Human Rights: Vietnam’s Ugly Policy May
Keep Them From Acceptance by the World Community
By Honglien Do and John E. Carey
Vietnam desperately wants to rejoin the world community and play a larger role,
especially economically. The new leaders in Vietnam are seeking entry into the
World Trade Organization (WTO) and hope that their economic reforms, less
restrictive Communist government and financial incentives will lure new
investors into their economy.
But Vietnam’s Communists don’t seem to understand that a thirty year record of
human rights abuses is not going to help them win over the west.As the U.S.
Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to travel to Hanoi to discuss
Vietnam’s expected entry into the World Trade Organization later this month; and
President Bush plans a trip to Vietnam this coming November, this might be a
good time to review Vietnam’s human rights record.
Since the Communist take-over of Vietnam in 1975, that government has a 30-year
record of repression, imprisonment, harassment and torture carried out upon
those remaining Vietnamese who value free speech, religion, press or tolerance
and openness of any kind. The crimes of the Communist government continue
today.We don't hear much about Vietnam. It has no missiles and poses no apparent
threat to regional neighbors. But Vietnam's leaders terrorize their own people
and this places them into a special category that should interest us all.
The U.S. Department of State reported recently that Vietnam's Communists repress
virtually every organized religion.The most recent World Report from Human
Rights Watch on Vietnam begins: "Human-rights conditions in Vietnam, already
dismal, worsened …. The government tolerates little public criticism of the
Communist Party or statements calling for pluralism, democracy, or a free press.
Dissidents are harassed, isolated, placed under house arrest, and in many cases,
charged with crimes and imprisoned. Among those singled out are prominent
intellectuals, writers and former Communist Party stalwarts."The United Nations
and a host of other international groups have condemned Vietnam's record on
Human rights issues, undoubtedly, will become an issue between the U.S. and
Vietnam. The U.S. Department of State lists just about every kind of human
rights violation as part of Communist Vietnam’s troubling record: including
child prostitution, trafficking internationally in human beings, torture,
attempts to eliminate undesirable indigenous people (the Hmong) and harassment
and beating of religious leaders.
The U.S. Department of State’s latest report on human rights in Vietnam can be
summed up with this quote: “The [Vietnam] Government's human rights record
remained poor, and it continued to commit serious abuses.” But that clinically
correct statement almost sugar-coats the reality. A reading of the State
Department’s report along with the report from Human Rights Watch is terrifying
or nauseating, depending upon one’s point of view.
The government of Vietnam not only sanctions the enslavement of its own people –
it profits from it. Taiwanese businessmen adventure to Vietnam on sex tours and
even buy VN woman as "wives." The government doesn't just look the other way: it
makes this a business deal and takes a fee.
The Communist Vietnamese government has been on a long-term economic improvement
effort called “renovation” (Doi Moi). But this reform movement is entirely
economic: there are no perceptible renovations in freedom or human rights to
date.Consider these facts today in Vietnam:-- In the “justice system,” no writs
of Habeas Corpus, no warrants approved by an independent judiciary, and no
“probable cause.” --Religious repression of an unprecedented scale. --Beatings,
forced relocation and attempts to exterminate natives like the
Hmong.--Government profiting from a sex trade that includes selling young
Vietnamese women to businessmen in more wealthy countries like Taiwan.
The Vietnamese want to “normalize” economic and business relationships with the
west, especially the U.S. But all is not normal. Today's leaders in Communist
Vietnam support terrorism, torture and the control of the population as did
former leaders of Afghanistan and Iraq. Vietnamese government leaders don’t just
resist democracy: they traffic in human beings internationally.
Vietnam and the United States today share trade topping $6 billion annually. As
a condition of maintaining and expanding that trade, the world community should
demand human rights reforms in Vietnam supported by openness to allow
international monitoring.The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice will
visit Vietnam soon. The President of the United States will go to Vietnam in
November 2006. Now should be the time to open the dialogue between the two
nations on human rights issues in Vietnam.
Just a few days ago (July 15, 2006), President Bush informed President Vladimir
Putin of Russia that the U.S. rejected Russia’s entry into the World Trade
Organization; at least for now. Russia has backed away from Democracy too far,
according to the U.S.
"I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world
like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion," Bush said at the news
conference, "and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that
Russia would do the same thing."
So we ask the White House and the American people: given Vietnam’s human rights
record, should that Communist government be allowed into the WTO right now?
The current leadership of Vietnam includes men who deny the most basic rights
and freedoms to the people they subjugate: their own countrymen. It is time for
the world community to demand meaningful reforms. We can do better.
Honglien Do escaped from Communist Vietnam and is now a U.S. citizen.
John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense
Consultants, Inc. They can be reached through: