U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATES
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003
by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 25, 2004
is a one-party state, ruled and controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam
(CPV). The CPV's constitutionally mandated leading role and the occupancy of
all senior government positions by party members ensured the primacy of
Politburo guidelines and enabled the party to set the broad parameters of
national policy. In recent years, the CPV gradually reduced its formal
involvement in government operations and allowed the Government to exercise
significant discretion in implementing policy. The National Assembly remained
subject to CPV direction; however, the Government continued to strengthen the
capacity of the 498-member National Assembly and to reform the bureaucracy. The
National Assembly members were chosen in May 2002 elections in which candidates
were vetted by the CPV's Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF), an umbrella group for
the country's mass organizations. Approximately 90 percent of elected delegates
were CPV members. However, the National Assembly continued to play an
increasingly independent role as a forum for local and provincial concerns and
as a critic of local and national corruption and inefficiency and made progress
in improving transparency in the legal and regulatory systems. The judiciary
was subject to the influence of the CPV and the Government.
security is primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Security
(MPS); however, in some remote areas, the military forces are still the primary
government agency, providing infrastructure and all public safety functions,
including maintaining public order in the event of civil unrest. Since 2001,
the military has played a large role in the Central Highlands by enforcing
restrictions on gatherings, detaining individuals, and enforcing travel
restrictions. The MPS controls the police, a special national security
investigative agency, and other units that maintain internal security. The MPS
enforces laws and regulations that often significantly restrict individual
liberties and violate other human rights. It also maintained a system of
household registration and block wardens to monitor the population,
concentrating on those suspected of engaging, or being likely to engage in,
unauthorized political activities; however, this system has become less obvious
and pervasive in its intrusion into most citizens' daily lives. While the
civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security
forces, there were reports that elements of the security forces acted
independent of government authority. Members of the public security forces
committed numerous human rights abuses.
country of approximately 80 million persons is undergoing transition from a
wholly central planned economy to a "socialist-oriented market
economy." During the year, the Gross Domestic Product growth rate was
approximately 7 percent and the inflation rate approximately 2.2 percent at
year's end. The agriculture, forestry, and fishery sectors employed 62.5
percent of the labor force and accounted for 23 percent of total economic
output. Industry and construction contributed 38.5 percent of total economic
output, while services accounted for 38.5 percent. During the year, official
development assistance disbursements exceeded $1.4 billion. In the last 10
years, overall poverty levels decreased significantly; as of 2002, approximately
30 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Particularly in Ho
Chi Minh City and Hanoi, economic reforms have raised the standard of living
and reduced CPV and government control over, and intrusion into, citizens'
daily lives; however, many citizens in isolated rural areas, particularly
members of ethnic minorities in the Northwest Highlands, Central Highlands, and
the central coastal regions continued to live in extreme poverty. There was a
growing income and development gap between urban and rural areas and within
urban areas. Unemployment and underemployment remained significant problems.
The Government made significant steps in improving legal transparency for
businesses. In December 2002, the National Assembly amended the Law on the
Promulgation of Legal Normative Documents, which required most legal documents
be published in the Official Gazette. On July 1, to meet this requirement, the
Official Gazette became a daily publication, from six issues per month
Government's human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit
serious abuses. The Government continued to deny the right of citizens to
change their government. Police sometimes beat suspects during arrests,
detention, and interrogation. Several sources also reported that security
forces detained, beat, and were responsible for the disappearances of persons
during the year. Incidents of arbitrary detention of citizens, including
detention for peaceful expression of political and religious views, continued.
With some exceptions, prison conditions remained harsh, particularly in some
isolated provinces, and some persons reportedly died as a result of abuse in
custody. Prisons usually required inmates to work for little compensation and
no wages. The judiciary was not independent, and the Government denied some
citizens the right to fair and expeditious trials. The Government continued to
hold a number of political prisoners. The Government restricted citizens'
privacy rights, although the trend toward reduced government interference in
the daily lives of most citizens continued. The Government significantly
restricted freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and
freedom of association. The Government continued its longstanding policy of not
tolerating most types of public dissent and stepped up efforts to control
dissent on the Internet. Security forces continued to enforce restrictions on
public gatherings and travel in some parts of the country, primarily in the
Central Highlands and the Northwest Highlands. The Government allowed elected
officials and ordinary citizens in approved forums somewhat greater freedom of
expression and freedom of assembly to express grievances. The Government
prohibited independent political, labor, and social organizations; such
organizations existed only under the control of the VFF. The Government
restricted freedom of religion and operation of religious organizations other
than those approved by the State. In particular, Buddhists, Hoa Hao, and Protestants
active in unregistered organizations faced harassment as well as possible
detention by authorities. The Government imposed some limits on freedom of
movement of particular individuals whom it deemed threatening to its rule.
Access to the Central Highlands by foreign observers improved from 2002, but
visitors to the area were generally monitored and often accompanied by security
officials. The Government continued to restrict significantly civil liberties
on grounds of national security and societal stability. The CPV continued its
efforts to strengthen the mechanism for citizens to petition the Government and
for victims of injustice to obtain compensation. The Government did not permit
human rights organizations to form or operate. Violence and societal
discrimination against women remained problems. Child prostitution was a
problem. Government and societal discrimination against some ethnic minorities
continued to be problems. The Government restricted some core worker rights,
such as freedom of association, although the Government cooperated with the
International Labor Organization (ILO) and international donors to improve
implementation of the Labor Law. There were reports that children worked in
exploitative situations. The Government recognized child labor as a problem and
attempted to address it. Trafficking in women and children for the purpose of
prostitution within the country and abroad continued to a serious problem, and
there were reports of the trafficking of women to China and Taiwan for arranged
and forced marriages.
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
Arbitrary and Unlawful Deprivation of Life
were no political killings during the year; however, there were reports of
killings by security forces. In July, police in Xin Man District, Ha Giang
Province, reportedly beat to death then threw into a stream Vang Seo Giao, a
former CPV member who had converted to Christianity, for refusing to renounce
his Protestant faith. Police also reportedly beat to death another Protestant,
Mua Say So, for criticizing the Government over the alleged killing of his
brother, Mua Bua Seng. In September, police in Nam Dinh Province beat to death
Tran Minh Duc who had been detained following a domestic dispute. There were no
reports of action taken against officials involved in any of these killings.
During the year, police in Quang Nam Province reportedly tortured Nguyen Ngoc
Chau to death while questioning him on murder charges. The Supreme People's
Procuracy requested prosecution for the three police officers implicated in the
killing; the case was pending at year's end.
police officers in Vinh Phuc Province charged in the January 2002 torture death
of Khong Van Thoi still were awaiting trial at year's end. Two prison guards
charged in the September 2002 killing of a prison inmate in Hai Duong Province,
Pham Van Dung, also were awaiting trial for manslaughter at year's end.
were credible reports that some members of ethnic minorities in the Central
Highlands and Northwest Highlands who were either arrested or detained did not
return to their families.
August, the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City notified the family of Pham Van
Tuong, a former Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) monk known as Thich
Tri Luc until he secularized in 1997, that he was imprisoned in Ho Chi Minh
City awaiting trial on unspecified charges. In July 2002, Tuong reportedly was
forced to return to the country from Cambodia, where he had been granted UNHCR
refugee status. The court postponed his trial, originally scheduled for August
1; his family was not allowed to visit him, nor had a new trial date been set
by year's end.
August 2002, in M'Drak district, Dak Lak Province, police confronted 120
villagers attempting to prevent the detention of an ethnic minority Protestant
pastor, Y Su Nie, and his two adult sons. After a confused altercation, the
police arrested all 120 persons. Most of those arrested were released after a
few days, but 20 to 30 of the villagers did not return to their villages.
Police reportedly did not acknowledge detaining them. In October 2002, police
reported that they had detained Y Su Nie and one other person.
in August 2002, in Dak Lak, police detained 240 persons at a house church
meeting. Most of the detained were released within a few days, but 47 persons
allegedly did not return to their families. Police did not admit to having
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
law prohibits physical abuse; however, police sometimes beat suspects while in
the process of arresting them or while they were in custody. Police reportedly
beat to death at least two suspects in detention in 2002 (see Section 1.a.).
was no known action taken against two guards who reportedly beat and seriously
injured an inmate at a prison in Hai Duong Province in August 2002.
conditions reportedly were often harsh but generally did not threaten the lives
of prisoners. During the year, as in 2002, visits by select diplomatic
observers revealed Spartan but generally acceptable conditions in at least two
and women were housed separately in prisons. Juveniles were housed separately
from adult populations. Overcrowding, insufficient diet, and poor sanitation
remained serious problems in many prisons.
including those held for political reasons, were reportedly moved arbitrarily
to solitary confinement, including deprivation of reading and writing
materials, for periods of up to several months. Unlike in the previous year,
there were no reports that some inmates were punished with harsh solitary
confinement conditions during the year.
detainees were generally held separately from convicted prisoners and were
denied visitation rights. Consular officers were granted access to their
citizen detainees but usually after a 4 to 8 week delay. Unlike in the previous
year, there were no reports that conditions for pretrial detainees were harsher
than conditions for those who were convicted and sentenced; however, pretrial
detainees were sometimes not permitted access by lawyers and family members.
Most prisoners had access to basic health care. Some political and other
prisoners were denied visitation rights. Prisoners generally were required to
work but received no wages (see Section 6.c.). Prisoners sentenced to hard
labor complained that their diet and medical care were insufficient to sustain
good health, especially in remote, disease-ridden areas. Although political and
religious prisoners often were held under harsh conditions and with limited
medical care in remote prisons, such as Z30a at Xuan Loc in an isolated part of
Dong Nai Province, there was no evidence to suggest their conditions were
significantly different than those for the regular prison population.
the year, as in 2002, the Government permitted selected diplomatic observers to
visit prisons; however, the Government did not allow the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit prisoners.
Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the Government continued
to arrest and detain citizens arbitrarily. Some persons were arrested and
detained for the peaceful expression of their political and religious views. In
addition, several persons who were arrested or detained in 2002 reportedly did
not return to their families (see Section 1.b.). The Criminal Code provides for
various rights of detainees, including the right of the accused to have a
lawyer present during interrogation; however, in practice the authorities
sometimes ignored these legal safeguards. Moreover, a long-standing directive
on administrative probation gives security officials broad powers to subject
individuals to a form of house arrest, if they believe that a suspect is a
threat to "national security" or even on less serious grounds,
Criminal Code places a 12-month time limit on investigative detention; however,
the Government sometimes detained persons for more than 1 year in that status.
There is no legal limit on the time that a judge's panel (a body consisting of
at least one judge and two lay assessors) has to rule on a case (see Section
1.e.); however, there is a 3-month limit for trying, dismissing, or returning a
case for reinvestigation once the 12-month investigative period is ended. Prior
to being formally charged, a detainee has a statutory right to notify family
members, and, in most cases, police informed the family of the detainee's
whereabouts. A detainee may contact a lawyer, prior to being charged, if
permitted by the head of the investigating office. Following a formal charge,
the detainee has a statutory right to contact an attorney; however, it was not
clear that this right generally was respected in practice.
Supreme People's Procuracy (the office which investigates cases and initiates
public prosecutions) issues arrest warrants, generally at the request of
police; however, police may make an arrest without a warrant on the basis of a
complaint filed by any party alleging the commission of a crime. In such cases,
the Procuracy must issue retroactive arrest warrants. Unless specifically
authorized by an investigator, the MPS usually prohibited contact between a
detainee and his lawyer as long as the procurator's office was investigating a
case, which may last up to 1 year and may not entail any formal charges.
Likewise, family members may visit a detainee only with the permission of the
investigator. Time spent in pretrial detention usually counts toward time
served upon conviction and sentencing.
may sentence persons to administrative detention for a period of up to 5 years
after release from prison. These provisions were enforced unevenly. Government
officials used administrative probation to place persons under house arrest
without trial for up to 2 years (see Section 2.d.). For example, at least three
UBCV monks were sentenced to 2 years' house arrest in October and remained
under house arrest at year's end.
arrested for the peaceful expression of views were subject to charge under
several provisions in the Criminal Code that outlaw acts against the State. On
March 17, police detained democracy activist Dr. Nguyen Dan Que for providing
information critical of the country to foreign journalists (see Section 2.a.).
On June 18, a court in Hanoi sentenced Dr. Pham Hong Son to 13 years'
imprisonment and 3 years' house arrest (see Section 2.a.). His sentence was
reduced on appeal to 5 years' imprisonment. On December 31, Nguyen Vu Binh, a
journalist who had been arrested in September 2002, was convicted of espionage
by a court in Hanoi after he had criticized the country's border agreement with
China and sent testimony on human rights issues in the country to a foreign
government. Binh was sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment and 3 years' house
arrest. Diplomats and foreign journalists were refused permission to attend
either of the two trials.
picked up street children in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and held them in
juvenile detention facilities in advance of the December Southeast Asia Games.
2002, activist Nguyen Khac Toan was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for
disseminating articles critical of the Government on the Internet.
December 2002, police detained democracy activists Pham Que Duong and Tran Van
Khue (see Section 2.a.); at year's end, they had not yet been tried. In
addition, up to 19 Hmong Protestant leaders, including Mua A Ho, Cu Van Long,
and Sua Song Vu, may still be detained. It was unknown whether several persons
reportedly detained in previous years have been tried, including: Vo Tan Sau,
Phan Thi Tiem, and Tran Thi Duyen, Le Huu Hoa, Ma Van Chinh, and Lu Seo Dieu.
Constitution does not provide for forced exile, and the Government did not use
Denial of Fair Public Trial
Constitution provides for the independence of judges and lay assessors;
however, in practice, the CPV controls the courts closely at all levels,
selecting judges, at least in part, for their political reliability.
Constitutional safeguards were significantly lacking. The CPV had strong
influence over high profile cases and cases in which a person was charged with
challenging or harming the CPV or the State. During the year, CPV and government
officials likely exerted influence over court decisions by making clear their
wishes to both the lay assessors and the judges who sat on a panel together to
decide cases. The National Assembly votes for judicial nominees presented by
the President for the Supreme People's Court (SPC) President and Supreme
People's Procuracy. The National Assembly also controls the judiciary's budget,
including judges' salaries, just as it controls the budgets and salaries of all
other parts of the Government. Provincial and district governments disburse
judges' salaries at their respective levels, just as they disburse the salaries
of other local officials. The State President appoints all other judges, not
the President of the SPC. This power is granted in the Constitution. In
September 2002, the Government transferred local courts from the Ministry of
Justice to the SPC, in an effort to increase judicial independence. There was
no evidence that this change had any effect on the independence of the courts.
system of appointing judges and lay assessors also reflected the lack of
judicial independence. Court of First Instance Panels at district and
provincial levels include judges and lay assessors, but provincial appeals
courts and the Supreme People's Court are composed of judges only. People's
Councils appoint lay assessors at the district and provincial levels. Lay
assessors are required to have "high moral standards," but legal
training is not necessary. District and provincial People's Councils appoint
the lay assessors at the lower levels. The VFF must approve candidates for SPC
lay assessors. The SPC President appoints the District People's Court and
Provincial People's Court judges to 5-year terms. The SPC President also
appoints SPC judges from candidates approved by a judicial selection panel
under the influence of the CPV. The CPV's influence over the courts was
amplified both because the People's Councils appointed the lay assessors, and
because the judges served limited terms and were subject to review.
judiciary consists of the Supreme People's Court; the district and provincial
People's Courts; military tribunals; administrative, economic, and labor
courts; and other tribunals established by law. Each district throughout the
country has a district People's Court, which serves as the court of first
instance for most domestic, civil, and criminal cases. Each province has a
provincial People's Court, which serves as the appellate forum for district
court cases, as well as courts of first instance for other cases. The SPC is
the highest court of appeal and review. The SPC reports to the National
Assembly. Administrative courts deal with complaints by citizens about official
abuse and corruption.
tribunals operate under the same rules as other courts, but the Ministry of
Defense (MOD) provides their funding. Tribunal judges and assessors are
military personnel, chosen jointly by the SPC and the MOD but supervised by the
SPC. The MOD is represented on the judicial selection panels, and the head of
the military tribunal system is the deputy head of the SPC. A 2002 law gives
military courts jurisdiction over all criminal cases involving military
entities, including military-owned enterprises. The military has the option of
using the administrative, economic, or labor courts for civil cases.
VFF did not have any legal standing to settle legal issues itself. In addition,
the CPV and the Government set up special committees to help resolve local
Supreme People's Procuracy brings charges against the accused and serves as
prosecutor during trials. A judging council, made up of a judge and one or more
lay assessors, determines guilt or innocence and also passes sentence. Although
the Constitution provides that citizens are innocent until proven guilty, a
foreign legal expert who analyzed the court system during 2000 found that more
than 95 percent of the persons who were charged with a crime were convicted.
Some lawyers complained that judges generally presumed guilt.
was a shortage of trained lawyers and judges and no independent bar
association. At the Supreme Court level, there was a 20 percent shortage of
qualified judges in 2002. According to a U.N. official, 30 to 40 percent more
judges were needed at the provincial level. Low salaries hindered the
development of a trained judiciary. The few judges who had formal legal
training often studied abroad in countries with socialist legal traditions.
Young educated judges usually had little influence within the system.
Government conducted training programs to address the problem of inadequately
trained judges and other court officials. A number of foreign governments and
the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) provided assistance to strengthen the rule
of law and to develop a more effective judiciary; however, the lack of openness
in the criminal judicial process and the continuing lack of independence of the
judiciary undermined these efforts.
the Constitution provides for legal counsel for persons accused of criminal
offenses, the scarcity of lawyers made this provision impossible to implement.
With few qualified attorneys, the procurator often handled both the prosecution
and the defense, resulting in legal counsel that frequently provided little
help to the defendant. Consistent with its Marxist-Leninist political system,
the Government required that the Bar Association be a member of the VFF. At the
provincial level, the Bar Association was subordinate to representatives of the
central Government, the VFF, the provincial People's Council, and the People's
generally were open to the public; however, judicial authorities closed trials
or strictly limited attendance in sensitive cases. Defendants have the right to
be present at their trial and to have a lawyer. The defendant or the defense
lawyer have the right to cross-examine witnesses; however, there were credible
reports that defendants were not allowed access to government evidence in
advance of the trial, to cross-examine witnesses, or to challenge statements.
Lawyers reported that they often had little time before trials to examine
evidence to be presented against their clients. Those who were convicted had
the right to appeal. The courts did not publish their proceedings.
Government continued to imprison persons for the peaceful expression of
dissenting religious and political views. There were no reliable estimates of
the number of political prisoners, because the Government usually did not
publicize such arrests, rejected the concept of political and religious
prisoners, and sometimes conducted closed trials and sentencing sessions. There
were 14 prisoners known to be held for political reasons and 21 prisoners held
for religious reasons. Other sources estimated that numbers could be much higher.
Among those believed to be detained or imprisoned were political activists Dr.
Nguyen Dan Que, Col. Pham Que Duong, Tran Van Khue, Tran Dung Tien, Pham Hong
Son, Nguyen Vu Binh, Nguyen Dinh Huy (who reportedly was suffering from
Parkinson's disease), Le Chi Quang, Nguyen Khac Toan, journalist Pham Thai, and
religious persons Father Nguyen Van Ly, Ngo Van Thong, Pham Minh Tri, Le Minh
Triet, Nguyen Chau Lang, Truong Van Duc, Bui Van Hue, Dinh Troi, Pham Van
Tuong, Ho Van Trong, Ha Hai, Thich Thien Minh, Nguyen Thien Phung, Hoang Trong
Dung, Nguyen Van Lia, Ly A Hu, and Ly A Cho.
Government amnestied at least 750 prisoners during the year, but no political
or religious prisoners were known to be among them; however, the Government
reduced the sentences of at least 4 political prisoners during the year.
Government claimed that it did not hold any political or religious prisoners
and that persons described as political or religious prisoners were convicted
of violating national security laws or general criminal laws. In February,
local authorities released or commuted the sentences of 246 prisoners from Ho
Chi Minh City's Chi Hoa and Bo La prisons for good behavior in advance of the
Lunar New Year holiday. On the occasion of the September 2 National Day, local
authorities amnestied an additional 544 prisoners in Hanoi, Haiphong, and Ho
Chi Minh City, releasing 120 before the end of their prison terms and reducing
the sentences of the remainder by 2 to 20 months. The Ministry of Foreign
Affairs reported that none of the persons amnestied were listed as persons of
concern by foreign governments or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Government did not allow access by humanitarian organizations to political
Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Constitution provides for the right to privacy of home and correspondence;
however, the Government restricted this right significantly. Household
registration and block warden systems existed for the surveillance of all
citizens but were used with less vigor and thoroughness than in the past and
usually did not intrude on most citizens. The authorities largely focused on
persons whom they regarded as having views critical of the Government or whom
they suspected of involvement in unauthorized political or religious
activities. Citizens formally are required to register with police when they
leave home, remain in another location overnight, or when they change their
residence, although this usually was honored in the breach; however, the
Government appeared to have enforced these requirements in some districts of
the Central Highlands and northwestern provinces. On August 18, police used
that requirement to enter an illegal Protestant house church in Ho Chi Minh City,
leading to an altercation that resulted in the brief detention of two church
leaders. Most citizens who wished to move around the country to seek work or to
visit family and friends were able to do so without being monitored, and most
families who sought employment moved to other locations without prior
government permission (see Section 2.d.). There continued to be reports that
some "spontaneous migrant" families were unable to obtain household
registration or residence permits in their new locations, which created legal
and administrative problems. In urban areas, most citizens were free to
maintain contact and to work with foreigners. In theory, the Government
required that citizens who work for foreign organizations be screened and hired
through a government service bureau. Laws governing foreign business
enterprises are more lenient. In practice, many foreign organizations,
including diplomatic missions, and enterprises hired their own personnel and
only "registered" them with the service bureau or employment bureau.
entry into homes is not permitted without orders from the Procuracy; however,
in practice, security forces seldom followed this requirement but rather asked
for permission to enter, with an implied threat to cooperate. In some cases,
individuals refused to cooperate with such "requests." In urban
areas, police generally left when faced with non-compliance. In one case in
early October, security officers entered without permission a house in Gia Lai
Province where a foreign diplomat was conducting a consular interview. The
security officers harassed the occupants of the residence and later blocked the
consular officer from entering residences in Dak Lak Province.
Government opened and censored targeted persons' mail, confiscated packages and
letters, and monitored telephone conversations, electronic mail, and facsimile
transmissions. The Government cut the telephone lines of some targeted
individuals and also repeatedly interrupted their cellular phone service. This
practice appeared to be sporadic and was not applied consistently. The
Government monitored e-mail, searched for sensitive key words, and regulated
Internet content (see Section 2.a.).
Government did not exercise forced resettlement; however, there were credible reports
that the Government forced ethnic minority Protestants in the northwestern and
Central Highlands provinces to leave their homes without providing them with
alternative places to live. The Government also resettled some citizens to make
way for infrastructure projects. By law, citizens were to be compensated in
such cases, but there were widespread complaints, including from the National
Assembly, that compensation was not fair or was delayed. The Government has
acknowledged problems in past resettlement programs.
Government enforced universal male conscription. Medical waivers were
available, and students generally received deferments, as did others in special
cases. Individuals who received deferments rarely were drafted. It was unknown
whether there were differences in conscription rates between ethnic groups.
membership in mass organizations remained voluntary but often was important for
career advancement. Membership in the CPV remained an aid to advancement in the
Government and in state companies and was vital for promotion to senior levels
of the Government. At the same time, diversification of the economy made
membership in CPV-controlled mass organizations and the CPV less essential to
financial and social advancement. Opposition political parties were not
Government continued to implement a family planning policy that urges all
families to have no more than two children; this policy emphasized exhortation
rather than coercion. The Government can deny promotions and salary increases
to government employees with more than two children. Fines were not permitted
under revised family planning regulations adopted during the year; officials
claimed that fines were never a formal part of the family planning process.
2001, relatives of some individuals holding political viewpoints at variance
with the Government lost their jobs with state-owned enterprises; however,
most, if not all, found equivalent or better positions with private sector
employers. No similar cases were known to have taken place in 2002 or during
Government interfered with distribution of foreign periodicals and access to
satellite television (see Section 2.a.).
2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
Freedom of Speech and Press
Constitution provides for freedom of speech and freedom of the press; however,
the Government significantly restricted these freedoms in practice,
particularly with respect to political and religious speech. Both the
Constitution and the Criminal Code include broad national security and
anti-defamation provisions that the Government used to restrict severely such
freedoms. The CPV, the Government, and the party-controlled mass organizations
controlled all print and electronic media. The Government exercised oversight
through the Ministry of Culture and Information, supplemented by pervasive
party guidance and national security legislation sufficiently broad to ensure
effective self-censorship in the domestic media. During the year, the international
NGO Reporters Without Borders claimed that Vietnam was among the 10 most
repressive countries in the world regarding freedom of the press.
press law required journalists to pay monetary damages to individuals or
organizations harmed as a result of their reporting, even if the reports were
true. Observers noted that this law limited the scope of investigative
reporting. Several media outlets continued to test the limits of government
press restriction by publishing articles that criticized actions by party and
government officials; however, the freedom to criticize the CPV and its senior
leadership remained restricted. Nonetheless, during the year, there were press
reports about topics that generally were considered sensitive, such as the
prosecution of high-ranking CPV officials in the trial of organized crime boss
Nam Cam. The Government required officials to obtain approval from their
ministry before providing any information to foreign journalists. Journalists
must receive approval from their editorial offices before providing
CPV and the Government tolerated public discussion on some subjects and
permitted somewhat more criticism than in the past. The law allows citizens to
complain openly about inefficient government, administrative procedures,
corruption, and economic policy. Senior government and party leaders traveled
to many provinces to try to resolve citizen complaints. However, on January 29,
the Hanoi People's Court sentenced four persons to jail terms ranging from 24
to 42 months after they disseminated to all 61 provinces and the National
Assembly letters denouncing local land clearance policies. On August 22, a
court in Dong Nai Province sentenced four persons to prison terms of 30 to 42
months for inciting fellow farmers to voice complaints over provincial land use
Government continued to prohibit free speech that questioned the role of the
CPV, criticized individual government leaders, promoted pluralism or multiparty
democracy, or questioned the Government's policies on sensitive matters such as
human rights or the border agreement with China. There continued to be an
arbitrary line between what constituted private speech about sensitive matters,
which the authorities would tolerate, and public speech in those areas that
they would not tolerate. On March 17, police detained democracy activist Dr.
Nguyen Dan Que on espionage charges for providing information to foreign
journalists. At year's end, he remained in detention in Ho Chi Minh City, and
his family was prohibited from visiting him. On June 18, a court in Hanoi
sentenced Dr. Pham Hong Son to 13 years' imprisonment and 3 years' house arrest
in a closed trial on espionage charges after he translated a number of
English-language articles about democracy and posted them on the Internet. On
August 26, an appeals court reduced the sentence to 5 years. In 2002, police
repeatedly summoned democracy activist Nguyen Vu Binh, a former journalist, for
questioning. He was under close police surveillance for several weeks
thereafter before being summoned for questioning again and detained in 2002. On
December 31, he was tried, convicted of "espionage," and sentenced to
7 years in prison and 3 years' administrative detention (see Section 1.d.). In
2001, biologist Ha Sy Phu, who was cleared on earlier charges of treason, was
placed under administrative probation for writing articles calling for
democracy. His administrative probation expired in March.
2001, several democracy activists have had their telephone service
disconnected. In 2002, before his December 2002 detention, retired Colonel Pham
Que Duong was called in for questioning for several consecutive days and had
his cell telephone service cut at least three times in 2002. In December 2002,
police detained Duong in Ho Chi Minh City just after he concluded a visit to
fellow activist Tran Van Khue. A day later, police came to Khue's house,
detained him, and took away his computer and other materials. Khue and Duong
had identified themselves as spokespersons for a number of other activists.
Both Khue and Duong were in pretrial detention at year's end. Before his arrest
on March 18, Nguyen Dan Que continued to call for democracy and respect for
human rights, but authorities interfered with his ability to communicate by
cutting off his cellular telephone service intermittently, shutting off his
land line, and restricting his access to the Internet and e-mail for more than
2 years. Police monitored him closely and questioned him periodically until his
March arrest. Que was in pretrial detention at year's end.
July 17, the Government reduced by 5 years the cumulative 15-year sentences
imposed on Catholic priest Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly in 2001 for "damaging
national unity." In 2001, Father Ly had submitted written testimony
critical of the Government to the U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom and frequently spoke out for political pluralism and complete religious
freedom. On September 10, the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court sentenced Father
Ly’s niece, Nguyen Thi Hoa, and two nephews, Nguyen Truc Cuong and Nguyen Vu
Viet, to sentences ranging from 3 to 5 years' imprisonment for communicating
information on his activities to foreign journalists. On November 28, the Ho
Chi Minh Court of Appeals reduced the sentences of the three siblings,
resulting in their release for time served.
Government restricted persons who belonged to unofficial religious groups from
speaking publicly about their beliefs (see Section 2.c.).
persons who expressed alternative opinions on religious or political issues
were not allowed to travel abroad (see Section 2.d.).
reports on high-level government corruption and mismanagement became more
common in recent years. Local newspapers devoted extensive coverage to the
trial of the Nam Cam organized crime gang, with links to three high-level
government officials, two of whom were members of the CPV Central Committee
before their expulsions in 2002. The Government restricted coverage when it
deemed that the scandal was receiving too much publicity and revealing too many
sensitive points. Many newspapers ignored the CPV's instructions not to report
on the case, resulting in strong rebukes. During the year, the editor-in-chief
of Tuoi Tre, who presided over the newspaper during reporting on the Nam Cam
trial, was transferred to the newspaper's real estate management group.
2002, the Government criticized reporters for what it considered
sensationalized reporting on a major fire in Ho Chi Minh City. In December
2002, the Ministry of Culture and Information revoked the press identity cards
of four reporters. Three of the reporters, Tran Ngoc Tuan of Tien Phong
magazine, Dang Thanh Hai of Thanh Nien newspaper, and Nguyen Minh Son of Nguoi
Lao Dong newspaper, filed what the Government claimed were inaccurate reports
about Danang police beating citizens to the point of severe injury. A fourth
reporter, Bui Ngoc Cai of Gia Dinh Va Xa Hoi newspaper, reported that a police
major general had said that the Government might punish ministerial level
officials for corruption. All four journalists had their press cards returned
to their employers in October.
2002, the Government unexpectedly blocked press access to the foreign-funded,
scientific Conference on Environmental and Human Health Effects of Agent Orange
in Hanoi. The Government did not allow foreign journalists to attend sessions
and restricted domestic journalists to the opening and closing sessions. At
year's end, nearly 1˝ years later, the conference papers had not been
translated or distributed.
Government generally required religious publishing to be done through one
government-owned religious publishing house; however, some religious groups
were able to print their own materials or import materials, subject to government
approval (see Section 2.c.).
language periodicals were widely available in cities; however, the Government
occasionally censored articles about the country. The Government sometimes
delayed availability of a foreign periodical, apparently because of articles on
sensitive topics. The Government generally did not limit access to
international radio, except to Radio Free Asia and the Far East Broadcasting
Corporation, which it continued to jam.
journalists must be approved by the Foreign Ministry's Press Center and must be
based in Hanoi. The number of foreign staff allowed to each foreign media
organization was limited, and most local staff who worked for foreign media
were provided by the Foreign Ministry. The Press Center monitored journalists'
activities and decided on a case-by-case basis whether to approve their
interview, photograph, film, or travel requests, all of which in principle must
be submitted 5 days in advance. The Press Center refused several travel
requests, particularly for travel to the Central Highlands, although it did
allow two journalist groups to visit the Central Highlands during the year. By
law, foreign journalists are required to address all of their questions to
other government agencies through the Foreign Ministry, although it appeared
that this often was not followed in practice. Foreign journalists generally
received visas valid for 6 months. One journalist was unable to renew his visa
during 2002, and two journalists received visas for shorter than usual terms in
2001. There were no such reports during the year.
past years, the Government censored television footage and sometimes delayed
export of footage by several days. During 2002 and this year, such censorship
was not known to have occurred, although regulations continued to allow the
Government to screen such footage. The law limits access to satellite
television to top officials, foreigners, luxury hotels, and the press; however,
the law was not enforced uniformly, and an increasing number of persons in
urban and some rural areas had access to censored television footage via home
satellite equipment or cable. In 2002, following a visible increase in
individual satellite dishes set up in conjunction with the World Cup soccer
competition, the Government issued a new decree in an attempt to enforce this
requirement more stringently; however, that decree appeared to go largely
Government censored art exhibits, music, and other cultural activities.
However, the Government generally allowed artists broader latitude than in past
years in choosing the themes for their works, although artists were not allowed
to exhibit works of art that censors regarded as criticizing or ridiculing the
Government or the CPV. Many artists received permission to exhibit their works
abroad, receiving exit permits to attend the exhibits and export permits to
send their works out of the country.
language editions of some banned books, such as Duong Thu Huong's Memories of a
Pure Spring, were sold openly by street peddlers, and Bao Ninh's previously
banned book, Sorrow of War, was available in bookstores in Vietnamese language
editions. In one notable exception, the press launched a campaign to denounce
well-known actor Don Duong for his roles in the films "Green Dragon"
and "We Were Soldiers Once." The articles described the actor as a
traitor and called for his arrest and detention. The Government also prevented
actor Don Duong from traveling abroad for periods of time during the year (see
Section 2.d.); however, it did eventually allow him and his family to emigrate
to the United States.
Government allowed access to the Internet through 6 Internet Access Providers
(IXPs) and 13 Internet Service Providers (ISPs); however, all IXPs were
required to be State-owned, or are joint-stock companies with the State as
controlling shareholder. All IXPs leased Internet access through the country's
largest access provider, Vietnam Data Communications (VDC). The Ministry of
Post and Telematics reported that the country had 650,000 Internet subscribers
and roughly 2,660,000 Internet users. The price of computers relative to the
country's income level limited home use, but universities and approximately
4,000 cyber cafes allowed students and many other persons wider access to the
was authorized by the Government to monitor the sites that subscribers access.
The Government used firewalls to block sites it deemed politically or
culturally inappropriate, including sites operated by exile groups abroad. The
Government restricted access to the Radio Free Asia and Voice of America
websites during the year. In 2002, the Government instructed cyber cafe owners
to monitor their customers to discourage citizens from accessing sites
containing anti-government material as well as pornography; however, such
monitoring appeared uncommon.
August 2002, the Government inspected a large number of Internet cafes to
determine whether persons were accessing blacklisted sites. Also in August
2002, the Government closed a company that provided an online news service
because it carried articles not allowed under the Press Law. In 2002, the
Government required all owners of domestic web sites, including those operated
by foreign entities, to register their sites with the Government and to submit
their web site content to the Government for approval.
Government restricted academic freedom, and foreign field researchers often
were questioned and monitored. However, the Government permitted a more open
flow of information within the country and into the country from abroad,
including in the university system, than in previous years. Local librarians
increasingly were being trained in professional skills and international
standards such as the Dewey Decimal System that supported wider international
library and information exchanges and research. Foreign academic professionals
temporarily working in universities were allowed to discuss nonpolitical issues
widely and freely in classes; however, government observers regularly attended
classes taught by both foreigners and citizens. Foreign government
informational materials of a non-political nature distributed to participants
at a library conference in Hue were confiscated from participants by security
officials. Some research institutions insisted that their faculty members
receive permission to attend official professional programs on diplomatic
premises or use diplomatic research facilities. Security officials frequently
questioned those who regularly used diplomatic facilities concerning their
relationship to foreign governments. Nevertheless, requests for materials from
foreign research facilities increased. Academic publications usually reflected
the views of the CPV and the Government.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
right of assembly is restricted in law, and the Government restricted and
monitored all forms of public protest. Persons who wish to gather in a group
are required to apply for a permit, which local authorities can issue or deny
arbitrarily. In general, the Government did not permit demonstrations that
could be seen as having a political purpose. Persons routinely gathered in
informal groups without government interference; however, the Government
restricted the right of some religious groups to gather in worship. The
Government tried and sentenced some persons for protests over land use policies
and expropriations (see Section 2.a.).
February and March, there were numerous peaceful protests, mostly by students,
organized across from a foreign embassy in Hanoi. Police maintained order but
did not otherwise interfere or insist on permits.
April 23, two men were sentenced to prison in Ho Chi Minh City for
"creating social disorder" and destroying government property for
inciting a dozen persons to attack a local site-clearance office in a dispute
over land expropriation.
October, a court in the Central Highlands Province of Dac Lak sentenced four
ethnic minority persons arrested in connection to the 2001 unrest in the
Central Highlands--Y Kuo Bya, Y He E Ban, Y Jon Enuol, and Y Bri Enuol--to
prison terms of 13, 12, 11, and 10 years respectively.
2002 and during the year, there were a number of peaceful protests of up to 50
persons, mostly older rural women, over land use issues. The protests took
place outside government and CPV office buildings, the Prime Minister's
residence, and the National Assembly hall in Hanoi. On one occasion, police
firmly, but nonviolently and respectfully, moved the protesters away from the
Prime Minister's residence
December 2002, the Nam Dinh Provincial People's Court sentenced 10 people to
prison for sentences of 18 months to 5 years for their role in protests in 2000
related to corruption and agricultural land use taxes. Also in December 2002,
the Ha Tay provincial court sentenced 22 individuals to terms of 6 months to 9
years related to their participation in April 2002 protests concerning land
disputes and official corruption.
December 2002, there were reports that police forcibly dispersed one or more
religious gatherings of Hmong Christians (see Section 2.c.).
November 2002, hundreds of farmers clashed with local authorities in Ha Tay
Province over land seizures, allegedly injuring six or seven policemen. No
trials were known to have taken place linked to this incident.
Government restricted freedom of association. The Government prohibited the
legal establishment of private, independent organizations, insisting that
persons work within established, party-controlled mass organizations, usually
under the aegis of the VFF. Citizens were prohibited from establishing
independent political parties, labor unions, and religious or veterans'
organizations; however, some entities, particularly unregistered religious
groups, were able to operate outside of this framework with little or no
government interference (see Section 2.c.).
September 2001, Tran Van Khue and Colonel Pham Que Duong sent a letter to the
party and government leadership seeking permission to form a "People's
Association to support the Party and State to fight corruption." Police
sent Khue and Nguyen Thi Thanh Xuan from Hanoi back to their residences in Ho
Chi Minh City. The People's Association later set up a web site, which the
Government did not block, that included contact information, the petition,
other documents written by various democracy activists, and a bulletin board
where several individuals recorded their reactions to the proposal. In October
2002, the Government placed Khue under a 2-year administrative detention
order--a form of house arrest. In December 2002, Khue was arrested, and he was
still awaiting trial at year's end.
Freedom of Religion
Constitution and government decrees provide for freedom of worship; however,
the Government continued to restrict significantly those organized activities
of religious groups that it declared to be at variance with state laws and
to credible reports, the police arbitrarily detained persons based upon their
religious beliefs and practice, particularly in the mountainous, ethnic
minority areas. There were credible reports that Hmong Protestants in several
northwestern villages and various ethnic minority Protestants in the Central
Highlands were pressured to renounce their faith. There were also reports that
a few Protestants in those areas were beaten and killed (see Section 1.a.).
Government required religious groups to be registered and used this process to
control and monitor church organizations. The Government officially recognizes
Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and Muslim religious
organizations. To obtain official recognition, a group must obtain government
approval of its leadership and the overall scope of its activities. The
Government's approval process was slow and non-transparent. Officially
recognized religious organizations were able to operate with varying degrees of
freedom throughout the country, and followers of these religious bodies were
usually able to worship without government harassment, except in some isolated
provinces. Officially recognized organizations had to consult with the
Government about their religious operations and appointments, although not
generally about their tenets of faith. Some leaders of the pre-1975 Buddhist
and Hoa Hao religious bodies unsuccessfully requested official recognition of
their organizations. Their activities, and those of the unregistered Protestant
house churches, were considered illegal by the authorities, and they sometimes
experienced harassment as a result. The Government actively discouraged
contacts between the illegal UBCV and its foreign supporters, and between
unofficial Protestant organizations, such as the underground house churches,
and their foreign supporters, although such contacts continued.
Government generally allowed persons to practice individual worship in the
religion of their choice, and participation in religious activities throughout
the country continued to grow significantly. In some areas, including Ho Chi
Minh City, local officials generally allowed unregistered religious
organizations to hold services with little or no interference.
some cases, particularly involving Hmong Protestants, when authorities charged
persons with practicing religion illegally, they used provisions of the
Criminal Code that allow for jail terms of up to 3 years for "abusing
freedom of speech, press, or religion." The Criminal Code establishes
penalties for "attempting to undermine national unity" by promoting
"division between religious believers and nonbelievers." There were
reports that officials fabricated evidence. Government officials denied
allegations that Protestant house churches were destroyed or disbanded during
the year on the basis that the churches were unregistered and therefore illegal.
On September 23, police reportedly destroyed a small Protestant house church in
Ho Chi Minh City.
the Northwest Highlands and the Central Highlands, local officials allowed
believers little discretion in the practice of their faith. The Government sometimes
prevented Protestants in the northwest provinces and the Central Highlands from
gathering to worship in unregistered house churches, forcing them to worship
secretly in small family groups.
Government continued to harass members of the banned UBCV and prevent them from
conducting independent religious activities, particularly outside of their
pagodas. In early March, the Government allowed 83-year-old UBCV Patriarch
Thich Huyen Quang to travel to Hanoi for surgery. Government officials, including
Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and foreign diplomats, met with him during his
stay. After his recovery, the Government permitted the Patriarch to reside at
his former pagoda in Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh Province, rather than return to the
pagoda in Quang Ngai Province where he had resided since 1982 under conditions
resembling house arrest. On June 27, the Government released UBCV Deputy Thich
Quang Do from 2 years of administrative detention several months ahead of
schedule. Most of the UBCV leadership subsequently was able to meet with one
another, diplomatic representatives, and government officials in Hanoi, Ho Chi
Minh City, and Quy Nhon, despite some government interference. In September,
UBCV leaders met in Binh Dinh in what church members characterized as a de
facto re-establishment of the UBCV's right to existence. Security authorities
intercepted several UBCV leaders leaving the meetings and returned them to
their respective pagodas. At year's end, several UBCV leaders, including Thich
Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do, were residing in their pagodas and appeared
able to travel only with permission of security authorities. Three Ho Chi Minh
City-based UBCV monks, Thich Tue Sy, Thich Nguyen Ly, and Thich Thanh Huyen,
were formally sentenced to 2 years' administrative detention and
Vietnamese Roman Catholic Church hierarchy remained frustrated by the
Government's restrictions but continued to accommodate itself to them. A number
of clergy reported a modest easing of government control over church activities
in certain dioceses during the year. In many locales, local government
officials allowed Catholic Church officials to conduct religious education
classes (outside regular school hours) and limited charitable activities; however,
in other areas, officials strictly prohibited these activities.
on the hierarchies and clergy of religious groups remained in place, and the
Government maintained supervisory control of the recognized religions.
Religious organizations were required to obtain government permission to hold
training seminars, conventions, and celebrations outside of the regular
religious calendar, to build or remodel places of worship, to engage in
charitable activities, operate religious schools, and to train, ordain,
promote, or transfer clergy. Religious organizations also were required to
submit their "annual plans" and "schedules" for approval by
local authorities. Many of these restrictions principally were exercised by
provincial or city People's Committees, and treatment of religious persons
varied widely by locality.
general, religious groups faced difficulty in obtaining teaching materials,
expanding training facilities, and expanding the clergy in training in response
to the increased demand from congregations; the Government regulated the number
of clergy that the Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, Hoa Hao, and Cao Dai
churches officially could train. On February 15, the Government allowed the
Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam (SECV), which was formally recognized in
2001, to open a seminary in Ho Chi Minh City. The Government restricted the
number of seminarians to 50 and retained the right to approve candidates for
Roman Catholic Church faced significant restrictions on the training and
ordination of priests and bishops. The Government effectively maintained veto
power over Vatican appointments of bishops; however, in practice it showed a
willingness to discuss appointments with the Vatican. In August, two new
Catholic bishops were appointed with government approval. One was appointed to
the diocese of Hung Hoa, a position that had been vacant for over 11 years.
With these appointments, only one bishopric remained unfilled, due to the
incumbent's death in June. In October, the Government also tacitly recognized
the elevation of Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man to Cardinal. In recent
years, the Government eased its efforts to control the Roman Catholic hierarchy
by relaxing the requirements that all clergy belong to the government-controlled
Catholic Patriotic Association. The Catholic Church operated 6 seminaries;
however, due to objections to the proposed location by local authorities, an
additional centrally approved seminary had not opened by year's end. The
Catholic Church also received permission to accept new seminarians but only
every other year. Over 800 students were enrolled nationwide at year's end. The
local People's Committee must approve all students, both upon entering the
seminary and prior to their ordination as priests. Some seminary graduates
remained unordained as long as 10 years. Most observers believed that the
number of ordained priests was insufficient to support the growing Catholic
authorities strictly controlled Hoa Hao "dissidents" and kept several
church followers in jail. On March 27, Nguyen Van Lia was arrested, and, on
July 1, he was sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment for holding a commemoration
of the disappearance of Hoa Hao prophet Huynh Phu So. Other Hoa Hao believers
were allowed more freedom to practice their faith. Between 100 and 200 visitors
worshipped at the central Hoa Hao Pagoda in An Giang Province on a daily basis.
Police authorities routinely questioned some persons who held alternative
religious or political views, such as UBCV monks.
1975 the Government had prohibited ordination into the Cao Dai priesthood;
however, in 2002, at least 18 new priests were ordained and 924 apprentices
entered the process leading to priesthood. Some other priests were promoted to
Association members were able to practice their faith, including daily prayer
and fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Government restricted and monitored all forms of public assembly, including
assembly for religious activities. Large regularly scheduled religious
gatherings were allowed, such as the Catholic celebrations at La Vang and the
Cao Dai celebrations in Tay Ninh Province. The Hoa Hao also was allowed to hold
large public gatherings to commemorate some traditional anniversaries but not
others. Some specially scheduled religious gatherings also were allowed;
however, in December 2002, there were reports that police in Lai Chau Province
attempted to disperse one or more gatherings of Hmong Christians. Police
reportedly used a gas--possibly pepper spray--during at least one of these
actions, leading to the hospitalization of four or more persons.
adherence to a religious faith generally did not disadvantage persons in civil,
economic, and secular life, although it likely would prevent advancement to the
highest government and military ranks. Avowed religious practice was no longer
even a bar to membership in the CPV. Some government and CPV officials
increasingly admitted that they followed traditional and Buddhist religious
missionaries may not operate as religious workers in the country, although many
undertake humanitarian or development activities with the approval of the
government publishing house oversees the publishing of all religious materials.
Many Buddhist sacred scriptures, Bibles, and other religious texts and
publications, including some in ethnic minority languages, were also printed by
government-approved organizations to be sold or distributed at religious
Government allowed religious travel for some, but not all, religious persons;
Muslims were able to take the Hajj (although apparently none did during the
year due to lack of foreign financial support), and more Buddhist, Catholic,
and Protestant officials were able to travel and study abroad. The Government
allowed many bishops and priests to travel freely within their dioceses and
allowed greater, but still restricted, freedom for travel outside these areas,
particularly in many ethnic areas. Many Protestant house church leaders
traveled overseas during the year. Government officials discouraged officially
recognized clergy from entering Son La, Lai Chau, and some other border
provinces, where officials have claimed that there were no religious adherents
of any kind. In March, several hundred Hao Hoa believers traveled to the Hoa
Hao Pagoda in An Giang Province to commemorate a traditional anniversary that
the Government refused to recognize officially. In July 2002, as many as
300,000 persons traveled there to celebrate another traditional anniversary,
which the Government does recognize.
who were religious practitioners in a non-State recognized group sometimes were
not approved for foreign travel. In 2002, UBCV monk Thich Thai Hoa in Hue was
refused permission to travel outside the country on several occasions.
Protestant pastors Nguyen Lap Ma and Nguyen Nhat Thong were restricted from
traveling or had to request permission from authorities to travel (see Section
minority, unregistered Protestant congregations in the Central Highlands and in
the northwest provinces continued to suffer severe abuses. Certain northwest
provinces reportedly did not have any officially recognized churches or
pagodas. Authorities in those areas also reportedly detained and imprisoned
ethnic minority worshipers for practicing their faith, citing their lack of
officially recognized status.
reports described a systematic campaign on the part of local officials in Dak
Lak and Gia Lai Provinces in the Central Highlands in particular to force
ethnic minority Protestants to renounce their faith. Similar campaigns
continued to be reported during the year in Lai Chau, Lao Cai, and other
mountainous northern provinces. Under threat of physical abuse or confiscation
of property, some ethnic minority Protestants allegedly were made to sign a
formal, written renunciation or to undergo a symbolic ritual, which included
reportedly drinking rice whiskey mixed with animal blood. Others refused, often
with no known negative repercussions. Officials reportedly ordered many
non-recognized Protestant gatherings to cease, forbade some pastors from
traveling, withheld government food distributions from Protestant believers,
and prohibited children of Protestant families from attending school beyond the
third grade. Soldiers and young party cadre reportedly moved into the homes of
some ethnic minority persons in the Central Highlands, interfering with their
ability to worship.
a more detailed discussion, see the 2003 International Religious Freedom Report.
Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and
Constitution provides that citizens "shall enjoy freedom of movement and
of residence within the country…(and) freely travel abroad and return home…in
accordance with the provisions of the law"; however, the Government
imposed some limits on freedom of movement. Most citizens enjoyed freedom of
movement within the country, but some local authorities required some members
of ethnic minority groups to obtain permission to travel outside certain
highland areas, including in some cases any travel outside their own villages.
local officials informally discouraged clergy from traveling, even within their
own provinces. Officially, citizens had to obtain permission to change their
residence (see Section 1.f.). In practice, many persons continued to move
without approval, especially migrant or itinerant laborers moving from rural
areas to cities in search of work; however, moving without permission
restricted their ability to obtain legal residence permits. Holders of foreign
passports by law must register to stay in private homes. In practice, most
visitors from overseas were allowed to stay with family and friends without
registering. Citizens are also required to register with local police when they
stay overnight in any location outside of their own homes (see Section 1.f.).
Government employed internal isolation under the decree on administrative
detention to restrict the movement of political and religious dissidents. Until
June, authorities confined UBCV Deputy Thich Quang Do to his living quarters
under an administrative detention order. His telephone lines were cut, and he
was unable to receive visitors (see Section 2.c.).
persons were held under conditions resembling house arrest without known legal
documentation. After a meeting in Binh Dinh Province in October, many leaders
of the banned UBCV, including Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and Deputy Head Thich
Quang Do, were returned to their respective pagodas in the central and southern
parts of the country and informed that they would not be able to travel without
government approval (see Section 2.c.). Until April, Thich Huyen Quang had been
confined to a pagoda in Quang Ngai Province, but was able to receive a limited
number of visitors. He was permitted to seek medical treatment in Hanoi, meet
with government officials and foreign diplomats, travel to various UBCV-related
temples, and meet with numerous followers. Protestant pastor Nguyen Lap Ma has
been forced to reside in an isolated village in Can Tho Province since 1982,
but authorities have allowed him to travel to Ho Chi Minh City for monthly medical
check-ups since he suffered a stroke in 1998. Another Protestant pastor, Nguyen
Nhat Thong, has been forced to reside in a remote village in Binh Thuan
Province since 1979. He has been allowed to travel outside the village since
1986 but must ask for the permission of local authorities each time.
generally were free to travel throughout the country, except in areas
restricted on grounds of national security. The Government retained the right
to approve travel to border areas and to some islands, but in practice
foreigners could travel to most non-sensitive border areas without prior
approval. On several occasions, local police detained and fined foreigners who
police found had ventured too close to international borders and other sensitive
military areas. Some of these areas were unmarked.
the Government no longer required citizens traveling abroad to obtain exit or
reentry visas, the Government sometimes prevented persons from traveling by
refusing to issue passports. In July 2002, the Government stopped issuing
passports stamped Dinh Cu (immigration) to persons intending to emigrate. The
Government did not allow some persons who publicly or privately expressed
critical opinions on religious or political issues to travel abroad. The
Government also prevented actor Don Duong from traveling abroad for periods of
time during the year. In 2002, authorities confiscated his passport; however,
on April 9, he was allowed to emigrate to the U.S.
access to passports sometimes was constrained by factors outside the law, such
as bribery and corruption. Refugee and immigrant visa applicants sometimes
encountered local officials who arbitrarily delayed or denied passports based
on personal animosities, on the officials' perception that an applicant did not
meet program criteria, or to extort a bribe. Some Protestant pastors who had
served time in reeducation camps were denied passports on the grounds that they
had no residence permits or national identification cards. Some family members
of ethnic minorities granted refugee status abroad have been reissued household
registration papers with the missing member removed. Other family members of
refugees have been unable to obtain passports to reunite abroad.
United States continued to process immigrants and refugee applicants for
admission and resettlement, including Amerasians, former reeducation camp
detainees, former U.S. government employees, family reunification cases, and
returnees from camps of first asylum elsewhere in the region (under the
Resettlement Opportunity for Vietnamese Returnees program). Most of these
programs were closed to new applicants nearly a decade ago, with the number of
cases in some categories now in the low double digits. (An exception was the
Amerasian program, which remained opened to new applicants). The Government had
constructive discussions with the United States on the future of these
programs. There were concerns that some members of minority ethnic groups, such
as those in the Central Highlands, may not have had ready access to these
programs because the Government denied them passports. This was not the case
for the program for the majority of former U.S. government employees and
re-education camp detainees; however, delays in passport issuance to some
Montagnards and some others who applied under the different refugee
sub-programs continued. These passport applicants also included relatives of
ethnic minority persons who fled the country in recent years and were admitted
to the United States as refugees from Cambodia.
Government generally permitted citizens, who had emigrated abroad, to return to
visit. Officially, the Government considers anyone born in the country to be a
citizen, even if they have acquired another country's citizenship, unless a
formal renunciation of citizenship has been approved by the President. However,
in practice, the Government usually treated overseas Vietnamese as citizens of
their adopted country. Emigrants were not permitted to use Vietnamese passports
after they acquired other citizenship; however, because citizens who lived
overseas were considered both a valuable potential source of foreign exchange
and expertise for the country but also a potential security threat, the
Government generally encouraged them to visit but sometimes monitored them
early 2001, over 1,000 Montagnards from the Central Highlands fled to Cambodia
following a crackdown by security forces. The crackdown followed demonstrations
complaining of expropriation of traditional lands, influx of lowland ethnic
majority Kinh into the Central Highlands, and religious discrimination. A
tripartite agreement on the Montagnards' repatriation among the Governments of
Vietnam and Cambodia and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was abandoned
by UNHCR after the Government restricted access and attempted to intimidate and
pressure Montagnards in the UNHCR camps to return. In June 2002, an official
acknowledged that the country's leadership had made mistakes and was in part
responsible for the turmoil in the Central Highlands. Subsequently, the
Government declared it would award each minority family in the Central
Highlands at least one hectare of land for farming and 400 square meters for
housing; however, the Government has administered the program unevenly, and
ethnic minority persons complained that local officials allotted them mostly
undesirable lands. Dozens more fled the country during the year, also seeking
the year, there were credible reports that ethnic minority persons fleeing the
country were arrested or turned back at the Cambodian border, sometimes
violently. A small number were reported to be in hiding on both sides of the
diplomats and journalists visited 15 UNHCR-sponsored returnees in September.
While the returnees complained about poor economic conditions and the failure
of the UNHCR to implement certain promises, they did not claim to have been
singled out for any special harassment due to their status. In 2002, there were
credible reports that non-uniformed security forces crossed the border to try
to capture and return many of those who had fled after the 2001 unrest. These
reports indicated that security forces succeeded in forcibly returning
approximately 50 persons to Dak Lak Province. They reportedly returned another
eight persons to Gia Lai Province. Gia Lai authorities reportedly placed two of
the returnees in jail and the other six under administrative probation. Family
members reported the disappearances of at least 42 ethnic minority persons from
Gia Lai Province. Most of those who fled and were placed under the protection
of the UNHCR were subsequently resettled from Cambodia to a third country.
country is not a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status
of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government generally provided protection
against refoulement but did not routinely grant refugee or asylum status.
Several embassies in the country reported that individuals claiming to be North
Korean, who requested asylum in the country, have been returned to China on the
basis of illegal immigration status and their own claims to have entered the
country overland from China.
3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Constitution does not provide the right for citizens peacefully to change their
government, and citizens could not freely choose and change the laws and
officials that govern them. CPV control over the selection of candidates in
elections for the National Assembly, the presidency, the prime ministership,
and local government undermines this right. All authority and political power
is vested in the CPV, and the Constitution delineates the leadership of the
CPV. Political opposition movements and other political parties are illegal.
The CPV Politburo is the supreme decision-making body in the nation, although
it technically reports to the CPV Central Committee. During the first session
of the Ninth Congress of the CPV in April 2001, the CPV replaced the standing
board, consisting of the 5 most senior members of the Politburo, with a
Secretariat, originally consisting of the General Secretary, 4 lower ranking
Politburo members, and 4 non-Politburo Central Committee members but now with a
total of at least 11 members, to oversee day-to-day implementation of
Government continued to restrict public debate and criticism to certain aspects
of individual, state, or party performance determined by the CPV itself;
however, legislators continued to question and criticize ministers in bi-annual
National Assembly sessions that were broadcast live on television. No public
challenge to the legitimacy of the one-party State is permitted; however, there
were instances of unsanctioned letters critical of the Government from private
citizens, including some former party members, which circulated publicly.
Government strongly encouraged eligible citizens to vote in elections. Although
voting is not compulsory, election officials applied many means to persuade
citizens to vote, including using public address systems to ask late voting
citizens by name to come to the polls. The Government claimed a 99.73 percent
voter turnout for the May 2002 National Assembly election. Proxy voting, while illegal,
appeared widespread. In addition, most voting was over by 10:00 a.m., although
polls were required to be open until 7:00 p.m. The party-controlled VFF
approved all candidates for the 498-member assembly.
National Assembly, although subject to the control of the CPV (all of its
senior leaders and 90 percent of its members were party members), increasingly
served as a forum for the expression of local and provincial concerns and as a
critic of corruption and inefficiency. However, it does not initiate
legislation and never has passed legislation that the CPV opposed. CPV
officials occupied most senior government and National Assembly positions and
continued to have the final say on key issues. In 2002, the National Assembly
debated the government's cabinet nominations; although it approved all of the
nominations, more than 30 percent of the delegates voted against some nominees.
During the year, the National Assembly continued to engage in public debate on
economic, legal, and social issues. It also continued to exert its increasing
power to revise or reject draft laws and actively pursued enhancing its
capability to draft laws.
law provides the opportunity for equal participation in politics by women and
minority groups. Women held a number of important government positions,
including the Vice Presidency. There were 136 women in the 498-seat National
Assembly; there were 3 women at the Ministerial level; and there were no women
in the Politburo. There were only a few women in provincial level leadership
were 87 ethnic minority members in the 498-seat National Assembly and 2 ethnic
minority members serving in cabinet-level positions. The CPV General Secretary
is a member of the Tay ethnic minority group; however, the number of minorities
in Government or national-level politics does not accurately reflect their
percentage of the population.
4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental
Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Government does not permit private, local human rights organizations to form or
operate. The Government generally did not tolerate attempts by organizations or
individuals to comment publicly on government human rights practices and used a
wide variety of means to suppress domestic criticism of its human rights
policies, including surveillance, limits on freedom of assembly, interference
with personal communications, and detention. However, the SECV and Catholic
Church did not suffer any apparent adverse consequences from widely publicized
letters to the Government criticizing alleged acts of religious oppression
toward ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands. UBCV Deputy Thich Quang Do
also sent a widely publicized letter to the Government condemning the detention
of former UBCV monk Thich Tri Luc (see Section 1.b.).
Government generally prohibited private citizens from contacting international
human rights organizations, although some activists were able to do so. The
Government did not allow any visits by international NGO human rights monitors;
however, it did allow a representative from the UNDP to visit the Central
Highlands in August and a UNHCR local official to visit in September. The
Government criticized almost all public statements on human rights issues by
international NGOs and foreign governments.
Government generally was willing to discuss human rights problems bilaterally
with some governments if such discussions took place under the rubric of
"exchanges of ideas" rather than as "investigations."
During the year, several foreign governments held official talks concerning
human rights. A delegation of representatives from European Union member
countries visited Dak Lak Province in June and reported that there were limits
on citizens' religious freedom.
5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or
social class; however, enforcement of these prohibitions was uneven. Some persons
formerly interned in reeducation camps on the basis of association with the
pre-1975 government continued to report varying levels of discrimination as
they and their families sought access to housing, education, and employment.
Some military veterans of the pre-1975 government still faced economic hardship
as a result of past employment restrictions and discrimination, but none were
known still to be incarcerated for their activities before 1975. These veterans
and their families generally were unable to obtain employment with the
Government. This prohibition was less restrictive than in previous years
because of the growth of job opportunities in the private sector. There was no
official discrimination against HIV/AIDS positive citizens; however, there was
some societal discrimination.
law addresses the problem of domestic violence; however, authorities did not
enforce the law effectively. Officials increasingly acknowledged domestic
violence, which also was discussed more openly in the media. International NGO
workers and local contacts reported that domestic violence against women was
common. Approximately two-thirds of divorces reportedly were due in part to
domestic violence. The divorce rate has risen in the past few years, but many women
remained in abusive marriages rather than confront the social and family stigma
and economic uncertainty of divorce.
the Criminal Code, it is a crime to use violence, threaten violence, take
advantage of a victim who is unable to act in self-defense, or resort to
trickery to have sexual intercourse with a victim against that person's will.
This is believed to criminalize rape, spousal rape, and, in some instances,
sexual harassment; however, there were no known instances of prosecution for
spousal rape. NGOs and party-controlled mass organizations took some limited
steps to establish shelters and train police to deal with domestic violence.
is officially illegal but appeared to be tolerated widely. Some women were
coerced to work as prostitutes, and some were victimized by false promises of
lucrative work (see Section 6.f.). Many more women felt compelled to work as
prostitutes because of poverty and a lack of other employment opportunities.
NGOs estimated that there were 300,000 prostitutes in the country, including
those who engaged in prostitution part-time or seasonally. There were reports
that some persons in Ho Chi Minh City addicted young women to heroin and forced
them to work as prostitutes to earn money for drugs. Parents often expected an
eldest daughter to assume responsibility for a significant part of a family's
finances. There were reports that some parents coerced daughters into
prostitution or made such extreme financial demands on them that they felt
compelled to engage in prostitution. The Women's Union, a mass organization
under the VFF, as well as international NGOs engaged actively in education and
rehabilitation programs to combat these abuses.
in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation, both domestically and
internationally, was a serious problem (see Section 6.f.).
there is no legal discrimination, women faced deeply ingrained societal
discrimination. Despite provisions in the Constitution, in legislation, and in
regulations that mandate equal treatment, and although some women occupied high
government posts, few women competed successfully for higher status positions.
The Constitution provides that women and men must receive equal pay for equal
work; however, the Government did not adequately enforce this provision. Very
poor women, particularly in rural areas but also in cities, performed menial
work in construction, waste removal, and other jobs for extremely low wages.
Despite the large body of legislation and regulations devoted to the protection
of women's rights in marriage as well as in the workplace, and Labor Code
provisions that call for preferential treatment of women, women did not always
receive equal treatment. Nevertheless, women played an important role in the
economy and were engaged widely in business and in social and educational
institutions. Opportunities for young professional women have increased
markedly in the past few years, with greater numbers of women entering and
staying in the civil service, universities, and the private sector.
VFF-controlled Women's Union has a broad agenda to promote women's rights,
including political, economic, and legal equality, and protection from spousal
abuse. The Women's Union operated micro-credit consumer finance programs and other
programs to promote the advancement of women. International NGOs and other
international organizations regarded the Union as effective, but they and
Women's Union representatives believed that more time is required to overcome
societal attitudes that relegated women to lower status than men. The
Government also has a committee for the advancement of women, which coordinated
inter-ministerial programs that affected women.
organizations and government agencies reported that, despite the Government's
promotion of child protection and welfare, children continued to be at risk of
economic exploitation. While education is compulsory through the age of 14, the
authorities did not enforce the requirement, especially in rural areas where
government and family budgets for education were strained and where children
were needed for agricultural labor. The culture's strong emphasis on education
led parents who could send children to school to do so, rather than to allow
them to work. Due to lack of classroom space, most schools operated two
sessions, and children attended either morning or afternoon sessions. Some
street children both in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi participated in night
education courses. The public school system includes 12 grades. Over 90 percent
of children attended elementary grades, but the percentage that attended junior
and senior high school dropped sharply. These percentages were even lower in
remote mountainous areas, although the Government ran a system of subsidized boarding
schools through the high school level for ethnic minority students. Religious
groups operated some orphanages, despite the Government's prohibition on such
activities, and sent the children to public schools during the day.
Government continued a nationwide immunization campaign, and the
government-controlled press regularly stressed the importance of health and
education for all children. While reports from domestic sources indicated that
responsible officials generally took these goals seriously, concrete actions
were constrained by severely limited budgets. According to UNICEF, despite
growth in incomes over the past decade, severe malnutrition remained a problem;
approximately 39 percent of children under 5 years of age were underweight during
the 1995-2000 timeframe.
poverty contributed to continued child prostitution, particularly of girls but
also of some boys, in major cities. Many prostitutes in Ho Chi Minh City were
under 18 years of age. Some child prostitutes, such as those from abusive
homes, were forced into prostitution for economic reasons, having few other
choices available to them.
children were trafficked domestically and others were trafficked to foreign
destinations for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Press reports documented
the conviction and imprisonment of a number of traffickers (see Section 6.f.).
Individuals also were convicted in cases in which parents received payments in
exchange for releasing their babies for adoption. Mass organizations and NGOs
established limited programs to assist trafficked children to reintegrate into
to a 2001 government report on child labor, there were 20,000 street children
in the country. Street children were vulnerable to abuse and sometimes were abused
or harassed by police. International NGOs documented numerous cases of
Cambodian children trafficked to Ho Chi Minh City for short-term work in
begging rings. Police picked up street children in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
and held them in juvenile detention facilities in advance of the December
Southeast Asia Games.
law requires the State to protect the rights and encourage the employment of
persons with disabilities. However, provision of services to assist persons with
disabilities was limited. Government agencies responsible for services to
persons with disabilities worked with domestic and foreign organizations to
provide protection, support, physical access, education, and employment;
however, implementation was hampered by limited budgets. The Government
operated a small network of rehabilitation centers to provide long-term
in-patient physical therapy.
opportunities for children with disabilities were poor, but improving. Just
over 10 percent of children with disabilities were enrolled in school. During
the year, the Government worked with the World Bank and foreign NGOs to train
additional teachers for students with disabilities.
law provides for preferential treatment of firms that recruit persons with
disabilities for training or apprenticeship and levies a special tax on firms
that do not employ workers with disabilities; however, the Government enforced
these provisions unevenly. In 2002, the Ministry of Construction enacted the
"Barrier-Free Design and Construction Code" and "Standards for
Access for People with Disabilities," which requires that the construction
or major renovation of new government and large public buildings include access
for people with disabilities. The Ministry of Construction trained architects
and engineers in the new requirements. At year's end, the Government was
developing an enforcement and compliant process to support these new codes.
groups also assisted the Government in implementing programs to increase access
by persons with disabilities to education and employment.
the Government officially is opposed to discrimination against ethnic
minorities, longstanding societal discrimination against ethnic minorities was
widespread. In addition, there continued to be credible reports that local
officials sometimes restricted ethnic minority access to some types of
employment and educational opportunities. The Government continued to implement
policies designed to narrow the gap in the standard of living between ethnic
groups living in the highlands and richer, lowland ethnic majority Kinh by
granting preferential treatment to domestic and foreign companies that invested
in highland areas. The Government ran special schools for ethnic minorities in
many provinces, including subsidized boarding schools at the high school and
middle school levels, and offered special admission and preparatory programs as
well as scholarships at the university level.
Government resettled some ethnic minorities from inaccessible villages in
mountainous provinces to locations where basic services were easier to provide;
however, the effect of the policy sometimes diluted the political and social
solidarity of these groups. The Government acknowledged that one of the goals
of resettlement was to impel the minorities to change from traditional
"slash and burn" agricultural methods to sedentary agriculture. This
also had the effect of making more land available to ethnic majority Kinh migrants
to the mountainous areas. Large-scale, government-encouraged as well as
spontaneous migration of ethnic Kinh to the Central Highlands diluted the
indigenous culture there. It also led to numerous land disputes between ethnic
minority households and ethnic Kinh migrants. The loss of traditional ethnic
minority lands to Kinh migrants was an important factor behind the ethnic
unrest in 2001.
were numerous credible reports that groups of Montagnards continued to flee to
Cambodia to escape ethnic and religious repression in the Central Highlands.
Government officials continued to harass some highland minorities, particularly
the Hmong in the northwest provinces and several ethnic groups in the Central
Highlands, for practicing their Protestant religion without official approval
(see Section 2.c.).
officials stated that there were many instances in which local government
officials in the Central Highlands acted contrary to stated national policies
or failed to uphold national laws. During the year, the CPV reiterated clearly
the party's policies on ethnic minorities, religion, and land.
Government continued to impose extra security measures in the Central
Highlands. There were unconfirmed reports of continued pushbacks of Montagnards
seeking to cross into Cambodia, sometimes accompanied by beatings and
detentions; however, the Government continued to implement measures to address
the causes of the unrest and initiate new measures as well. The Government
allocated land to ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands through a special
program; however, there were complaints that some of the allocated land was
poor (see Section 2.d.).
the law required all classroom instruction law to be conducted in the
Vietnamese language; however, the Government continued a program to conduct
classes in some local ethnic minority languages up to grade five. The
Government worked with local officials to develop a local language curriculum.
The Government appeared to be implementing this program more comprehensively in
the Central Highlands than in the mountainous northern provinces. The
Government broadcast radio and television programming in ethnic minority
languages in some areas. The Government also instructed ethnic Kinh officials
to learn the language of the locality in which they worked; however,
implementation was not widespread by year's end. Provincial governments
implemented initiatives designed to increase employment, reduce the income gap
between ethnic minorities and ethnic Kinh, and be sensitive and receptive to
ethnic minority culture and traditions. Officials in Lam Dong Province
reportedly hired ethnic minority persons to teach minority languages to ethnic
Kinh police. Officials in Dak Lak Province reportedly experimented with a land
policy that would allocate certain forestlands to ethnic minority villages for
6 Worker Rights
The Right of Association
are not free to join or form unions of their choosing. Trade unions are
controlled by the Party and have only nominal independence. All unions must be
approved by and must affiliate with the party-controlled Vietnam General
Confederation of Labor (VGCL). The VGCL claimed that it represented 95 percent
of public sector workers and 90 percent of workers in state-owned enterprises.
However, the overall level of unionization of the workforce was 10 percent.
Approximately 500,000 union members worked in the private sector, including
enterprises with foreign investment. The vast majority of the work force lived
in rural areas, engaged in small-scale farming, and was not unionized.
VGCL asserted that authorities did not prosecute some violations of the Labor
Law. Union leaders influenced key decisions, such as the amendment of labor
legislation, development of social safety nets, and the setting of health,
safety, and minimum wage standards.
the Labor Law states that all enterprise-level and professional trade unions
are affiliated with the VGCL, in practice hundreds of unaffiliated "labor
associations" were organized at many individual enterprises and in
occupations such as those of taxi, motorcycle and cyclo drivers, cooks, and
market porters. The ILO and the UNDP cooperated on a large multiyear technical
assistance program to strengthen labor law implementation.
Labor Law prohibits anti-union discrimination on the part of employers against
employees who seek to organize.
unions legally are not free to affiliate with, join, or participate in,
international labor bodies, and they did not do so in practice. However, the
VGCL had relations with 95 labor organizations in 70 countries.
The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
the law, the provincial or metropolitan branch of the VGCL was responsible for
organizing a union within 6 months of establishment of any new enterprise.
Management is required by law to accept and to cooperate with those unions. The
Labor Law provides VGCL-affiliated unions the right to bargain collectively on
behalf of workers. Many contracts have been negotiated that ended the practice
of annual renewal, and multi-year contracts have become more common. Under 2002
amendments to the Labor Code, a definite term labor contract can only be
renewed once; thereafter, an indefinite term labor contract must be entered
into if employment is to continue. Labor leaders have increased the number of
workplace issues in collective bargaining agreements, such as Sunday work.
Since the country began moving away from central planning, market forces have
played an increasingly important role in determining wages.
Labor Law provides for the right to strike if workers follow the stipulated
process of conciliation and arbitration. The law requires that management and
labor first attempt to resolve labor disputes through the enterprise's own
labor conciliation council. However, many enterprises did not have labor
conciliation councils. In the absence of such a council or if a council fails
to resolve a labor dispute, the dispute is referred to labor arbitration successively
at the district and provincial level. Individual workers may take cases
directly to the peoples' court system, but in most cases, only after
conciliation has been attempted and failed. Unions have the right to appeal
decisions of provincial labor arbitration councils to provincial people's
courts or to strike. Because this process was lengthy and the necessary dispute
resolution bodies in many provinces and localities have never been established,
nearly every strike was considered illegal.
to the Ministry of Labor, 72 strikes took place in the first 6 months of the
year. Of these, 51 were against foreign-invested enterprises, 18 involved
domestic private enterprises, and 3 affected state-owned firms. Other sources
reported 14 strikes against state-owned firms. For example, from September 27
to 29, nearly 400 workers at a company in Ho Chi Minh City blocked the entrance
to the factory over unpaid salaries. On September 28, 300 workers demonstrated
at another Ho Chi Minh City factory to protest harsh working conditions.
Although strikes typically did not follow the authorized conciliation and
arbitration process, and thus were of questionable legality, the Government
tolerated them and took no action against the strikers. Although the VGCL or its
affiliate unions did not sanction these strikes officially, the local and
provincial levels of the VGCL unofficially supported many of them. The Labor
Law prohibits retribution against strikers, and there were no reports of
retribution. In some cases, the Government disciplined employers for illegal
practices that led to strikes.
Labor Law prohibits strikes in 54 occupational sectors and businesses that
serve the public or are considered by the Government to be important to the
national economy and defense. A subsequent decree defined these enterprises to
be those involved in: Electricity production; post and telecommunications;
railway, maritime, and air transportation; banking; public works; and the oil
and gas industry. The law also grants the Prime Minister the right to suspend a
strike considered detrimental to the national economy or public safety.
same labor laws as in the rest of the country govern the growing number of
export processing zones and industrial zones. There is anecdotal evidence that
the Government enforced labor laws more actively in the zones than outside
Prohibition of Forced or Bonded Labor
Labor Law prohibits all forms of forced and bonded labor, including by
children; however, there were reports that thousands of children worked in
exploitative situations (see Section 6.d.). Some women were coerced into
prostitution (see Sections 5 and 6.f.).
Government denied the use of prison labor without compensation; however,
prisoners routinely were required to work for little or no pay. They produced
food and other goods used directly in prisons or sold on local markets
reportedly to purchase items for prisoners.
government ordinance requires all male citizens between 18 and 45 years of age
and women between 18 and 35 years of age to perform 10 days of annual public
labor; however, this ordinance was rarely enforced. The ordinance also allows
citizens to find a substitute or pay a marginal fee instead of working.
Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
labor was a problem. The Labor Law prohibits most child labor but allows
exceptions for certain types of work. The law sets the minimum age for
employment at 18 years of age, but enterprises may hire children between the
ages of 15 and 18 if the firm obtains special permission from their parents and
the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA). In June, the
Government ratified the ILO Minimum Age Convention 138. However, a widely
publicized 2001 MOLISA survey found that about 40,000 children between the ages
of 8 and 14 years worked part-time or full-time in violation of the Labor law.
That estimate may be low, since many more children worked in the informal
sector, usually on family farms or family businesses not within the scope of
the Labor Law.
law, an employer must ensure that workers under 18 years of age do not
undertake hazardous work or work that would harm their physical or mental
development. Prohibited occupations are specified in the Labor Law. The Labor
Law permits children to register at trade training centers, a form of
vocational training, from 13 years of age. Children may work a maximum of 7
hours per day and 42 hours per week and must receive special health care.
were reports that enterprises, including companies with foreign investment,
have discovered underage workers in their employ. According to reliable
sources, this usually occurred when the child workers presented false identity
documents, frequently borrowed from older family members. Once discovered, the
children lost their jobs, but in many cases the companies paid for their
schooling and promised to reemploy them once they were of age.
rural areas, children worked primarily on family farms and in other
agricultural activities. In some cases, they began work as young as 6 years of
age and were expected to work as adults by the time they were 15 years of age.
In urban areas, children also may work in family-owned small businesses.
Migration from rural to urban settings has exacerbated the child labor problem.
Officials said that juveniles in Education and Nourishment Centers, which
functioned much as reform schools or juvenile detention centers do elsewhere,
were assigned work for "educational purposes" that presumably
generated income for the school.
study of child labor in Ho Chi Minh City found cases in which parents in poor
families entered into "verbal agreements" with employers, who put
their children to work; the children's salaries were sent directly to the
officials have the power to fine and, in cases of Criminal Code violations,
prosecute employers who violate child Labor Laws. While the Government
committed insufficient resources to effectively enforce laws providing for
children's labor safety, especially for children working in mines and as
domestic servants, it detected some cases of child exploitation, removed the
children from the exploitative situations, and fined the employers.
International donor assistance targeted the problem of child labor. In
addition, a child labor unit was established within MOLISA.
law prohibits forced and bonded labor by children; however, thousands of
children worked in exploitative situations and were trafficked both
domestically and internationally for the purpose of sexual exploitation (see
Acceptable Conditions of Work
Labor Law requires the Government to set a minimum wage, which is adjusted for
inflation and other economic changes. The official monthly minimum wage for
foreign-investment joint ventures was $40 (626,000 dong) in urban districts of
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City; $35.90 (556,000 dong) in rural districts of Hanoi,
Ho Chi Minh City, and districts of Hai Phong, Bien Hoa City, and Vung Tau City;
and $31.40 (487,000 dong) elsewhere. The Government may temporarily exempt
certain joint ventures from paying the minimum wage during the first months of
an enterprise's operations or if the enterprise is located in a very remote
area, but the minimum wage in these cases can be no lower than $29.90 (417,000
dong). On January 1, the official monthly minimum wage of the State sector was
increased to $18.80 (290,000 dong) from $13.60 (210,000 dong). This amount
remained inadequate to provide a worker and his family a decent standard of living.
The new salary policy benefited over 6 million persons, including 300,000
public servants working in administration, CPV organizations, unions, and
leagues. However, state-owned enterprises consistently paid more than that
minimum wage. The number of workers who received government-subsidized housing
decreased. Many workers received bonuses and supplemented their incomes by
engaging in entrepreneurial activities. Households frequently included more
than one wage earner. A 2001 ILO study found that minimum wage requirements
were applied well in all sectors, with the exception of smaller private sector
enterprises. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that companies
with foreign investment violated minimum wage requirements.
Government set the workweek for government employees and employees of companies
in the state sector at 40 hours and encouraged the private business sector and
foreign and international organizations that employed local workers to reduce
the number of hours in the workweek to 40 hours but did not make compliance
Labor Law sets normal working hours at a maximum of 8 hours per day, with a
mandatory 24-hour break each week. Additional hours require overtime pay at 1˝
times the regular wage, 2 times the regular wage on weekly days off, and 3
times the regular wage on holidays and paid leave days. The law limits
compulsory overtime to 4 hours per week and 200 hours per year. Amendments to
the Labor Law in 2002 provide for an exception in special cases where this maximum
can be up to 300 additional hours worked annually, subject to stipulation by
the Government after consulting with the VGCL and employer representatives. The
law also prescribes annual leave with full pay for various types of work. It
was unknown how well the Government enforced these provisions.
to the law, a female employee who is engaged, pregnant, on maternity leave, or
is raising a child under 1 year of age cannot be dismissed unless the
enterprise is closed. Female employees who are at least 7 months pregnant or
are raising a child under 1 year of age cannot work overtime, at night, or in
Labor Law requires the Government to promulgate rules and regulations that
ensure worker safety. The MOLISA, in coordination with local people's
committees and labor unions, is charged with enforcing the regulations. In
practice enforcement was inadequate because of MOLISA's low funding and a
shortage of trained enforcement personnel. The VGCL reported that there were
300 labor inspectors in the country but that at least 600 were needed.
On-the-job injuries due to poor health and safety conditions in the workplace
were a problem. According to statistics from MOLISA, there were 4,521 injuries
and 514 fatalities resulting from accidents in 2002; however, there was
evidence that workers, through labor unions, were effective in improving
working conditions. Some foreign companies with operations in the country have
established independent monitoring of problems at their factories. Companies
reported that MOLISA or provincial labor agencies performed labor and
occupation safety and health inspections at enterprises when they learned of
serious accidents or when there were reports of hazardous conditions.
Labor Code provides that workers may remove themselves from hazardous
conditions without risking loss of employment.
Trafficking in Persons
Penal Code prohibits trafficking in women and children; however, trafficking in
women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation and for labor, both
domestically and internationally, was a serious problem. While no law
specifically prohibits trafficking in men, existing laws could be used to
prosecute traffickers who recruit or send men abroad to work for
"illegitimate profits" or illegal purposes. While reliable statistics
on the numbers of citizens trafficked were not available, there was evidence
that the numbers have grown in recent years. The Social Evils Department of
MOLISA and the Criminal Police Department of the MPS were the main government
agencies involved in efforts to combat trafficking, in cooperation with the
Ministry of Justice, the Women's Union, and the Border Guards. The police took
an increasingly active role in investigating trafficking during the year.
the year, the Government increased its efforts to prosecute traffickers. The
law provides for prison sentences of 2 to 20 years for each offense for persons
found guilty of trafficking women, and for between 3 years and life in prison
for each offense for persons found guilty of trafficking children. In July
2002, a government decree forbade the use of marriage and adoption for
trafficking related purposes. Hundreds of traffickers have been convicted and
imprisoned, most notably in one high-profile case in 2002 in which over 150
persons were indicted for prostitution and migrant smuggling. That particular
case involved ex-ministerial and law enforcement agents. The Government worked
with international NGOs to supplement law enforcement measures and cooperated
with other national governments to prevent trafficking. It also cooperated
closely with other countries within the framework of INTERPOL and its Asian
country was a source country for trafficking in persons. Women were trafficked
primarily to Cambodia and China for sexual exploitation and arranged marriages.
According to one report, between 1990 and 2000, approximately 20,000 young
women and girls were sent to China to become brides, domestic workers, or
prostitutes; however, it was not clear how many were victims of trafficking.
Between 1995 and 2000, approximately 5,000 women and children were trafficked
to and escaped from Cambodia. Some Vietnamese women also were trafficked to
Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the
United States. There also were reports that some Vietnamese women going to
Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and China through arranged marriages were victims of
trafficking. The Government estimated that approximately 10 percent of Vietnamese
women in arranged marriages with Chinese men had been recruited under false
pretenses or may have become trafficking victims. Women and children also were
trafficked within the country, usually from rural to urban areas. Incidents of
trafficking of adult males domestically or abroad were rare. In the past,
organized crime groups used Vietnam as a transit point for persons trafficked
from China and the Middle East to Australia, Canada, and Europe. Unlike in
previous years, there were no reports that Vietnam was a transit country for
trafficking in persons during the year.
children were trafficked domestically and others were trafficked to foreign
destinations for the purpose of prostitution. An NGO advocate estimated that
the average age of trafficked girls was between 15 and 17 years of age. Some
reports indicated that the ages of girls trafficked to Cambodia typically was
even lower. Although statistics were not reliable, women and girls were
trafficked from southern delta and highland provinces to Cambodia and from
northern provinces into China generally for the purposes of prostitution,
domestic work, or marriage.
and national-level authorities made combating trafficking in women and children
a priority. In January, in an effort to deal with problems of trafficking of
infants for adoption and corruption in adoption practices, authorities
suspended foreign adoptions pending the negotiation of new bi-lateral adoption
were reports that some women from Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta who
married men from Taiwan were forced into prostitution after their arrival in
Taiwan. There was reported trafficking in women to the Macau Special
Administrative Region of China with the assistance of organizations in China
that were ostensibly marriage service bureaus, international labor
organizations, and travel agencies. After arrival, women were forced into
conditions similar to indentured servitude; some were forced into prostitution.
In August 2002, the Government suspended the licenses of marriage mediation
services and transferred their function to the Women's Union. The services
helped arrange marriages between women and foreigners, primarily Taiwanese men.
Diplomatic sources estimated that between 15,000 and 18,000 Vietnamese women
married Taiwanese men each year, although government and NGO observers believed
that most were not trafficked.
women and teenage girls, especially those from rural areas, were most at risk
for being trafficked. It appeared that most trafficking victims came from some
Mekong Delta provinces, such as Can Tho and An Giang and some northern
provinces, such as Quang Ninh. Some were sold by their families as domestic
workers or for sexual exploitation. In some cases, traffickers paid families
several hundred dollars (a large sum for many families) in exchange for
allowing their daughter to go to Cambodia for an "employment offer."
Many victims faced strong pressure to make significant contributions to the
family income. Others were offered lucrative jobs by acquaintances. False
advertising, debt bondage, confiscation of documents, and threats of
deportation were other methods commonly used by the traffickers, spouses, and
opportunists and informal networks, as well as some organized groups, lured
poor, often rural, women with promises of jobs or marriage and forced them to
work as prostitutes (see Section 5). The Government stated that organized
criminal groups were involved in recruitment, transit, and other
was a serious problem at all levels, and some officials were involved in the
flow of overseas workers into exploitative conditions or into trafficking.
While it was likely that some individual officials assisted traffickers, there
was no evidence of official, institutional, or government involvement in
trafficking in persons. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that
government officials and associated private individuals were convicted of and
sentenced for trafficking related crimes during the year.
institutions, including MOLISA, the Women's Union, the Youth Union and the
Committee for Population, Family and Children, had active programs in place
aimed at prevention and victims' protection. These programs included publicity
to warn women and girls of these dangers, repatriation programs to help female
returnees, and vocational training for teenage girls in communities considered
vulnerable to trafficking in persons. Government agencies worked closely with
the International Organization for Migration and a number of other
international NGOs to provide temporary shelter, some medical services,
education, credit, counseling, and rehabilitation to returned trafficking
victims. In March 2002, government officials held a series of meetings with
their Chinese counterparts to improve victim protection and repatriation
processes. During the year, Government officials held similar meetings with the
Cambodian Government. The country also participated in an ILO project on child
trafficking in the Mekong region.
trafficking victims in general were not treated as criminals, some women
trafficked into prostitution were prosecuted for prostitution or placed in
agencies with border control responsibility have also received training in
investigative techniques that can be used to prevent trafficking.