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Vietnam Takes ‘Step Backwards’ On Rights: Convictions and Corruption Earn Black Marks From HRW
ICC Note: With prison sentences being handed down to Christian human rights bloggers and a new religion law making it even more difficult for “illegal” house churches to register with the government, Vietnam is quickly regressing in the area of civil liberties. Human Rights Watch on reports condemns these recent trends and points out that U.S. and other Western investors have long been spending large amounts of money in Vietnam without concern for human rights issues.
02/01/2013 Vietnam (UCAN) – At least 40 activists were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including Christian bloggers, amid an “unprecedented surge in criticisms of the ruling Communist Party” as the economy stagnated and visible corruption grew last year.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that religious freedom deteriorated with the passing of Decree 92 in November, which increased red tape for religious groups.
Vietnam’s rights record has come under intense scrutiny this week.
On Monday, 22 people faced trial for subversion in central Phu Yen province, the largest trial of its kind in recent years, and on Wednesday Vietnam expelled American activist Nguyen Quoc Quan after nine months in prison on similar charges.

Vietnam drew unfavorable comparisons to Myanmar, which has initiated a series of political and economic reforms in the past two years even though its rights record too “remained poor,” said the New York-based organization.
“At a time when its ASEAN colleague Burma is undergoing significant change, the Vietnamese government stands out for its retrograde policies, persecuting activists and holding back the country’s development,” the report said.
Although not as far-reaching and rapid as the reforms underway in Myanmar, Vietnam is undergoing a process of mild political and economic reforms this year as it redrafts its constitution, including sections on human rights.
On January 1, the government started a three-month period of consultation with the public on proposed amendments – a process critics say is too short, overly controlled and little more than a token gesture to appease an increasingly critical press and public.
Le Quang Binh, director of the Hanoi-based Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment, a group that promotes minority rights and has organized dialogue with the government on the amendment process, said Vietnam needed to enshrine human rights in the constitution and do more in practice to protect its citizens.
“As in other countries, of course, there will be violations of human rights,” he said. “But will there be any independent mechanism to protect human rights?”

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