News / Asia

US Steps Up Pressure on Vietnam Over Human Rights

US Senator John McCain (R) speaks next to US Senator Joseph Lieberman (on left) at a press conference in Hanoi on January 19, 2012.
US Senator John McCain (R) speaks next to US Senator Joseph Lieberman (on left) at a press conference in Hanoi on January 19, 2012.
Ron Corben

A report by Human Rights Watch says Vietnam’s government has intensified repression against activists and dissidents over the past year.  The U.S.-based group is calling for the immediate release of political prisoners in Vietnam. The call came as senior U.S. congressmen on a visit to Southeast Asia stepped up pressure on Vietnam's government to improve its rights record, saying it is a condition for expanded bilateral military ties with the United States.

The Human Rights Watch global report, released Sunday, says Vietnam had carried out a “systematic crackdown” that in 2011 led to the prosecution of over 30 activists, who were charged under what the report calls “vaguely-worded articles” in Vietnam’s penal code and sentenced to prison.

The report says bloggers, writers, human rights defenders, land rights activists, religious and other groups were targeted by Vietnamese authorities and faced harassment, intimidation, arrest, torture and imprisonment.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, says the arrests breach Vietnam’s stance on civil and political rights.

“At least 33 people that we know of in prison this year for basically either freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly.  Things ranging from holding up a placard or doing blogs on the net.  All these things that should be protected in Vietnam, because people forget that it’s a fact that Vietnam has ratified the international covenant on civil and political rights," he said.

Among those recently arrested was a female activist, Bui Thi Minh Hang, who was sentenced to two years in a re-education camp.

Robertson called for the United States government to maintain pressure on Vietnam's government to release the activists.

The Human Rights Watch report came a day after a U.S. delegation led by senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman warned Vietnam that expanded military ties with the U.S. were dependent on an improvement in Vietnam’s human rights record.

In a weekend briefing, Senator McCain said he made the U.S. position clear during talks with senior Vietnam government officials, and raised U.S. concerns over the deterioration in Vietnam’s human rights performance. “I think it’s also a fact that there has not been progress in human-rights issues; in fact, that there has been some backward movement on (it).  I specifically stated to the Vietnamese that our security relationship will be directly impacted by the human rights issue.  Make no bones about that.  And I think they have a clear understanding of that," he said.

Vietnam has been seeking to expand military ties with the U.S. and included a “wish list” of weaponry in talks with the senators last week.  No details of the list were made available.

Vietnam faces ongoing tensions with the Philippines, Taiwan and especially China over rival claims to resource-rich sections of the South China Sea.

Senator Lieberman said while the U.S. relationship with Vietnam had improved, the country’s human rights record remained a stumbling block. “What’s wrong is the backward movement on human rights. And we were specific; we said that there’s certain weapons systems that the Vietnamese would like to buy from us and we would like to transfer them, these systems to them. But it’s not going to happen unless they improve their human rights record. Practically speaking, Congress will not approve these weapon sales to Vietnam unless there’s an improvement in its human rights in Vietnam," he said.

Carl Thayer, a regional analyst with the University of New South Wales in Australia, says the fact that both President Barack Obama’s administration and the U.S. Congress support linking arms sales to human rights gives added weight to the pressure on Vietnam's government to reform. “So the bottom line conclusion is that the (Obama) administration has a policy of doing arms sales and two leading lights in the Senate are really saying that even if the administration wanted to change it (of linking arms sales with human rights), Congress would stop that.  So the Vietnamese are on notice, quite simply," he said.

In its global report, Human Rights Watch also denounced Vietnam's use of administrative detention and forced labor against so-called social undesirables, including drug addicts.  The rights group says that, as of early 2011, about 40,000 people, including children as young as 12, were being held in 123 detention centers across Vietnam.

It says that detainees who violated the centers' rules were subjected to beatings, electric shocks and being locked in disciplinary rooms without food and water.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs