Begin forwarded message:
From: David Nakamura >
Date: May 24, 2016 at 12:12:31 PM GMT+7
Subject: travel pool 1/obama civil society meeting
The president met at the Marriott with a group of six Vietnamese civil society leaders, with Potus seated at the head of a U-shaped table. Two female activists sat next two him. Sec. Kerry, Susan Rice, US Amb. Ted Osius and Ben Rhodes also joined the meeting.
The pool was led into the conference room at about 11:45 and the president spoke for about 5 minutes about ensuring that importance of free speech, press and the internet.
"Vietnam has made remarkable strides, the economy is growing quickly, the internet is booming, and there's a growing confidence here. But as I indicated yesterday there's still areas of significant concerns in terms of areas of free speech, freedom of assembly, accountability with respect to government. I emphasized in my meetings yesterday.. that we respect the sovereignty and independence of Vietnam. Ultimately, it's up to the Vietnamese people to determine how their society functions and the nature of their government. But we do believe there are some fundamental human values and it's up to us to speak out in behalf of those values wherever we go. And it's particularly important and useful for me to hear directly form those who often under very difficult conditions are willing to make their voices heard on behalf of greater freedom and human rights. I should note that there were several other activists who were invited that were prevented from coming for various reasons, and it's an indication that there has been some modest progress and it is our hope that through some legal reforms that have been drafted and passed that there are some folks who find it very difficult to assemble and organize peacefully around issues that they care deeply about. It's my hope the government of Vietnam comes to recognize what we recognize and so many countries around the world have come to recognize: That it's very hard to prosper in this modern economy when you haven't fully unleashed the potential of your people and your people's potential in part derives from their ability to express themselves and express new ideas to try to right wrongs that are taking place in the society. So it's my hope that increasingly the Vietnamese government, seeing the enormous strides that the country is making has more confidence that its people want to work together but also want to be able to assembly and participate in the society in way that will be good for everyone in the long run."
Pool was quickly ushered out and into the vans for the 3-minute drive to the convention center. Obama's speech is open press.