Thursday, February 26, 2004

Hung Le Execution Delayed at Vietnam's Request

Cam Edwards (a very interesting blogger by the way) says he can't believe that Governor Henry has delayed the scheduled execution of convicted murderer Hung Le at the request of the Vietnam Ambassador to the US. Hung Le, reportedly still a citizen of Vietnam, was convicted of murdering a friend. Vietnam's Ambassador to the US paid a quiet visit to Oklahoma last week to meet with state officials in person. On behalf of Vietnam the Ambassador asked for time to review the case before Hung Le is executed. Cam says he can't believe that Henry is listening to the Vietnamese Government instead of his own Pardon and Parole Board. Of course the Governor is not dismissing the recommendation of the Board - just delaying its implementation briefly.

I'm no fan of Governor Henry but the Governor is doing the right thing in this case. The last time Oklahoma executed a foreign national we broke international law by neglecting to alert the convicted person's government of the sentence. The last goof-up was under Governor Keating and involved the Mexican Government. In that case President Fox of Mexico phoned Keating to plea for a stay but was turned down. The whole affair received a lot of negative publicity in Mexico for Oklahoma and the US. It played right into the stereotype of Americans as arrogant folks thinking of themselves as being above international law. On the practical side we should realize that if Americans do not abide by international law we will have a hard time insisting on others doing the same when our citizens are arrested and punished in foreign nations. We would be rightfully upset if another country executed one of our citizens without informing our country as required.

This time we need to make sure we do this right. Henry has wisely chosen to delay a few days or weeks so the Vietnamese can do their review. Undoubtedly the execution will proceed after the review and both sides will have done things in complete compliance with both Oklahoma and international law. A little patience will do much good in this case.

Just a few months ago Oklahoma State University threw a wrench into Oklahoma - Vietnam relations by removing Vietnam's flag from the rotation of international flags on the Stillwater campus after a Vietnamese-American student complained and insisted on flying the defunct South Vietnam flag instead. A struggle ensued between anti-communist Vietnamese-American students and a number of Vietnamese students who argued that their nation's flag should be flown - just like every other country's flag was. Many pointed out that it made no sense to refuse to fly Vietnam's flag while flying China's flag. Both are communist countries recognized by the U.S. A spineless OSU official decided that rather than deal with the matter she would just forbid the flying of either flag. This cowardly non-decision solved nothing and only irritated the Vietnamese Government - whom our nation recognizes.

Since Oklahoma opened the first trade promotion office in Vietnam in the 90s exports from Oklahoma to Vietnam have increased dramatically. Oklahoma's oil and gas companies have been especially active in exporting products and services to Vietnam. It makes no sense to jeopardize a growing beneficial relationship with Vietnam - especially when there is no reason to do so.

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