Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vietnam Foreign Ministry defends human rights record

Vietnam's human rights performance was defended by the Foreign Ministry in a 22-page report issued April 23, which is to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 8. Under UN rules each country in the world is subjected to a periodic review in four year cycles. This is Vietnam's year, among many other countries. The report was interesting in the statistics presented, such as the estimate that over 80 percent of the people follow a religious belief. The report also acknowledged some shortcomings, blaming this on the failure of some local officials to properly implement national policy. But it failed to address basic human rights concerns which have been raised by its critics. such as lack of genuine choice in elections, particularly at the national level; laws that criminalize dissent and provide inadequate protections; arbitrary arrest and unfair political trials of dissidents; and continued restrictions on religious groups.

Sources: Viet Nam News April 24; text of report posted at Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Petition against bauxite mining

Petition on the mining for bauxite

In the Western Central Highland


(Translated from Vietnamese by Zuc Dao

Solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales)

To: - Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet, State President, Socialist Republic of

Vietnam (SRV)

- Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, Speaker and other members of Congress of the SRV

- Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister and other ministers of the government of the SRV

We, the Vietnamese undersigned, who are concerned about the mining for bauxite in the Western Central Highland, submit to you the following petition.

Dear authorities,

Our people, who have spent many decades in wars of independence and unification, are now mobilizing all physical and mental resources for the task of nation building dedicated to total change.

In principle, in this task of renewed nation building, there is no conflict of interests between government and the people. Our people, both inside and outside of the country, leaders and the ordinary folk, all wish to see the nation more prosperous each day, more civilized, the whole nation becoming a happy, prosperous and all inclusive family.

Unfortunately, with the advent of this bauxite affair, the most loyal citizens feel lost; our common ideal of nation building seems diminished because of the method of operation of leading state organs. Such a phenomenon needs a short analysis as followed:

Dear authorities,

The mining for natural resources, including bauxite, is necessary, but it cannot be done at any cost!

The preparation for the bauxite project has been criticized by many scientists as being deficient in many respects. The two letters from General Vo Nguyen Giap alone are illustrative of the many defaults relative to areas of politics, defense, the environment, economics and technology. The submissions by Dr. Nguyen Thanh Son, Professor Pham Duy Hien and other independent researchers inside the country such as writer Nguyen Ngoc, Intellectual Nguyen Trung, Journalist Le Phu Khai, Writer Pham Dinh Trong, and outside of the country such as Dr. Nguyen Duc Hiep an environmental specialist in Australia, Consulting Engineer Dang Dinh Cung an expert on mining in France…are complete technical documentation (in support) of the two letters by the general.

All these submissions point to the unacceptable loopholes or deficiencies in the policies relative to this bauxite project. The following three deficiencies are sufficient to alarm those with a conscience:

- The policy leading to the project was made public at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. But in reality, an agreement had been signed with China many years ago without seeking the approval of the people through the Congress elected by the people. The whole feasibility study was never presented to the people and their representatives being the Congress.

- China closed their bauxite mines and moved to Vietnam to mine for bauxite with the aim of transferring the pollution burdens to Vietnamese current and future generations. This is similar to what they do in Africa with the assistance of corrupt regimes in this continent, and such conduct is being monitored and criticized by world opinion.

- The technology, industry and labor for mining are intended to be imported from China. China is a new economic superpower lacking in good faith. In relation to bauxite mining, China is renowned world-wide as the greatest polluter, besides other issues (in March this year the Australian government has cancelled a resource mining project in South Australia with China because of national security reasons)

Dear authorities,

Our country belongs to the whole people and is not the property of any particular group, any interest group or any organization however excellent it may be.

All those who are concerned with the fate of the people, the country, the unfettered conduct of officials relative to the bauxite incident, must see the need to voice their opinion.

We hereby submit:

  1. The issue of the Western highland bauxite project and all related policies must be presented to the Congress for a decision
  2. The Western highland bauxite project must officially cease, be subjected to strict supervision until the Congress has considered all feasibility reports and make appropriate decisions. We respectfully submit that the Congress fully understand the wish of the vast majority of the people for the project to be discontinued due to its grave consequences.
  3. All studies about project feasibility relative to the Western highland bauxite project should receive public participation and scrutiny.

Dear authorities,

Those who apply their signatures under this petition have major concerns about the deficient working methods in many respects for a project with strategic consequences for national survival such as this bauxite project.

Please accept our respectful expressions and we hope you understand our grave concerns both from inside and outside of the country.

We take this opportunity to call on all Chinese nationals, especially intellectuals, to support the Vietnamese people, to assist in keeping the environment in your neighbor in the South clean, to help in resolving outstanding issues between the two nations in peace and friendship.

Vietnam 12 April 2009.

Source: Originally published in, which also included a list of the signatories, many of them academics and intellectuals from Vietnam.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Large Easter service in Ho Chi Minh City

An Easter-related service attended by some 15,000 protestant Christians and organized by a group of house churches was held at Tao Dan Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City April 22. It was attended by more than 15,000 people, according to Compass Direct News. The meeting was unprecedented both in its size and in the fact that it was allowed to take place, given the government's long-standing hostility and suspicion of the house church movement in Vietnam.

Despite earlier assurances from the government, official permission for the service to take place was not granted until 4 pm on that day, three hours before the service was to take place, with one of the conditions the removal of Baptist house church Pastor Nguyen Ngoc Hien as one of the organizers. Hien also heads the Christian Fellowship of Vietnam.

Assemblies of God pastor Dong Thanh Lam served as Master of Ceremonies at the event, with messaged delivered by Pastor Vo Van Hoc of the Full Gospel Church and Pham Dinh Nhan of the United Gospel Churches. Compass Direct says 1,200 people dedicated their lives to follow Christ at the service.

Source: Compass Direct News April 23.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Newspaper closed down for reporting protests

The Ministry of Information and Communication has suspended a biweekly publication in Vietnam for three months for its reporting on territorial disputes and popular protests against China. Officials have also indicated they will rearrange the publication's ediitorial leadership. The publication, Du Lich (Tourism), was accused of "writing untruthful information" and "inciting violence, causing hatred between nations," for a series of articles it ran in which it praised anti-Chinese demonstrators for their "pure patriotism" and criticized China's position on the Spratly Islands. The assistant editor-in-chief, editor-in-chief, Nguyen Trung Dan told the BBC that the newspaper only reflected "the people's wishes... Being a Vietnamese, I did not think twice when I approved those articles. Isn't it a good thing to encourage patriotism among the public?"

Sources: Associated Press April 15; BBC news [Nga Pham] April 15.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Protestant church in Banmethuot destroyed

Government authorities destroyed a historical protestant church building in Banmethuot March 11, just hours after assuring Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South) (ECVN) officials that they would not do so. The church building had been in disuse for many years, as it was confiscated by officials after the change of regimes in 1975. However, ECVN leaders had been pressing the government to return the church to them. According to Compass, it “was the last remaining church building of the Ede ethnic minority, who make up most of Dak Lak’s 135,000 believers.”

In a meeting convened March 20, the church’s governing board of 22 members condemned the action:

“Numerous times the Executive Council of our church has petitioned the government concerning our many confiscated properties… Most regrettably, not only have the petitions not been satisfactorily dealt with, but on the night of March 11, 2009, officials of Dak Lak province demolished the last remaining Ede church at Gate One in Banmethuot City.

“The Executive Council of the ECVN(S) is extremely upset and in deep sympathy with the 135,000 believers in Dak Lak province. We hereby urgently notify all churches in our fellowship. We are deeply saddened by these events.”

A similar event took place last December when another protestant church, Vietnam Good News Church, an unregistered group, was destroyed in Dak Lak province, in this case the official justification was that it was built with illegally cut lumber.

Source: Compass direct news, April 10.