As many of the world leaders gather in San Francisco for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting from Nov. 11th to 17th, the focus will be on advancing such shared priorities as sustainable and inclusive economic growth, climate change, and free and open trade. Among the participating countries is Vietnam, which stands to benefit from the renewed Indo-Pacific agendas from major economies such as the US, Canada, and Australia. Over the last several years, Vietnam has taken the initiative to position itself as an increasingly important trading partner with a range of developed countries. Recent highlights in that trajectory have been the upgrades in bilateral relations between Vietnam and the US as well as Australia.
Despite the apparent integration of Vietnam into the international community and the greater
economic interdependence, Vietnam has not changed in one crucial aspect: the country is still governed by a one-party communist regime with a dismal human rights record. It is ironic that the trend of “engagement” by developed countries with respect to Vietnam has coincided with a steady increase, rather than decrease, in human rights abuses in that country.
Death Penalty: A World Leader
In August 2023, the European Union expressed concern regarding the Vietnamese government's lack of transparency in carrying out executions and concealing crucial data related to the death penalty. The human rights group Project88 reported that based on available data, along with China and Iran, Vietnam belonged to the top three countries in the world with the most executions.
Continued Repression Of Civil Society
In recent years, in addition to detaining hundreds of independent journalists, political and
religious dissidents as well as social activists on charges of “anti-state propaganda” and
“abusing democratic freedoms,” the Vietnamese government has also arrested six
environmental activists and leaders of registered NGOs on false charges of “tax evasion.”
Among these are Nguy Thi Khanh, winner of the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize, lawyer
Dang Dinh Bach, journalist Mai Phan Loi, journalist Bach Hung Duong, environmental
campaigner Hoang Thi Minh Hong and sustainable energy expert Ngo Thi To Nhien.
The crackdown on civil society has recently expanded to development NGOs. Leaders of
several NGOs advocating for land rights or engaging in anticorruption activities have been
arrested or targeted for persecution. These include Hoang Ngoc Giao, head of the Institute for Research on Policy, Law and Development, and Nguyen Son Lo, the former director of the Southeast and North Asia Institute of Research and Development. Nguyen Thi Kieu Vien, the founder and executive director of Towards Transparency, was pressured to leave the country.
Labour Rights: Lack Of Progress
In the area of labour rights, so far Vietnam has not ratified convention 87 of the International
Labour Organization (ILO) on Freedom of Association and the Protection of the Right to Organize, and continues to be in clear violation of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The only labour union allowed to legally operate in the country is state run and controlled by the ruling communist party. Vietnamese workers still risk discrimination or retaliation if they choose to exercise their right to freedom of association by setting up an independent union. In addition, compliance with the ILO Declaration is linked to labour-related obligations under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Vietnam has achieved significant economic benefits from its entry into the CPTPP but has at the same time failed to bring its labour laws and practices into compliance with the CPTPP Labour chapter obligations.
In light the above situation, organizations representing the Vietnamese communities overseas and human rights organizations call on the Vietnamese government, as a member of the United Nations, a member of the Human Rights Council, an APEC and CPTPP member to:
• Fully respect and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the two
International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
• Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners held or convicted solely for peacefully
expressing their views and positions; immediately end all repressive measures against individuals and organizations that exercise and protect fundamental freedoms such as speech, assembly, belief, association, etc.
• Accept the essential role of independent civil society organizations in areas such as religion, the environment – climate change, union activism, and media; create conditions for civil society organizations to contribute to the development process of the country without being hindered or repressed.
Federation of Vietnamese American Communities of the USA
Vietnamese Canadian Federation
Vietnamese Community in Australia
Vietnamese Political Refugee Community in Europe
Mr. Anh Tran (Federation of Vietnamese American Communities of the USA)
Mr. Minhtri Truong (Vietnamese Canadian Federation) email@example.com