Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Paris Accords anniversary

It was on Jan. 27, 1973 that the Paris Peace Accords to end the Vietnam war was signed. Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (Tho refused to accept it) for the treaty. The treaty set up a framework for the peaceful reunification of Vietnam based on internationally supervised elections in the south, which in turn was based on the full enjoyment of democratic liberties; and the deescalation of military conflict between the two sides.

Unfortunately this did not happen. Instead, the subsequent two years marked a buildup of North Vietnamese forces in areas of the south, leading to the final military sweep of April 1975; officially to "enforce" the Paris Accords, but in reality intended to unite the country under one political party and to abolish all independent and opposition groups. The elections never happened, and Vietnam sunk into political totalitarianism and harsh poverty over the next decade.

With the economic reforms begun in 1986 Vietnam has developed into a more prosperous and open society than the first decade of reunification; but serious deprivations of human rights remain, and people are still imprisoned or in other ways persecuted for struggling for the basic human rights that were promised to them in the Paris Accords.

It might be argued that this treaty was actually just a fig leaf for the U.S. to justify its withdrawal and abandonment of a former political ally. Nevertheless, the treaty had created the possibility for a peaceful and democratic reunification of the country, and if it had been implemented milions of Vietnamese would have been spared the misery of re-educations camps, rigged politcal elections, big brother monitoring of their daily lives, political corruption and other problems that arise with the concentration of too much political power in the hands of a few people; along with the risks of death on the high seas for those who fled by boat.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Human Rights Watch annual report issued

Human Rights Watch protested the detention and harsh treatment of some 400 political prisoners in Vietnam, along with other forms of repression, in the Vietnam chapter of its annual worldwide report released on Jan. 14. It said the Vietnam government "continues to crackdown on democracy activists, journalists, human rights defenders, cyber-dissidents, and members of unsanctioned religious organizations." On prison conditions it stated: "Prisoners are placed in solitary confinement in dark, unsanitary cells, and there is compelling evidence of torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners, including beatings and electric shock. Credible sources report the use of forced prison labor in a cashew processing facility at Xuan Loc prison, where many political prisoners are imprisoned."

Other concerns raised in the report include lack of due process in political trials; persecution of members of unauthorized religious organizations, labor union activists, independente journalists, land rights demonstrators, ethnic minorities and others. In general the report described a lack of the most basic freedoms, such as freedom of the press, association, assembly and religion.

It reported specific legal measures which has been used to increase repression in the country: Decree 88 "provides for strict government control of associations, which effectively serve as agencies of government ministries or the Vietnamese Communist Party;" "laws such as Ordinance 44 authorize the detention without trial of dissidents at 'social protection centers' and psychiatric facilities if they are deemed to have violated national security laws;" legislation governing religious policy "requires that religious groups register with the government."

On the rights of women and children, it said:

"Vietnam continues to be a source of and transit point for women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution, fraudulent marriages, and forced domestic servitude to other parts of Asia. Sex workers, trafficking victims, street children, and street peddlers-officially classified by the government as 'social evils'-are routinely rounded up and detained without warrants in compulsory 'rehabilitation' centers, where they are subject to beatings and sexual abuse."

The report noted efforts of the U.S. and European Union nations to intervene for more positive human rights progress in Vietnam.

Sources: Vietnam chapter of the Human Rights Watch World Report 2009 can be found here. The full text of the report can be found here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mistreatment of Khmer Krom protested

The mistreatment of the Khmer Krom ethnic minority in Vietnam was protested in a 125-page report issued by Human Rights Watch today. The report, titled "On the Margins: Rights Abuses of Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam's Mekong Delta," said the Vietnam government has suppressed peaceful expression of dissent, banned Khmer Krom human rights publications, and tightly controls Theravada Buddhism, the major religion of the Khmer Krom. It also noted the mistreatment of the Khmer Krom in Cambodia. A press release accompanying the report noted:

Drawing on detailed interviews with witnesses in both Vietnam and Cambodia, the report shows that Khmer Krom in Vietnam face serious restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association, information, and movement. In researching this report, Human Rights Watch came into possession of internal memos circulated by the Communist Party of Vietnam and Vietnamese government officials outlining their concerns about unrest among Khmer Krom in the Mekong Delta and strategies to monitor, infiltrate, and silence Khmer Krom activists. The documents are included in an appendix to the report.

The report gave particular attention to the harsh police crackdown against a demonstration of 200 Khmer Krom Buddhist monks in Soc Trang province in February 2007:

Protesters called for greater religious freedom and more Khmer-language education. Although the protest was peaceful and lasted only a few hours, the Vietnamese government responded harshly. Police surrounded the pagodas of monks suspected of leading the protest. Local authorities and government-appointed Buddhist officials subsequently expelled at least 20 monks from the monkhood, forcing them to defrock and give up their monks' robes, and banishing them from their pagodas. The authorities sent the monks back to their home villages and put them under house arrest or police detention, without issuing arrest warrants or specifying the charges against them. During interrogations, police beat some of the monks.

Sources: Human Rights Watch press release and report Jan. 21.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Directive on blogging

The following is the text of a directive on blogging passed last December. This was posted by Shawn McHale to the Vietnam Studies Group forum.


Independence - Freedom - Happiness

No: 07 /2008/TT-BTTTT

Hanoi, 18 December 2008


Instruction on some contents regarding the provision of information on the personal electronic information page in the Decree No. 97/2008/ND-CP dated 28 August 2008 of the Government on the management, provision and use of Internet services and electronic information on the Internet

Pursuant to the Post and Telecommunications Ordinance dated 25 May 2002;

Pursuant to the Decree No. 187/2007/ND-CP dated 25 December 2007 of the Government defining the functions, tasks, powers and organizational structure of the Ministry of Information and Communication;

Pursuant to the Decree No. 97/2008/ND-CP dated 28 August 2008 of the Government on the management, provision and use of Internet services and electronic information on the Internet;

Ministry of Information and Communication instructs some contents regarding the provision of information on the personal electronic information page in the Decree No. 97/2008/ND-CP dated 28 August 2008 of the Government on the management, provision and use of Internet services and electronic information on the Internet (hereinafter called Decree No.97) as follows:

1. The personal electronic information page (blog) as defined at item 12 Article 3 Decree No. 97 is translated as follows:

The blog is used to show personal information, serving the needs of storing or exchanging with a group of people or Internet using community. The blog is registered and created on the Internet by its owner.

2. Instructions on items 3, 5, 6 Article 4 Decree No. 97 regarding the provision of information on the blog as follows:

2.1 To encourage the development and use of the blogs to facilitate the individuals and open the chance of interaction on the Internet for discussion and exchanging of information which is conformable to the Vietnamese habits, customs and regulations, enriching their social and spiritual lives and connecting the community.

2.2 To encourage the correct use of Vietnamese on the blogs.

2.3 To encourage the use of blogs on the online social networks which have registered their operations by the Vietnamese law and regulations.

3. Deeds that are strictly forbidden at Article 6 Decree No. 97 regarding the provision of information on the blogs are specifically stipulated as follows:

3.1 To make corrupt use of the blogs to provide, transmit or establish the direct connection with information that violates the regulations at Article 6 of Decree No. 97.

3.2 To create blogs that forge other individuals or organizations; to illegally use of other individual's blog account; false information injuring the legal rights and benefits of organizations or individuals.

3.3 To broadcast literary or artistic works, articles, publications which violate the law and regulation on press and publishing.

3.4 To use information or individual image that violates the regulations at Articles 31 and 38 of the Civil Code.

3.5 To provide information on the blogs that violates the regulations on intellectual property, e-commerce transaction and other related regulations.

4. Responsibilities of the Internet users as stipulated at points c and d item 2 Article 12 of Decree No. 97, are instructed as follows:

4.1 The blog owner must bare all responsibilities on the information provided, stored and transmitted on his/her blog, ensuring that it will not violate the law and regulations as well as the rules as defined at item 3 of this Circular.

4.2 The blog owner must keep in secret his/her password, cipher key, personal information.

5. Responsibilities of the enterprises which provide the online social network service as defined at item 2 Article 11 of Decree No.97 regarding the provision of information on the blog, are instructed as follows:

5.1 To build and publicize the regulations on the information provision and exchange on the blogs at their service-providing electronic information pages, ensuring that it will not violate the law and regulations as stipulated at item 3 of this Circular.

To have appropriate treatment with the violated blogs.

5.2 To build the information management procedure which is conformable to their service scale.

5.3 To build the database on the blogs under their management and inform the authorized state management agencies of such information if required.

5.4 To prevent and reject such information that violates the law and regulations as stipulated at item 3 of this Circular right after discovering such information or when requested by the authorized state management agencies.

5.5 Under the inspection of the authorized state agencies as stipulated.

6. The implementation of the reports on the blog service provision by the online social network service providers as stipulated at point d item 2 Article 11 of Decree No. 97 as follows:

6.1 To report every 6 months and or make unscheduled report as requested by the authorized state management agencies.

6.2 The periodical reports should include the following contents:

a) Date, month, year and number of the confirmation document on the registration of online social network service provision by the Ministry of Information and Communication;

b) Official date, month, year of the provision of blog creation service;

c) Headquarter address;

d) Name, phone number and email of the authorized representative;

đ) Numbers of blogs managed by the enterprises and the statistics as requested by the authorized agencies;

e) Data on the personal electronic information pages that violate the regulations on providing and exchanging enterprises’ information.

6.3 Enterprises providing online social network service with blog creating service must send reports before 15 January and 15 July annually.

6.4 Reports should be sent to:

a) Ministry of Information and Communication (Directorate of Broadcasting and Electronic Information).

Email: cucptth&

b) Departments of Information and Communication at localities at which the enterprises have registered their operations.

7. Validity

7.1 This circular shall have the validity of 15 days since the date of being posted on the Official Gazette.

7.2 Any organization or individual who meets difficulties in the implementation of this circular should inform the Ministry of Information and Communication for consideration and settlement./.


- Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers;
- Office of the Government;
- Office of the Party Central Committee;
- Office of the National Assembly;
- Ministries, ministry-equal agencies, agencies under the Government;
- The Supreme People's Procuracy;
- The Supreme People's Court of Vietnam;
- People's Committees of the cities or provinces under Central government;
- Central bodies of organization;
- Document Inspection Bureau (Ministry of Justice);
- Departments of Information and Communication;
- Internet and Telecommunication Enterprises;
- Electronic Information Agency, Official Gazette;
- MIC: Minister, Deputy Ministers, Ministry affiliated units;
- Administrative archive, Directorate of Broadcasting and Electronic Information.




Do Quy Doan

CPJ protests restrictions on bloggers and journalists

Increased restrictions on blogging and journalists in Vietnam was protested by Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a Jan. 16, 2009 letter to Vietnam president Nguyen Manh Triet. Simon noted a new directive passed last December, which Simon said effectively bans bloggers from posting material "perceived as opposing the state, undermining national security, or divulging state secrets. The directive, Circular 07/2008/TT-BTTTT, also required domestic Internet service providers to begin maintaining databases on individual blogs and censoring content that authorities consider sensitive.

"The new restrictions effectively give government officials greater authority to crack down on the growing number of Vietnamese-language Web sites, many of which are critical of your government's policies and provide an important counterpoint to the news and views disseminated by your country's tightly controlled state media."

Simon protested increased restrictions of journalists, including the firing of two editors for Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre newspapers on Jan. 2 because their newspapers had reported on a major corruption scandal; and the trials last October of the two journalists who reported on it. In addition, he protested the imprisonment of blogger Nguyen Van Hai, pen name Dieu Cay, officially detained because of tax evasion, but actually because of his reporting on China-Vietnam border issues.

Sources: Letter of Joel Simon, Jan. 16; see also Vietnam News Service, Dec. 25, and BBC News Dec. 24, for discussion of the blog directive; CPJ Oct. 15 for reporting of trials of journalists for reporting on the corruption scandal.

Barbara Crossette on increasing dissent

In an article written for the International Herald Tribune, Jan. 14, Barbara Crossette discusses the increasing dissent among students, intellectuals, journalists and bloggers in Vietnam, despite government efforts to control it. She also mentions a book just written by famed dissident novelist Duong Thu Huong:

The new book, just published in Paris and titled in French "Au Zenith," is a thinly veiled and not complimentary novel about the national hero, Ho Chi Minh, the founding father of modern Vietnam and an off-limits subject here. Newspapers have been warned not to touch the story, but copies or excerpts of Huong's book in French and Vietnamese began to circulate on the Internet even before its publication.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Journalist among over 15,000 released in Tet amnesty

Vietnam journalist Nguyen Viet Chien is among those slated to be released this Saturday, in a Jan. 15 amnesty decision signed by President Nguyen Minh Triet. Major amnesties normally take place either around the Vietnamese new year, Tet, or National Day, Sept. 2. The announced amnesty on this occasion of 15,140 prisoners is the largest ever. But so far Chien is the only known political prisoner to be included in the amnesty. The great majority granted amnesty are common criminals; the amnesty also includes 277 government officials who had been arrested on corruption charges, and 36 foreign citizens arrested on various charges. This is the ninth amnesty for prisoners since 1990. According to Voice of Vietnam news:

"The Amnesty Consultation Council said that the list was created from a total of 15,402 dossiers proposed by jails across the country for the amnesty to mark the traditional Lunar New Year festival (Tet) and the 79th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of Vietnam... Addressing the closing session of the Amnesty Consultation Council’s meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong, Chairman of the council, said that, since 1990, the Party and State have granted amnesty to more than 95,000 inmates, just six percent of whom have relapsed."

Chien is a former reporter for the state-owned Thanh Nien newspaper, who was arrested last year along with Tuoi Tre reporter Nguyen Van Hai for their 2006 reporting on a major corruption scandal in which government officials embezzled larged amounts of foreign aid money in order to bet on sports events. They were brought to trial October 15, 2008, charged with
"abusing freedom and democratic rights." Hai was released with a two-year suspended sentence, while Chien was given a two-year jail term. The editors of both papers were fired for protesting their arrests.

It would be misleading to call these reporters dissidents, as they do not appear to have been deliberately defying government policies with their writings. Rather, they carried out their duties as reporters for the state-owned media, but learned subsequently that they had overstepped their bounds by reporting the misdeeds of high-ranking officials. Their arrest and trial, along with the firing of their editors, was in itself a major corruption scandal.

Sources: VOV news Jan. 14, Jan. 16;BBC news Jan. 16; Associated Press Jan. 16; Viet Nam News Service Jan. 14; Reporters Without Borders Jan. 16.

800 workers strike at Taiwanese plant

More than 800 workers have gone on strike at a Taiwanese garment factory in southern Vietnam, Chin Phong Vietnam, to protest delays in the payment of their salaries and the new year Tet bonus. The company paid their salaries on Tuesday and said it would pay half of the Tet bonus on Jan 20, with the rest due by April 20. But the strike continued, because many workers wanted the first half of their Tet bonus immediately. Thousands of workers went on strike in Vietnam last year, mostly at large foreign-owned companies.

: Reuters Jan. 14.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Carl Thayer on displacement of Vietnam farmers

In a recent interview with Radio Australia, Carl Thayer, a Vietnam specialist at the Australian Defense Force Academy, was asked to comment on the displacement of farmers for the construction of an ecopark southeast of Hanoi. He says the farmers are being treated unfairly by the government and land developers Here are some excerpts:

THAYER: Land process and particularly urban land process has been a common feature in the Vietnamese landscape, including the most recent demonstrations. Local cadres feather their nests by engaging in economic development projects, compensation is probably not adequate, and in many cases the people who are affected are not consulted thoroughly and later argue that it is very difficult for them to relocate and find new land.

WEBSTER: Officials say the farmers have been given compensation for the Eco Park development, but is this not enough as they may be losing their livelihood and land?

THAYER: Well yes, when you go back to 2004, there has been massive rise in inflation in the past year. Government officials are saying 70 per cent have accepted and 30 per cent haven't and the local authorities could no longer delay and so moved in to to compensate. So here you have a sort of very typical of the regime, a fait accompli. Where do these people go, the Red River Delta, that area is very highly densely populated and so these people have got to relocate they're agricultural people, they've lost that land, they've lost the cities where they have lived, and probably their families go back generations, so it's a massive impact on them and they will not be beneficiaries of the new township and other developments slated for Eco Park.

WEBSTER: What's going to happen to these farmers? What are their options?

THAYER: Well last year, when some got agitated and demonstrated vociforously, typically the regime picked on the leaders and put them in jail for disturbing public order, which is a very frequent thing. They will be cowed ultimately into accepting a fait accompli, they will be paid compensation, given some sweeteners and promises, and then it will all blow over and the township development will proceed, because there is very little they can do. They have taken their process to the highest level, the National Assembly, but yet, these development have proceeded. Bulldozers have arrived on Wednesday morning and proceeded to start the construction.

WEBSTER: Do these farmers then have any job prospects if that's what they have been doing all their life, working on the land?

THAYER: Well no, and in fact with the high inflation and global economic recession, and Vietnam is hunkering down for a very bad year, this year, 2009. It will be much more difficult for these people. They can't then move into urban areas and get urban jobs, because there is already a problem of employment in Vietnam and they will have to find other agricultural land, which increasingly is remote, going to the Central Highlands, for example, could be an option....

Soutce: Radio Australia, Jan. 12.

New directive negates church land rights

A new Vietnam government directive on land and properties of religions has effectively ruled that none of the 2,250 Catholic church properties seized by the state after 1975 will be returned, and threatens severe punishment for those who demonstrate for church property restoration. The rule applies to confiscated properties of other religions as well. The directive, No. 1940/CT/TTg, was signed by PM Nguyen Van Dung and made public on Jan. 6. It states that land confiscated by the state before July 1, 1991 will be regulated according to Resolution 23/2003/QH11, published on NOv. 26, 2003. This resolution stated that all land and properties appropriated by the state before July 1, 1991 would not be returned to its owners. All confiscated religious property was seized before July 1991, mostly in 1975 and 1976 for the south and in the 1950s for the north.

The directive seems to have crushed any hope for a more farsighted government policy on the issue of religious properties. As it is, many confiscated church properties have been used for corrupt purposes by local government officials.

(Sources: Asia News/VietCatholic News Jan. 8; VietCatholic News Jan. 8 (two reports)