Vietnam Human Rights Network
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Testimony of the Vietnam Human Rights Network on
Vietnamese from All over The World Support Workers in Vietnam
Submitted to the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee; The Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations Subcommittee – The House International Relations Committee, U.S. House of Representatives
Hearing On “The Human Rights Dialogue with Vietnam: Is Vietnam Making Significant Progress ?”
March 29, 2006
Rayburn House Office Bldg, Room 2172
The U.S. Congress
Sub-Committee Chairmen and Members:
Since the end of 2005, hundreds of thousands of workers in Vietnam have gone on strike. In the beginning, strikes took place only at cities in South Vietnam such as Saigon, Gia Dinh, Bien Hoa, Binh Duong, Can Tho, and My Tho. As time went by, they spread to provinces in Central Vietnam such as Ninh Thuan, Quang Nam and eventually to many areas in North Vietnam like Hai Phong, Quang Ninh etc.
According to Mr. Le Minh Nguyen, Chairman of the Vietnam Human Rights Network, this is the breaking point for the workers who have lived between the rocks and the hard places for so long, where their rights have been blatantly violated. Although Vietnam's 1992 Constitution states that the Vietnamese Communist Party was the vanguard of the working class and the faithful representative of workers' interests. But, in reality workers suffer inhuman and unfair treatment and severe exploitation under the Vietnamese Communist Regime.
Despite threats and prohibitions by the government, the strike movement has become widespread. While hundreds of workers who were arrested because of their parts in the strikes could not be accounted for, and whose fate is uncertain, Mr. Tran Duc Luong, president of Vietnam, dutifully sent apologies to the investors from Taiwan and Japan instead of standing up for the exploited workers.
Facing with this unjust and deplorable situation, the Vietnam Human Rights Network, along with 32 human rights and democracy activists residing in Vietnam and 57 overseas human rights, cultural organizations and the Vietnamese communities worldwide have signed the Statement supporting the peaceful and legitimate strikes of the workers in Vietnam.
Attached herewith is the Statement made on the 24th of March 2006.
STATEMENT ON VIETNAMESE WORKERS’ RIGHTS
For over four months, since the end or 2005, an unprecedented crisis has spread throughout Vietnam: Hundreds of thousands of workers have gone on strike to demand pay increase, improvement of working condition and an end to exploitation and inhuman and brutal treatment. These strikes first took place at Gia Dinh, Bien Hoa, Binh Duong, Can Tho, My tho and Bac Lieu provinces in South Vietnam, then at Central Vietnam's provinces such as Ninh Thuan and Quang Nam and eventually spread to Hai Phong, Quang Ninh etc. in North Vietnam.
Vietnam's 1992 Constitution states that the Vietnamese Communist Party is the vanguard of the working class and the faithful representative of workers' interests. But, in reality workers suffer inhuman and degrading treatment and severe exploitation under the Vietnamese Communist Regime.
Case in point: After the Foreign Investment Law took effect in 1989, the minimum wage was established at VN$625,950.00, equivalent to US$45.00 at the exchange rate of VN$13,910.00 per US dollar. It has been 18 years since, but the minimum wage still remains as it was while the exchange rate increased to over VN$15,900.00 per US dollar and food price has increased 40% due to inflation. With such a low wage workers, more often than not, have had to work 10 hours a day, and at times on Sunday and holidays without extra pay. In addition to unsafe environment, workers are subjected to scolding, beating; forced to stand under scorching sun, pay cuts or to endure blatant violation of human rights. Most workers do not have health and social insurance.
At present, the Vietnamese Communist Government does not allow the formation of independent labor unions. The only existing labor organization is the government- sanctioned Vietnam Federation of Labour which, in reality, is the Communist Party's tool to monitor and control workers' activities, not to defend and fight for their interests. Not only that, at many places authorities and local Vietnam Federation of Labour collaborate with foreign investors to suppress workers, putting them between the rocks and the hard places. The one to be critically blamed for all of these is the President of Vietnam, Mr. Tran Duc Luong, who instead of defending the rights of the exploited workers, has sent apologies to investors from Taiwan and Japan!
Facing with this unfair and heart-wrenching situation, we, the undersigned solemnly:
1. Support the peaceful, nonviolent strikes by the Vietnamese workers.
2. Welcome the March 19, 2006 call for support of the on-strike workers by 22 human rights and democracy activists inside Vietnam.
3. Demand the Vietnamese Communist Government to:
a. Immediately and unconditionally release all the workers who were arrested because of their participation in the strikes,
b. Promptly change labor laws concordantly to international standards relating to workers' protection, minimum wage that reflects the economic condition and cost of living, reasonable social and health insurance and retirement benefits.
c. Respect human rights, especially the workers' rights to form independent labor unions in order to defend and protect their legitimate interests.
4. Request privately owned and state-owned enterprises to respect international labor codes and standard practices, to humanly and justly treat as well as respect the dignity of their employees.
5. Request the UN's International Labor Organization (ILO) to actively assist the Vietnamese workers in their efforts to organize independent labor unions.
Simultaneously circulated in Vietnam and oversea on the 24th of March, 2006
Human Rights & Democracy Activists in Vietnam
1. Rev. Nguyen Cao Loc, Hue
2. Le Quang Liem, Hoa Hao Buddhist Congregation of Vietnam
3. Rev. Chan Tin, Catholic Church, Saigon
4. Prof. Hoang Minh Chinh, Hanoi
5. Rev. Le Van Cao, Catholic Church, Thua Thien
6. Hoang Tien, writer, Hanoi
7. Rev. Ho Van Quy, Catholic Church, Quang Tri
8. Prof. Tran Khue
9. Rev. Nguyen Huu Giai, Catholic Church, Thua Thien
10. Pham Que Duong, Hanoi
11. Rev. Hoang Can, Catholic Church, Thua Thien
12. Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang, Menonite Church, Saigon
13. Rev. Nguyen Van Hung, Catholic Church, Thua Thien
14. Ven. Nguyen Van Tho, Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, Dong Thap
15. Rev. Le Van Nghiem, Catholic Church, Thua Thien
16. Ven. Le Van Sach, Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, Vinh Long
17. Rev. Nguyen Van Ly, Catholic Church, Hue
18. Prof. Nguyen Chinh Ket, Saigon
19. Rev. Cai Hong Phuong, Catholic Church, Hue
20. Phuong Nam Do Nam Hai, Saigon
21. Rev. Phan Phuoc, Thua Thien
22. Nguyen Khac Toan, Hanoi
23. Rev. Tong Thanh Trong, Thua Thien
24. Nguyen Binh Thanh, Hue
25. Rev. Phan Van Loi, Catholic Church, Hue
26. Le Le Hang, Hue
27. Rev. Le Ngoc Buu, Catholic Church, Hue
28. Tran Kim Lien, Quang Binh
29. Rev. Tran Van Quy, Catholic Church in Phu Cam, Hue
30. Vu Thuy Ha, Hanoi
31. Rev. Ngo Thanh Son, Catholic Church, Thua Thien
32. Bui Kim Ngan, Hanoi
33. Tran Anh Kim, Thai Binh
Human Rights, Religious, Cultural Organizations & Vietnamese Communities Overseas
Local contact: Khai Q. Nguyen, Vice chairman, Vietnam Human Rights Network, (301) 840-5764, E-mail: Khaiqnguyen@aol.com.