*EPF209 04/01/2003
Excerpt: Vietnam's Communist Rulers Continue Human Rights Abuses
(2002 report cites religious harassment, lack of free speech) (1290)

Vietnam's communist rulers continue to commit human rights abuses, according to the 2002 State Department Human Rights Report for that country.

Released March 31, the report says that, although the intrusiveness of the communist state has abated somewhat, the people of Vietnam are denied basic freedoms of speech, press, and assembly.

On the other hand, the report notes, Vietnam's communist party "continued its efforts to strengthen the mechanism for citizens to petition the Government."

Ultimately, however, the State Department says the communist authorities "continued to deny citizens the right to change their government."

While members of Vietnam's public security forces "committed numerous human rights abuses," during 2002, the report says the Hanoi regime "did not permit human rights organizations to form or to operate."

Furthermore, the State Department says, religious groups in that nation face persecution, especially Buddhists, Hoa Hao, and Protestants.

"Trafficking in women and children for the purpose of prostitution within the country and abroad continued to be serious problems," the report says, "and there were reports of the trafficking of women to China and Taiwan for arranged and forced marriages."

The complete State Department report on Vietnam, and on other countries in the region can be found at:


Following are excerpts from the State Department's 2002 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Vietnam:

(begin excerpt)

Vietnam Country Report on Human Rights Practices - 2002
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

March 31, 2003

Vietnam is a one-party state, ruled and controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Party (CPV). The CPV's constitutionally mandated leading role and the occupancy of all senior government positions by party members ensured the primacy of party Politburo guidelines and enabled the Party to set the broad parameters of national policy.

In recent years, the Party 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 party direction; however, the Government continued to strengthen the capacity of the 498-member National Assembly and to reform the bureaucracy.

The National Assembly, chosen in May elections, in which most candidates were approved by the Party (approximately 90 percent of delegates were party members) played an increasingly independent role as a forum for local and provincial concerns and as a critic of local and national corruption and inefficiency.

The Assembly was active in revising legislation, criticizing officials' performance, and screening ministerial and other senior candidate appointments. The judiciary remained subservient to the CPV and to external pressure and government influence.

The military services, including the border defense force, were responsible for defense against external threats. The military forces assumed a less prominent role as the ultimate guarantor of internal security, which primarily was the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). However, in some remote areas, the military forces were 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, by detaining individuals, and by enforcing travel restrictions.

The MPS controlled the police, a special national security investigative agency, and other units that maintained internal security. The MPS enforced laws and regulations that significantly restricted individual liberties and violated 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.

Members of the public security forces committed numerous human rights abuses.

The country of approximately 80 million persons is undergoing transition from a wholly centrally planned economy to a "socialist-oriented market economy." The GDP growth for 2001 was 4.8 percent. ...

Particularly in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi, economic reforms have raised the standard of living and reduced party and government control over, and intrusion into, citizens' daily lives. However, many citizens in isolated rural areas, especially members of ethnic minorities in the northern uplands, Central Highlands, and the central coastal regions continued to live in extreme poverty.

There was a growing income/development gap between urban and rural areas and within urban areas. Employment opportunities were lacking; 25 million persons were underemployed or unemployed.

The government's human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit serious abuses. 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 numerous persons during the year.

Incidents of arbitrary detention of citizens, including detention for peaceful expression of political and religious views, continued. Prison conditions remained harsh, particularly in some isolated provinces, and some persons died as a result of mistreatment in custody. Prisons reportedly 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.

Although the Government amnestied over 9,500 prisoners during the year, it was unknown whether any political or religious prisoners were among them.

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, the 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 unusually strict restrictions on public gatherings and travel in some parts of the country. Unusual restrictions on public gatherings and travel primarily pertained to 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 government control.

The Government restricted freedom of religion and operation of religious organizations other than those approved by the State. Some Buddhists, Hoa Hao, and Protestants, in particular, faced harassment 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 2001, but travel to and within the area remained more restricted than most other parts of the country.

The Government continued to restrict significantly civil liberties on grounds of national security and societal stability. Although the CPV continued its efforts to strengthen the mechanism for citizens to petition the Government, authorities continued to deny citizens the right to change their government.

The Government did not permit human rights organizations to form or to 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 existing 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 be serious problems, and there were reports of the trafficking of women to China and Taiwan for arranged and forced marriages.

(end excerpt)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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