Thich Quang Do, the Patriarch of Vietnam’s Unified Buddhist Church (left), has called on U.S. president Barack Obama to use his forthcoming trip to the Communist state to highlight continuing human rights abuses. His appeal comes after a broad, international coalition of human rights groups expressed “common concern over Vietnam’s continued repression of its citizens’ fundamental human rights.”
“Sometime in the next few months the United States Congress will consider whether to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which would elevate Vietnam as a full trading partner,” the signatories note. “Vietnam must be made aware of the importance of taking action now to confirm its commitment to the human rights standards embedded in the TPP,” they add, citing concern over the imprisonment of peaceful activists and dissidents who exercise their basic rights to expression and belief and peaceable association and assembly.
“In Vietnam, religious leaders, labor rights activists, bloggers, lawyers, and human rights advocates are being arbitrarily detained and prosecuted without the due process protections afforded to them under international law,” the groups note, specifying the cases of labor activists Doan Huy Chuong and Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung.
Police on May 1 arrested Chu Manh Son, a reporter with the local Catholic news service Good News for the Poor, and Truong Minh Tam, a citizen journalist with the Vietnam Path Movement civil-society group, as they reported on a mysterious ecological disaster that has seen tons of fish wash up on the shores of the country’s central coastal region.
Tam posted this report from an affected area in Ha Thinh province just hours before his arrest, according to Vietnam Right Now, an independent news website. Son was arrested while filming protests against a Taiwanese steel factory suspected of discharging toxic pollution into the ocean, according to Defend the Defenders, a Vietnamese rights group.
“We call on authorities to immediately release journalist Truong Minh Tam, and to stop harassing independent reporters who cover news of national interest,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “It is disheartening to see that the government of newly appointed Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has already adopted the same shoot-the-messenger approach to the media as previous Communist Party-led regimes.”
Hundreds of people demonstrated in Vietnam on Sunday against a Taiwanese firm they accuse of causing mass fish deaths along the country’s central coast, with some also blaming the government for a sluggish response to a major environmental disaster, Reuters adds:
Though an official investigation has found no links between the fish deaths and a $10.6 billion coastal steel plant run by a unit of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics, public anger against the company has not abated.
For the sixteenth consecutive year, since 2001, Vietnam is on a blacklist of countries singled out by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom for violations of freedom of religion or belief.
Diplomats, human rights groups and politicians in the United States and Australia have demanded the release of the prominent human rights lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai (left), who founded the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam in 2006, and who was arrested in March 2007, New American Media reports:
Released in March of 2011, 4 years later, he continued to champion human rights in Vietnam. In December 2015 he was beaten by masked men after teaching a class on human rights and was subsequently arrested a few days later. According to Vietnam Right Now “the head of the EU mission in Hanoi, Bruno Angelet, said that the arrest was a particular shock as it coincided with the EU’s annual human rights dialogue with Vietnam.” Recently, his wife, Vu Minh Khan, who was denied contact with her husband and has no idea where he is being kept, visited the US to rally support for her husband’s release. NAM’s reporter, Nguyen Khoa Thai-Anh spoke with her on her recent visit to the Bay Area.
NAM: The deeds of your husband on human rights, civil rights and democracy are many…
I’m sorry you may attach democratic values to my husband services and help to his fellowmen and women, but he simply just does what is right, mainly keeping people informed about their rights as citizens of a country that are guaranteed by a written constitution.
NAM: Why the distinction? Did he not attend a workshop on Democracy in the U.S.?
Oh yes, that was back in 2006. Dai got invited by the NED (National Endowment for Democracy). But if teaching classes about human rights and civil rights, which is in line with Vietnam official the State declared objectives, is wrong then maybe one should not believe in the inherent ideas on mottos and slogans painted on banners and walls. In Vietnam, democratic ideals are defined by the State. But when you’re talking about ‘American’ democracy and values the State would deem them subversive, reactionary ideas from enemy forces that are trying to overthrow the communist rule. My husband never entertains any ideas of overthrowing the state.