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.

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:


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