Vietnam: Getting Away With Murder (Human Rights Record is Abysmal)

Despite many opening economic opportunities, Vietnam’s human rights record remains abysmal….A situation the U.S. can clearly influence.


By John E. Carey*
Peace and Freedom
March 18, 2007

Last November, the President of the United States, the President of Russia, and many other important heads of state and dignitaries visited Hanoi, Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC). The Vietnamese communists used the opportunity as a gigantic photo-op of how much better Vietnam was doing on human rights and to celebrate Vietnam’s joining the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In December, the U.S. House and Senate voted to grant communist Vietnam Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR).

By January 1, 2007, the communist government in Vietnam had again ramped up its abuses of human rights, by commencing a new campaign to isolate and persecute tribal peoples that had assisted the U.S. during the 1964-1975 war.

According to Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups, the government of Vietnam renewed efforts to at least harass if not eliminate the tribal peoples of the Khmer Krom, Montagnards and Hmong Lao, and the Khmer Rouge.

When Hmong refugees were chased out of communist Vietnam and Laos in January of this year, Thailand’s immigration officials dragged the women and girls crying and screaming out of their cell in the Nong Khai immigration center and used tear gas against the men and boys.

Amnesty International and other organizations got four countries, including the U.S., to grant asylum to the 152 refugees involved.

Vietnam is also one of the world leaders in human trafficking.  This mostly involves selling infants and young women into sexual usage and bondage.  This is a state sponsored or at least a state allowed activity, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Now the President of Vietnam is making himself ready for a business development trip to the United States.

Last week, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem met with U.S. Secretary of State Rice in Washington DC at the Department of State.

Although this was a “private” meeting, reporters learned that Ms Rice asked Deputy PM Khiem to seriously consider the release of Mr. Nguyen Vu Binh, who is now known to be ill. He is reportedly so weak that he can no longer lift his five year old daughter. He is 39 years old.

People who have previously been the guests of the communist Vietnam prison system told me he is probably being starved if not beaten to ruin his ability to think clearly and resist.

Nguyen Vu Binh, a former journalist for Tap Chi Cong San (the Communist Newspaper’s magazine), was arrested in Vietnam in September 2002 after posting pro-democracy articles on the Internet. He was accused of “spying” because he allegedly passed information to overseas pro-democracy Vietnamese groups through the Internet.

There is no freedom of speech or freedom of the press inside communist Vietnam and email and the internet are monitored by government agents looking for “seditious material.”

When the Secretary of State spoke to Pham Gia Khiem’s regarding Nguyen Vu Binh, Mr. Khiem’s “body language was positive,” a State Department official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the diplomatic meeting was private.But Vietnam has made no promises, other than those expressed by “body language,” regarding freeing Mr. Binh or making other human rights reforms.

Human Rights Watch reported earlier this month that Vietnam recently launched one of the worst attacks on dissidents in 20 years, arresting such figures as two prominent human rights lawyers and a Roman Catholic priest.

Several human rights advocacy groups have issued dire warnings about developments inside Vietnam since last November’s APEC meetings and Vietnam’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

“Obviously, it is good news that they are [thinking about] releasing Vu Binh,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “But there is a revolving-door quality to the releases and the arrests that the State Department should see through.”

This might be the time for the State Department to expect more from communist Vietnam than tricky shenanigans and positive body language.

Before the President of Vietnam comes to the United States, the American people should expect a little more emphasis from their government toward Vietnam’s grim human rights scene.



*John E. Carey is former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.

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