HOW TO PROMOTE
HUMAN RIGHTS AND
By Nguyen Thanh Trang
violations of human rights in Vietnam have been well documented by such
reputable organizations as the Human Rights Watch, the Amnesty International,
the Reporters Without Frontiers and the United Nations High Commission for Human
Rights. Since 1945, year after year, these rights have been continuously and
systematically violated, not by some low level cadres as isolated acts, but
rather by the hierarchy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as a matter of
OVERVIEW OF POLITICAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS CONDITION IN VIETNAM
as it stands today, remains a one-party State, ruled and controlled by the
Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). As history has proven time and again, power
controlled by the few and denied the many, corrupts without question. The
current Vietnamese government is no exception. It has repeatedly pursued a
policy of intimidation, imprisonment, harassment, and violence to suppress
Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, written and adopted by no one
else but Communist Party leaders, guarantees the party’s dominant role in all
aspects of life. It also assures the Communist Party of absolute power over the
people and the country. Besides Article 4 of the Constitution that asserts the
Communist Party supremacy, Article 9 also gives the Communist Party total
control of all branches of the government.
the Vietnamese Government can also issue un-democratic Decrees such as
Administrative Detention Directive 31/CP which authorizes police and security
forces at local levels to arrest and detain any persons without trials for up to
2 years for “security reasons”
Vietnamese Government permits no public challenge to the legitimacy of the
one-party State. It prohibits independent political, labor, and social
organizations. It continues to arrest, detain and imprison any person for the
peaceful expression of dissenting religious and political views. Their victims
include Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Prof. Nguyen Dinh Huy, Father Nguyen Van Ly, Dr.
Pham Hong Son, Mr. Nguyen Vu Binh, Mr. Tran Dung Tien, Dr. Pham Hong Son, Mr.
Nguyen Khac Toan and Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, among others.
violations can be classified into four categories:
of Labor Rights. Workers’ rights are so severely restricted that no
independent trade unions are allowed despite the communists’ claim that they
represent workers. The only labor organization in existence is the General Labor
Federation of Vietnam, created and run by the Communist Party, is used as a
vehicle to control workers, not to advance their interests. The existing Labor
Law forbids strikes at enterprises vaguely considered vital to national security
and defense, while a related Decree issued on August 29, 1996, bans labor
strikes in 54 industries.
of Freedom of Expression. Many laws and decrees have been issued to arbitrary
limit the right to free expression. No private citizens are allowed to publish
newspapers or magazines, or to operate radio or television stations. Hanoi,
while maintaining that there are more than 500 newspapers and magazines in
circulation as an indication of freedom of the press, conveniently ignores the
fact that none of them is independently owned and run by private citizens! In
1978 Dr. Nguyen Dan Que was arrested and jailed for 10 years for expressing his
concerns about human rights violations by the government. He was jailed the
second time in 1990 for over 8 years for having issued a Manifesto calling for
the abolition of the Communist Party’s monopoly of power and the recognition
of people’s rights of self-determination. Another infamous case happened in
January 1999 involved the late General Tran Do who was expelled from the party
because of his criticism concerning corruption and the lack of democracy in
Vietnam. His request in July 1999 to publish a newspaper was coldly rejected.
of Freedom of Religion. All religious activities are systematically
suppressed through various means: dissolution of religious organizations,
confiscation of numerous churches and temples, prohibition of religious
publications, and persecution of monks and priests.
The United Buddhist Church of Vietnam, one of the largest religious
denominations in Vietnam, was declared illegal in 1981. The government
confiscated its temples and persecuted its clergy for refusing to join the
state-sponsored Buddhist organizations. For more than two decades, the
government has detained and confined top Buddhist leaders, including the Most
Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, the Venerable
Thich Tue Sy, and others.
The Catholic Church continues to face significant restrictions on the training
and ordination of priests and bishops, resulting in insufficient number of
clerics to support the growing Catholic population in Vietnam. Father Nguyen Van
Ly was convicted and sentenced to jail in a closed trial in 2001 after publicly
criticizing religious repression by the Government of Vietnam.
The Montagnards in the Central Highlands of Vietnam continue to face
significant repression by the Government of Vietnam; their practice of
Christian Faith are severely curtailed. More than 100 Montagnards have been
sentenced to prison terms of up to 13 years for claiming land right, organizing
Christian gatherings, or attempting to seek asylum in Cambodia.
During Eastern weekend in April
2004, thousands of Montagnards gathered to protest their mistreatment by the
Government of Vietnam, including confiscation of tribal lands and ongoing
restriction on religious activities. The protests were met with violent
response. Numerous demonstrators were arrested, injured, and dozens were killed.
of Personal Freedoms
No citizens can enjoy privacy. Mail is censored, parcels searched, telephones
tapped and access to the internet is curtailed and strictly controlled.
Residence can be disturbed at nights without court order.
All gatherings require permits, and political meetings are strictly forbidden.
Any protest, though peaceful or legitimate in nature, is deemed a challenge to
the authority of either the Communist Party, or the Government. Thus, it is
illegal and subject to harsh suppression. A well-known example is the brutal
crackdown in May of 1996 by security forces against protesters from the Kim No
village, outside of Hanoi, who had gathered to oppose the government’s
decision to take away their farmland and sell it to foreigners turning it into a
golf course. The repression resulted in the death of one young woman, ruthless
beating of many, and imprisonment of their leaders.
Self-determination does not exist in Vietnam. The Communist Party holds the
supreme and absolute power over the entire population. The Government, through
Article 4 of the Constitution, delegates absolute political power to the
Communist Party which oversees and controls all national institutions, including
the Cabinet and National Assembly.
All candidates running for National Assembly must be approved by the Fatherland
Front, the Communist Party’s frontal organization. No opposition is permitted.
Demands for freedom and democracy are responded with arrests. Heavy jail
sentences were handed down to Prof. Doan Viet Hoat, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Prof.
Nguyen thanh Giang and journalist Nguyen Vu Binh as well as many other
dissidents, solely for their peaceful expression of the desire for political
Due Process for Fair Trials. In Vietnam today, the government does not respect
the law of the land. Trials and sentences are completely at the discretion of
officials or judges, who actually receive orders from the Communist Party
leaders. Violations of due legal process include secret trials, imprisonment
without trials, trials without legal counsel and defense, disrespect of
fundamental rights, extended detentions, tortures, and house arrests.
FACED BY PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVISTS
Telephone lines can be intercepted and cut
off any time by the Police and security
Internet is severely curtailed and strictly
controlled by the Government. Vietnam
also sets up fire-walls to block Internet programs deemed “dangerous”, such
discussions of social justice, freedom, human rights and democracy.
No Freedom of the Press.
The Government does not allow private citizens to
publish newspapers, magazines, or to operate radio or television broadcasting
No Freedom of Assembly.
All gatherings require permits, and political meetings
are strictly forbidden.
No Freedom of Association.
Labor Unions and Political Parties are strictly
No Freedom of Religion.
Religious activities are curtailed and controlled by the
The Vietnamese Communist Party
maintains total control of all three branches of
The government. The Executive, the National Assembly and the Judiciary branches
are controlled by the Communist Party.
The Government of Vietnam and the Vietnamese Communist
Party do not comply with the Constitution and the Laws of
No security. The administrative detention
Directive 31/CP authorizes police and
security forces to arrest and detain any persons without trials for up to 2
People are unhappy and angry with the government, but they dare not speak out
because of this terrible threat.
FOR OVERCOMING THE ABOVE PROBLEMS
Improving condition for freedom of expression
Increasing the use of cell phones for better communication
between pro – democracy activists.
Increasing the use of Internet for buying, selling products
and services and also for
better communication among pro-democracy activists.
Encouraging people to listen to radio broadcasting programs
overseas such as BBC, VOA, RFI, Radio Free Asia, and radio programs
produced by Vietnamese overseas.
Using the Internet to broadcast news and commentaries as
surrogated radio programs to bring update news worldwide and human
rights violations in Vietnam.
Taking small steps
for improving basic human rights
Publishing professional and religious News Letters without
applying for permission.
Promoting Youth activity programs, such as Soccer Teams, Boy
Scouts and Girl Scouts, Buddhist Youth Groups, etc.
Establishing professional groups, such as Lawyers
Association, Accountant Club, Chambers of Commerce, Lyons Clubs, Rotary
Establishing local and regional groups of human rights
activists, and whenever possible, trying to build a nation-wide network.
Reaching out to the World
Working hand in hand with overseas Vietnamese human rights
groups and international human rights organizations for promoting human
rights and democracy in Vietnam.
Working with other human rights organizations throughout Asia
and forming human rights and democracy networks within the entire region.
Lobbying various international financial institutions to
demand that Hanoi respect human rights as a condition for receiving their
financial assistance programs.
Lobbying the United Nations, the European Union, Australia,
Japan, Canada and the United States to pressure Hanoi to improve human Rights
conditions in Vietnam.
by various measures, political situation and human rights conditions in Vietnam
have deteriorated in recent years, there are some prospects for optimism.
the movement of human rights and democracy in Vietnam has grown significantly
during the last few years and pro-democracy and human rights activists in
Vietnam have received strong support from world opinion and many international
organizations as well as the Vietnamese overseas, especially those from the
human rights groups;
the appearance in recent years, at about the same time a series of courageous
and knowledgeable dissidents in their thirties, such as Dr. Pham Hong Son,
Lawyer Le Chi Quang, Reporter Nguyen Vu Binh, Veteran Nguyen Khac Toan, etc.,
who dare to risk their life to speak up what they think the Vietnamese people
should know about how badly the country is being run, and how gloomy the future
of the country will be if there is no political improvement. If survived, these
young dissidents may be the seed for future opposition groups which will move
and shake the country with followers from the mass.
the continued trade and diplomatic pressure worldwide has forced the Government
of Vietnam to recognize that it can not increase trade with the West or join the
World Trading Organization (WTO) and still remains in political isolation at the
same time. This twenty first century has no future for any dictatorial regimes.
Peoples and nations all over the world are on the strong march towards Human
Rights and Democracy.
of us here know very well which way the wind is blowing, but one important
question still remains to be answered: ”The Berlin Wall came tumbling down in
1989, when will the Bamboo Curtain fall?”.
Human Rights Network
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