Sunday, May 25, 2008

U.S.-Vietnam human rights dialogue May 29

The 13th round of the Vietnam-U.S. dialogue on human rights and related issues is to take place in Hanoi May 29. David Kramer, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, will lead the U.S. delegation; and his counterpart will be Doan Xuan Tung, assistant to Vietnamese Foreign Minister. Agent Orange, imprisoned dissidents, and intellectual property rights are among the issues to be discussed. According to U.S. State Dept. spokesman Christopher Hill, the dialogue, which resumed in April 2007, "is a frank exchange where we raise our concerns and pull no punches. The Vietnamese government says they value it, and have made limited improvements, but they must do more. We have emphasized that the Dialogue has to focus on concrete action by the government to improve the human rights situation, and must produce tangible results."

Update: In a meeting with reporters in Hanoi Friday May 30, Kramer said his delegation raised the issue of the Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre journalists detained for their reporting on corruption, and stressed the importance of a free press. The U.S. delegation also brought up the detention of other dissidents, along with religious freedom and rule of law. Kramer said there has been progress toward religious freedom in Vietnam. The Vietnamese delegation countered with criticism of human rights practices in the U.S., noting for example, that many lack health insurance, and asked why the U.S. has not done more to help Agent Orange victims in Vietnam. According to Hanoi's Vietnam News Agency, the Vietnamese delegation "openly criticised some groups in the US for their one-sided and non-objective views on the reality and positive progress made by Vietnam in the fields of democracy, human rights and religion." The Vietnam delegation suggested such groups were trying to sabotage the country. It was not clear from this report if they were referring to Vietnamese refugee groups or to human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, or both.

Sources: Vietnam News Briefs, May 23; press release of the Democratic Party of Vietnam (based in San Jose, CA), May 19; testimony of Christopher Hill before Congress, March 12; VNA/VietnamNet Bridge May 30; Associated Press (Ben Stocking) May 30; Voice of America (Matt Steinglass) May 30; Agence France Press May 30; Reuters (Grant McCool) May 30.


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