail. Subsequently I was able to substantiate that the doctor’s account was the same as how Hiebert explained the incident to one of his colleagues at CSIS, Benjamin Contreras, the program director for CSIS’ Southeast Studies section.
Dr. Binh told me that Hiebert was characteristically polite. Still, it was intimidating that he had a guard with him to make sure she left the premises, the doctor added. Binh said she does not seek publicity, and looked forward to being invited to future CSIS events. She asked not to be quoted directly in this article.

More of the details can be found here.  The piece notes that the Vietnamese government is a fairly large donor to CSIS, and paid for a recent study favorable to the government of Vietnam.

Here is a link to the video and transcript of the July 8 event mentioned above.