Sending Boat People Back to Vietnam

We appreciate the balanced and informative article ``Vietnamese Boat People Face Uneasy Trip Home,'' Nov. 30. However, the article contains an inaccuracy concerning the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in repatriation to Vietnam. UNHCR is convinced that an effective program of repatriation for those who do not qualify for refugee status is an essential element in maintaining asylum in Southeast Asia. Without repatriation of nonrefugees, there is a danger that the practice of granting asylum to boat people will collapse, thus causing great human suffering.

It is incorrect, however, to say that UNHCR has agreed to ``push mandatory repatriation.'' UNHCR's involvement in repatriation to Vietnam is confined to two categories of people. The first are boat people who take the initiative of volunteering to go home. So far, over 6,500 Vietnamese have returned to their country under this voluntary program. There are also those who, having been rejected under the refugee determination procedures, do not object to returning to Vietnam. A first group of 23 people in this category returned from Hong Kong recently.

Both these categories of returnees are covered by the same guarantees of nonrecrimination following return to Vietnam, where their reintegration is monitored by UNHCR. There is no question of UNHCR's being involved in a process of compulsory deportation to Vietnam.

Raymond Hall, Geneva, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Monetary union vs. democracy? The article ``Britain Moderates Stance on Europe,'' Dec. 4, does not explain why some of our members of Parliament, as well as some of the British public, are wary over the rush toward monetary union with Europe.

Monetary union means a central bank, which is undemocratic in the form envisaged at present. In this country, the chancellor of the exchequer is an elected member of Parliament and answerable to the electorate. The projected European central bank would be independent, unelected, answerable to nobody, and empowered to make major decisions of European monetary policy by a straight majority of the council. In short, it would have enormous power.

Democracy in Britain has been won painfully over centuries and defended by major sacrifices in war. We have preached democracy, particularly to the newly liberated countries of Eastern Europe. Why then should we be hustled into exchanging valued foundational structures for a dictatorship by bankers?

We already have in the Council of Ministers and the European Commission a body which is so tenuously democratic as to be hardly acceptable. It is universally recognized that economic policy predominates in government and affects individuals' lives. Surely then it should be subject to democratic controls. It is puzzling why our European partners and their supporters here seem unable to see the danger.

R. Venning, Bristol, England

The time is ripe for embargo The article ``Bush Aides Urge Stay-Tough Stand,'' Dec. 7, points out that the Iraqi people ``hunkered down'' to exist at subsistence levels during the eight-year war with Iraq. When their economy began to revive, Saddam Hussein took their country to the brink of another war. There has been little time for Iraq to rebuild economically. Now is the time to enforce a worldwide embargo of product, technology, and capital on Iraq. It may be the first time in history that a goal can be fulfilled through an embargo - that is, to force change in the behavior of a belligerent nation.

The success of embargoes in the past has been bleak. For example, the United States grain embargo on Russia under President Carter was a failure when Soviets simply purchased their grain elsewhere. This time, however, Iraq has nowhere to go. How long can Iraq sustain itself? The time is right to enforce the embargo. The alternative is war and heartbreak.

Threat without force is generally meaningless. We should keep the troops prepared and monitor the Iraqi economy. As the embargo becomes more successful, then perhaps Saddam will respond to fear and withdraw his forces from Kuwait. Let us not commit American troops to battle as long as alternatives exist.

Sally-Jo Goldstein Seattle

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